This week, I've been fortunate to visit our church communities in both Caylus and Vayrac, each of which usually meets just once or twice monthly. Both of these communities are like many of the larger churches in our chaplaincy, in that as Summer approaches, they begin to grow in number as regular visitors return from around the world. Then, bathed in the warmth of the Occitanie sunshine, everything seems at last to be ready to go, and in the height of Summer the life of the church seems a glorious blessing to all whose lives are touched by hers. It is as if the church begins to blossom and flourish, like the leaves on the trees, or the flowers in the fields.
This week though, as early Spring gives way to late Spring, we're still awaiting these blooms and this gives me pause to reflect on the life of our smaller communities before the yearly blossom arrives.
Looking out over the assembled, diligent and faithful, congregations this week, I was struck that they each share the beauty of the flower that still lies within the earth, or which has just broken through the soil to raise a tentative shoot Into the dewy Spring air. There is a palpable sense of potential and promise as we gather to celebrate the joy of the resurrection together, and in the sharing of Holy Communion, we re-invite Christ into our hearts, knowing that death is swallowed up in victory.
Though our smaller churches may appear to be fragile, weak, or under-nourished groups, clinging on to sparse hillsides in SW France, they are in fact, vessels of the promise of eternal grace. As they bloom each year, they are clearly places of joy and blessing, though as they wait to bloom, they are not dormant. They continue to be a faithful light which shines for Jesus, so that all the world may know him.
If you're visiting SW France this Summer, or even if you live nearby and would like to come and see all this for yourself, why not pop along and enjoy the blossoms with us? Details of locations and service times for Caylus and Vayrac can be found on our website, along with those of all our church communities.
"The Lily of the Valley, breathing in the humble grass,
Answerèd the lovely maid and said: ‘I am a wat’ry weed,
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head.
Yet I am visited from heaven, and He that smiles on all
Walks in the valley, and each morn over me spreads His hand,
Saying, “Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily-flower,
Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothèd in light, and fed with morning manna,
Till summer’s heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs,
To flourish in eternal vales.” Then why should Thel complain?
Why should the mistress of the vales of Har utter a sigh?’"
- From the Book of Thel
William Blake (1757 - 1827)