Sunday, January 20, 2013 – Paris
Today in real time happens to be my wedding anniversary; “today” in the course is scheduled as a day of rest, with time built in for students to take a break from the First World War and see some other sites in the City of Lights.
For both reasons, it seems like a good time to take a mini-break myself (as we begin the last week of the trip) and offer only a brief post asking two questions. (Though I’ve got a much more substantial past ready to go for this afternoon—a sequel to last week’s “Beach Reads” list—so be sure to stop back.)
First, does anyone have recommendations for a relatively inexpensive, safe, and centrally located hostel or hotel in Paris? I’ve taken a couple of trips to Paris, spending three weeks in the Latin Quarter during my dissertation research project, but would appreciate getting advice from more seasoned travelers, especially those who have been part of or led groups.
Second, this being a Sunday in course-time, where might we worship?
As on the previous two Sundays in this January tour of western Europe, I’d like to encourage students to worship in a local Christian church. (Even in a travel course run by a Christian college, I hesitate to require worship, lest it feel too much like forced piety.) Early in our London stay and then on the second day of our battlefield tour, we’ll head to two quite different Anglican churches, both easy choices. First, St Paul’s Cathedral in London demonstrates (with its Baroque design from Sir Christopher Wren) how the anti-Puritan wing of the Church of England rejected the Reformed “four bare walls and sermon” aesthetic and reminds us early in the trip that church and state were intertwined in Britain and other participants in the Great War. Then in Ypres, St George’s was built just after the war’s end both to commemorate the British/Commonwealth dead and to provide visiting relatives with worship, fellowship, and pastoral care. I expect that taking part in its Sunday morning worship will be a quiet high point of the trip for any students willing to entertain the possibility that formal liturgy can be as meaningful as the style of worship they’re more accustomed to back in the States.
On this third and final Sunday of the trip, I’d rather students explore the multiplicity of options available, as a reminder that the 20th century was not the age of unimpeded secularization that some sociologists made it out to be. On the contrary, even the capital of highly secular France offers numerous varieties of religious experience on any given Sunday morning.
I’d welcome any other suggestions. A few that come to mind:
- If only to fight the common American evangelical perception that great European churches have simply been turned into museums… The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris holds four worship services every Sunday morning, including a Gregorian mass at 10am and an international one at 11:30am.
- Probably the next biggest church in the city is Saint-Sulpice, in the Luxembourg district. Best known for its Great Organ (constructed in 1862 and played for decades by the great Charles-Marie Widor), Saint-Sulpice offers its main Sunday morning mass at 10:30am. (The organ prelude starts fifteen minutes earlier, and a recital runs from 11:30 to noon.)
- If we do stay in the Latin Quarter, a nearby option is the Greek Melkite Catholic church named in honor of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, a 13th century building that is among the oldest churches in Paris.
- The oldest American church outside the United States, the American Church in Paris (located on the Quai d’Orsay) draws a denominationally diverse group of English-speaking Protestants from 50+ countries, with a contemplative service at 9am, traditional worship at 11am, and a contemporary service at 1:30pm. Just over half a mile north, across the Seine, there’s also an American Episcopalian cathedral on avenue George V (named after the British king reigning during WWI). For a slightly different kind of Protestant worship in English, the Church of Scotland has a Paris parish, the Scots Kirk Paris.
- For more contemporary worship in English, the Australian Pentecostal group Hillsong (best known in the US for its songwriting/recording) has a relatively new congregation in Paris that worships at 11am in the Bobino theater (near the Montparnasse train station).
- Other Protestant options (for students willing to worship in a language other than English) include the French Reformed church known as the Oratoire du Louvre and the German Christuskirche.
Tomorrow we’ll take our first and only train trip. And speeding from France to Germany will bring to mind how WWI concluded for the greatest German war novelist. (Not Erich Maria Remarque.)