Texte correspond en français : Une célébration particulière
I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
September 2019. I have been hearing for a long time about a special gathering taking place in the heart of the Cévennes in France. Since the beginning of the 20th century, a protestant celebration occur in the open air among oaks and chestnut trees for only umbrellas. It is an international gathering of thousands people who come to sing, worship, pray, be instructed in the Word of God, participate in the communion, and receive a blessing. This year, a baptism was administrated and a profession of faith was heard.
Most of the celebrants came from France, but there were many people coming from many nations. Many came from Switzerland, Belgium, Nederland, Germany, Great Britain, Africa, Canada, and the USA. It is impressive to celebrate outdoors in such a big assembly. There are no benches, but more or less aligned rocks, some tree truncks loosely cut to sit. Many people had brought their folding chairs and of course we did not bring anything, not knowing what to expect.
But, what’s about the Cévennes? And why such a gathering in an isolated corner of France? This beautiful area is meandered by winding roads that must be followed to reach its destination. Even the name of that gathering seems mythical: the assembly of the desert, although we are in a wood. This name referes to the wandering of Israel in the wilderness. It is a period which begins with the departure from Egypt under the leadership of Moses until the arrival in the promised land (Exodus 12:31 to 40). And why such a parallele? We must go back in the ancient times of French history. It was a turbulent period during which many Protestants lost their lives, following the constant development of the Reformed faith which increasingly won the hearts of the French, thus causing a political-religious war in the kingdom. Thenceforth, King Henri IV, in 1598, signed an edict at Nantes, giving the Protestant a freedom of worship. However, in 1685, King Louis XIV revoked it putting an end to its gains. This revocation caused many Protestants to flee the country. There also were many Catholics who fled as well for having protected those who adhered to the Reformed faith. This period is compared to the wandering of the people of Israel in the wilderness, for a portion of the French population wandered in France between life and death until the restoration of their right to celebrate. Much later, King Louis XVI signed an edict of tolerance in 1787 because all the setbacks that made the people suffer. This edict was then ratified by the Parliament in 1788. Thus, between 1685 and 1787, clandestine gatherings in isolated regions of France, far from the eyes of the ruling church, took place in order to celebrate God. 1
In order to commemorate these one hundred and two years of clandestine worship services awaiting the re-establishment of a free and complete celebration throughout France, the Reformed Church in France instituted this assembly in the Cévennes. The first commemorative celebration took place on September 24, 1911. The expectations were certainly exceeded, for the celebration was accompanied by a time for reflection in order to revitalize the sometimes dusty teaching of the Church. However, is it not proper to the Churches to reform the expression of their faith in the light of the Scriptures? What the Reformers thought valid in the 16th century, still stands today: questioning oneself in the face of the challenges of a society on the move. Because the Spirit of the Lord is not static. He does not enclose biblical truths in a dogma so heavy to bear. He moves, He lives, He works in everyone’s heart to witness God’s love. « God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus Xrist), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. » These well-known words, often quoted according to an equally well-known slogan: « John 3:16 », invite whoever to consider this love of God for the salvation of the world. This verse can bear witness to the missionary work of the Church while condemning its past actions. The various parts that compose the celebration reflect therefore this truth: a rapprochement between all in order to know and to feel this love of God in the world through his Son Jesus Xrist
No one forces anyone to believe. Some came for inspiration. Others came out of curiosity or to learn something. Still others came to reconnect with their ancestral or cultural roots. Some others came simply to sing with all their heart to express their faith. Peace, joy, love, appeasement, grace manifested itself to enable everyone to leave enchanted of this particular time. Thus, we can hear these words from Jesus: « For God did not send his Son (Jesus Xrist) into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.«John 3:17.
The world certainly needs, today as in the past, to celebrate life, love, and true peace as Jesus offers, in all freedom, in the face of the horrors that may happen in this life, waiting for a life without suffering, heartbreak, disease, war, and death.
Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord.