Interchurch Families in France

In France since the beginning of the 1960s interchurch families have been meeting at the “Centre Saint Irénée. The meetings are organised by a Dominican father Fr. Renée Beaupère and initially by Pastor Henry Bruston. Quite soon groups of inter-church families arranged to meet arranged to meet at other places. All this is explained in the journal “Foyers Mixtes” number 100.
There exist a number of groups in other towns. You will find the addresses of these groups in “Foyers Mixtes. These groups are directly or indirectly linked to the “Centre Saint-Irenée”. Most groups are facilitated by a priest or pastor.
The journal “Foyers Mixtes” has now reached number 140. It has been published four times a year since 1968. The journal is edited by a Franco-Swiss committee. The “Centre Saint-Irenée” and the groups of inter-church families have always been in contact with the Churches. Some church documents have derived inspiration from request made by inter-church families relating to celebrations of baptism, marriage, and Eucharistic sharing (see Foyers Mixtes number 100).
Meetings are organised at different levels: monthly in many towns, annually in many regions and every two or three years nationally. There have also been international meetings of French speaking countries. Since 1970 tri-partite French-Swiss-Italian meetings have been held in the Waldensian valleys in the Italian Alps. (See the excellent country report of the Italian Interchurch families association.) In 1998 the first world meeting was organised at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. This led to preparation for the second world meeting in Rome.
After the first world meeting the “Committée Francophone Permanent” was formed with French and Swiss members. It meets twice a year and represents French speaking interchurch families to the outside world.
 
The year 2002-2003 in France
1-2 June at Sommières
The inter-church families group of Nîmes prepared a regional week-end for inter-church families from South-East France. Fifty adults and many children attended. The aim of the meeting was to prepare for Rome 2003. The theme of the meeting was “the love and the spiritual adventure of the married couple”. (See “Foyers Mixtes” 137-138, p.33.)
 
12-13 October at Lille
The inter-church families group from the North of France prepared a regional week-end for inter-church families. The aim of the meeting was to prepare for Rome 2003. The themes were varied and rich; fidelity and freedom, the Eucharist and the Lord’s supper, Christian education of our children, a bible for our churches. (See “Foyers Mixtes 137-138 p.36-37.)
 
7-8 December 2002 at Lyons
There was a meeting of the editorial committee of the journal “Foyers Mixtes” which included writers from the whole of France, Switzerland and England. At the meeting, as well as preparation for the Rome meeting in 2003, two important events took place.
There was a meeting with the president of the reformed church in Lyons, and the pastor in church of ecumenism for the Lyons area. The committee also participated in a ceremony which took place in front of a monument to the “resistance” in Lyons against Nazi barbarity. The ceremony was led by the seven leaders of the seven main churches in Lyons, the Iman of the mosque, the Great Rabbi and the mayor of Lyons.
During the ceremony a prayer was made for peace in the world. (See “Foyers Mixtes 137 p. 38-39.)
 
22 March 2003 at Lyons
There was a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Fr. Paul Couturier’s death (this was preceded by a symposium on 8-10 November 2002). At the Catholic University of Lyons there was a meeting. Pastor Konrad Raiser, secretary general of the world council of churches and Fr. Johann Bonny of the Pontifical council for promoting Christian Unity spoke at an academic meeting. Fr. Bonny spoke about ecumenism and interchurch families “who endeavour to live Christian Unity not only in its future dimension but in its present dimension as a gift and a challenge for today.” (See “Foyers Mixtes” 139 p.33-34)
At a more informal meeting interchurch families spoke about their spiritual life as a married couple. (See “Foyers Mixtes 139 p.25-27)
 
24-25 May at Saint Chamons
Follow up regional weekend following the meeting at Nîmes a new theme was discussed “parents and children, responsibility and freedom in the context of faith”. Further preparations for Rome took place (See “Foyers Mixtes 140 p.26)
 
In order to show local activities beyond what goes on in Paris, Versailles, Lille, Toulouse, Mulhouse etc., here, by way of example is what happens in Lyons:
 
The life of inter-church families in Lyons
Around the “Centre Saint-Irénée” are five groups of interchurch families of four to nine couples each. These groups regularly meet with Protestant and Catholic theologians. The subjects addressed depend on their ages and interests (prayer, the religious education of children, biblical study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, recent church documents…)
Once a month there is a celebration at the Saint Iraeneus centre, alternately a mass and a protestant service.
At Christmas there is always a mass celebrated by Fr. Beaupère. It is a good opportunity to meet friends and to celebrate this joyful moment of the Christian year. Those who have left Lyons but come back for the Christmas period are happy to take part.
A group for the ecumenical religious education of children runs three classes of each 6 to 8 children. The group for small children is run by the parents after preparatory sessions run by Sister Odile, a catholic religious and Nicola Kontzi-Méresse. The two other groups are entrusted to Sister Odile. This year the little ones have learnt about the liturgical year and the three Old Testament figures of Abraham, Moses and David. The old group have prepared for baptism, and from one of the groups two children have gone forward for first communion.
At the “Marriage fair”, a commercial event which happens once a year, interchurch families have a part in the religious section and can offer advice to the young couples who come.
Interchurch families are often called to speak about ecumenical life at religious services and conferences.
Greeting couples who have moved to Lyons is a source of great joy, and an occasion to find new things.
 
Finally let us not forget that many interchurch families are involved in the life of their parishes with responsibilities for religious education, parochial church councils, regional meetings, ecumenical life, etc...
 
Information
Centre Saint Irénée, 2 Place Gailleton, F-69002 Lyon, tel: **33(4)78 38 05 07
Info [at] foyersmixtes [dot] org ; www.foyersmixtes.org ; www.oecumenisme.info
 
June 2003