David Powlison

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Friday June 7th David Powlison, director of CCEF, beloved husband, father and grandfather, departed this world to be with Our Savior. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was a great friend to many, a trusted counselor, and a prolific author and speaker. He was a complete human being, wise, funny, and absurdly well read. Our hearts go out to Nan, his extraordinary wife and to his talented children. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, June 18, 3:00 PM at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Praise God for his unique servant.

William Edgar

The Devastating Fire

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May, 2019

Dear Friends,

How many deep emotions have come to the fore because of the devastating fire on the Notre-Dame roof? It is among the most celebrated buildings in the world. Victor Hugo wrote a long novel in which the cathedral is the subject, the hero, the story, and the harbor of such strange figures as Pierre Gringoire, Quasimodo, Clopin Trouillefou and Esmeralda. At one level, the edifice is a testimony to the creative capabilities of mankind. As Hugo puts it: “The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence is there summed up and totalized.” The anonymity is refreshing. But is that all?

The walls have never been silent. The cathedral was the birthplace of the Organum style of music, a direct ancestor of polyphony. Centuries later, the incomparable organist Louis Vierne died at the consul of the grand Cavaillé-Coll instrument, before a congregation of 300. There has also been celebration in the visual arts. Matisse painted the haunting “Notre-Dame, Une Fin d’Après-Midi.”

Is there a link to eternity in these stones? Abbot Suger, the pioneer of the Gothic style, wanted the rose windows and the geometric proportions of the floors to connect worshipers with the presence of God. Protestants might balk at this statement of Roman Catholic mysticism, and its overt Marian theology, but it is well to remember the cathedral was completed in 1260 after some 200 years of collective labors. This is well before the Reformation.

At the opposite end, many historians see in the fire a metaphor for the decline of the Christian faith in France. In the absence of the cohesion once brought by the Christian religion, the question being asked in Paris these days is whether the burning of one of the world’s great monuments can help bring unity to a deeply divided country. While many modern French people are content to be secular, or laic, as this unique term has it, it does not take much of a threat to call forth the deep-seated Roman Catholicism of their heritage. Deep but likely ineffective. Real Unity? True cohesion? Not likely.

Whether believers or not, many French people consider the cathedral should be rebuilt. So far, so good. It is a place where kings have been crowned and heads of state gathered to remember events and persons significant in French history. Already billions of Euros have been raised to that effect. In a rare moment of church – state cooperation president Emmanuel Macron and archbishop Michel Aupetit have agreed to restore this architectural wonder of the world. Predictably, some have objected that such a groundswell should be directed to alleviate poverty, not restore monuments.

So many themes are woven together here: French pride; tourism; Christian faith; traditionalism; church-state relations (since 1905 Notre Dame belongs to the government); and deep questions of French identity. We are hoping this devastating incident will raise questions not so much about French identity but about human identity. Buildings, particularly magnificent buildings such as Notre-Dame, have their place. But the most profound edifice in the universe is the household of God, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21).

This is the heart of our Seminary’s message. This is the only basis for a permanent unity in France or anywhere. Please pray that Aix-en-Provence could become the center for a great revival, and that through it the people of France could enter “a building from God, a house not made with human hands, eternal in the heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Very Truly Yours
William Edgar
President

Reformed Church of New Paltz

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Following is the history of the Reformed Church of New Paltz, New York, as presented on its website:

Our congregation is proud of its 336 year history, but also deeply aware of our responsibility to continue to build upon the foundations created by earlier generations of Christians in New Paltz. The New Paltz Reformed Church traces its roots to 1683, five years after the settlement of the village by French-speaking Huguenots from northern France and Flanders who had left their homeland to find religious freedom and a livelihood in the Dutch-settled Hudson Valley. According to a translation of the earliest church record, on January 22 1683, “Mr. Pierre Daille, minister of the Word of God, arrived at New Paltz and preached twice on the following Sunday,” while proposing that the heads of families vote to select an elder and deacon to assist the minister. Worship was in French for 50 years, then in Dutch for some 70 years before English was adopted. (The change from French to Dutch to English can be traced in our church records, many of which are preserved in our document room.) In 1717 the Huguenots of New Paltz began a “stone house of prayer,” a plain building comparable to a Puritan meeting house. (Demolished in the 1770s, the House of Prayer was reconstructed by the local historical society in 1972.) A larger stone church was constructed in the early 1770s; its bell was cast by John Bailey of New York, maker of a battle sword for George Washington.

Our present church, a fine example of Greek Revival architecture with its four-column portico and two-stage clock and bell tower, was erected in 1839. The Rev. Douw van Olinda was instrumental in overseeing successful completion of the 1839 building; in 1833 he had had a prominent role in organizing and building the New Paltz Academy, ancestor of today’s SUNY New Paltz. Transepts and a shallow chancel with central pulpit were added in 1872. In 1952 the chancel was enlarged, and the pulpit shifted to the side, while the communion table was given central prominence. In the 1980s the present fine organ was purchased, and the long-lost Bailey bell recovered and installed near the chancel for acolytes to ring as the call to worship.
The first minister to reside in New Paltz, Stephen Goetschius, was of Swiss heritage and served our church from 1775 to 1796. The first manse built by the church for its ministers is a frame, Greek Revival house erected in 1848 and still standing on Huguenot Street. 1909 saw the completion of the current spacious manse with a pleasant front porch, complementing that of the church next door. Our Wullschleger Education Building, built in 1958, is named for Dominie Gerret J. Wullschleger, who served from 1931 to 1968, and includes classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, the Fireside Room suited for worship and social gatherings, and a spacious basement room currently well-used by our thrift shop, Twice Blessed.

Our church has been led by a succession of dedicated and talented pastors over its long history. They have had varied outlooks--in the 20th century one became a chaplain in World War I, another was a pacifist in World War II--but they are remembered as faithful leaders of their New Paltz flock.

---by William Rhoads

A Challenge to Take Up Together

Pierre Berthoud President of Faculté Jean Calvin and Professor Emeritus

Pierre Berthoud
President of Faculté Jean Calvin and Professor Emeritus

Dear friends,

As you know, the Faculté Jean Calvin (FJC) has been able to accomplish its ministry of training for almost 45 years thanks to the faithfulness, prayer, and support of its friends in France and abroad. We are very grateful, especially as this ministry is an expression of the universal Church, both in the composition of its professors and in the origins of those who share the same vision, the same call, and the same spiritual battle. This solidarity, which transcends human borders, is very precious to us because, while testifying to the vitality of the Reformed and evangelical family, it is a sign of the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.

With the arrival of Rodrigo De Sousa and Pierre-Sovann Chauny in the autumn of 2016, a new generation of seven on-site teachers is now at work. This successful transition is very pleasing, especially as the theological, spiritual, and practical teaching of the new team is both appreciated by the students and also contributes significantly to the influence of FJC, especially within the churches. But this increase in faculty, as you can imagine, has had an impact on our budget, since now the support of six professors is at the expense of FJC. Only Donald Cobb is a missionary-professor. We have taken up and fully assume this challenge, because we are convinced that the presence of these two new faculty members has strengthened our ministry in France, in French-speaking countries, and even beyond.

However, to sustain this important and vital budget item, which represents the salaries of all the staff, we need to "enlarge the space of our tent ..., lengthen our ropes and strengthen our stakes." (Isa. 54:2) In other words, we invite you to think with us about how to expand the network of our partners and friends, especially in France. How to renew the interest of pastors, churches and their members for the ministry of FJC? How can FJC be more available and offer services more adapted to the needs of local communities? How to renew and extend enthusiasm and mutual commitment? As the wise man put it, "a great number of counsellors gives the victory." (Prov. 11:14)

As summer approaches, FJC’s cash flow is usually stretched. This year is no exception to the rule! Our 2019 budget is subdivided into twelve monthly installments of approximately 50,000 euros. However, our concern is tempered by the faithfulness of the Lord and the commitment of our friends who allow us to see the future with confidence. It is with confidence that we repeat these words of the Psalmist: "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion: which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.(Ps. 125:1,2) May together we seize this beautiful promise of the Lord, listen to his call, and respond to it with discernment given by the Spirit. This is our prayer.

It is in the beautiful name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, that we warmly greet you,

Pierre Berthoud
President
Professor Emeritus

(Translated from the original letter in French.)

A Meaningful Life Within Empty Institutions

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February 2019

Dear Friends,

The students at Jean Calvin Seminary in Aix-en-Provence are preparing to preach and exhibit the Christian message in a particular context. It was ever thus. While the message is the same, from the eternal Word, the context may vary, in a changing world. Often we are unaware of the contours of our context.

The study of history is one valuable way that helps us better understand the present features of France. While this country shares many features with the West, it also has its own, unique history. A recent book, Les grandes décisions de l’histoire de France, comprises twenty chapters describing defining episodes in the making of modern France. They include Charlemagne’s coronation (800), the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), the execution of Louis XVI in the aftermath of the French Revolution (1793), and then a series of attempts to reestablish the monarchy.

Of special concern for understanding our own day are the separation of church and state (1905), and France’s leadership in the European Economic Community (1988ff). Laïcité (the lay state) as it is known forms a major cultural backdrop for the manner in which Christians try to persuade the present generation. The battle in the early twentieth century was between anti-clericals and a (largely) Roman Catholic establishment. One ironic result is that while few people wish for the authority of the institutional church to return, nevertheless French people expect the state to provide for their needs. Because the state is not qualified to provide spiritual nurture, people seek it elsewhere. But they often pursue it in alternative religions or even New Age faith. The same is true for the “rule” of the Eurozone. While this economic community brings with it many conveniences, it has not real foundation in anything but pragmatism, coupled with rhetoric about human community. It carries no transcendent meaning.

This proves to be both a challenging environment and a welcoming one for the gospel of Jesus Christ our students proclaim, a way to live a meaningful life within empty institutions.

Very Truly Yours,

William Edgar, President