Thirty years ago this month, I moved to Aix-en-Provence, France to serve as Parish Assistant in the Evangelical Reformed Church, just off the Cours Mirabeau, the beautiful main street of Aix. Parish Assistant is a fairly catch-all term for what my ministry involved – Bible studies, work with the youth and Sunday School, hospital visits, editing the church newspaper, visits to shut-ins and a variety of other activities. What rich, formative years those were!
I was privileged to work with Christian Almeras, a French pastor who was himself a graduate of the Reformed Seminary (now John Calvin Seminary) and had over 20 years of pastoral experience. Those were wonderful years of learning about various aspects of church work in the French context, the culinary delights of a church picnic in the beauty of the Provençal countryside, the diligent labors of a Board of Elders providing servant leadership to the Body, and a continual awareness of the secular nature of France and the need for people to hear words of Truth, bringing the Hope of the Gospel.
The close connections between our church and the seminary provided multiple avenues for collaboration with John Calvin Seminary during those formative years – auditing a class on Practical Theology, the church choir having rehearsals in the seminary classrooms, many students participating in activities in the church, and collaborating with professors and spouses on Sunday School material, hospital visits and the church newspaper. What a blessing to see that those seminary students 30 years ago are now the pastors providing senior leadership in that same denomination in which I served.
Those 5 1⁄2 years serving as a single in Aix accentuated for me the incredible need for well-trained pastors, able to provide strong leadership for the Church in France. Although I wasn’t officially connected to the ministry of John Calvin Seminary, I saw first-hand how the seminary graduates had a vital role to play in what God was doing among the French people.
An additional (though not minor!) blessing of my time in Aix was that it was there that I met my Canadian husband who was serving with another mission agency. We were married in that beautiful, historic church off the Cours Mirabeau, and we had our stand-up reception in the gardens of the seminary. No wonder my heart holds a special place of fondness for Aix and John Calvin Seminary!
When our family moved to the Philadelphia area in 2007, I was delighted and honored when Bill Edgar, President of the Huguenot Fellowship, invited me to join the Board of the Fellowship. The Edgars and I had been part of that same church in Aix, and shared many wonderful memories together in the context of both the church and the seminary. Serving on the Board has provided a venue for combining my heart burden for the French people and the work of John Calvin Seminary, producing well-trained, servant leaders for the Church in France.
France needs what the Seminary provides – solid theological training for future leaders in the Church. Will you join with us to encourage and support the work of John Calvin Seminary?
Ruth Ann Leduc