In my early 20s, I worked for a Jewish businessman who knew I was a Christian interested in history. He was also sensitive to Protestant history because Protestant families had protected Jews in their homes during World War II. One day he invited me into his home and gave me a Bible printed in 1638. This Bible included a printing of the French Confession of Faith, unlike most Bibles from that era.
Years later, a historian saw this Bible and asked me, “Samy, do you know what this means?”
“I have no idea,” I said.
“It means this Bible was given in the 17th century to a young pastor named Jacques Lafon, who signed it to say ‘I commit myself to preach faithfully according to the gospel and the confession of faith,'” he said. “You would not find this in any museum.”
By God’s providence, the Bible has returned to the place where the confession was written, close to where we are planting a church in an old theatre on the Rue de Nesle in the Latin Quarter of Paris. And it turns out, the vision of our church is to plant in a neighborhood with deep roots in the Reformation and to connect the people around us to this vision.
This neighborhood is an amazing treasure of history. There was a great revival here in the mid-16th century. The first Roman Catholic priest in Paris who embraced the Reformation worshiped in this neighborhood. The first Huguenot Protestant church was established two streets behind the theatre where we worship today.
Today, 500 years later, we’re excited that, by God’s grace, something is happening here, that God is using our church to help Parisians remember the legacy of this area. Because we are directly connected to history, we can establish credibility with them.
Latin Quarter Today
In the mid-20th century, students occupied much of the Latin Quarter, fomenting revolutions and left-wing movements. But lately those students have aged and settled down. A lot of people here are educated, culturally savvy, involved in the arts and literature. I was surprised to learn that half of the current population was born here. People in this neighborhood know each other, which makes church planting interesting and challenging.
Parisians are careful about religion, but they are also open and ask lots of questions. They get excited about being involved in something; they want things to work. But when God looks at Paris, I believe his heart is full of compassion, because many Parisians are like sheep without a shepherd, citizens of a city that has had a huge influence on secularism and humanism today. Through the prayers of the church, we have seen the iron gates of Paris opening, and that’s why we have found a home to worship here.
We trust that as God was faithful to the church 500 years ago in this very spot, he will be faithful to us today as we continue planting our church in the Latin Quarter.
Redeemer City to City helps local leaders start churches in global cities. Samy is planting Chapelle de Nesle in the Latin Quarter section of Paris. You can follow his progress and give directly to this new church through the projects page on City to City.