It wasn’t until my final semester of seminary that really began to learn the history of the French Protestant Church. *1* I had to write a paper on a reformation era individual, and I chose *2* one on Theodore Beza, a French Huguenot who served as Calvin’s right hand man in Geneva during his time there. The biography covered Beza’s entire life, but concentrated most of it’s attention on the period of time when the fate of French protestants was still at stake. Working from Geneva, Calvin and Beza fought hard to press the rights of the Huguenots before the French aristocracy, trying to curb the violence those protestants suffered at the hands of the Catholics.
I don’t have the time in this space to tell the whole story here, but ultimately, most of the Huguenots were either killed or forced to flee France in search of a new home. Interestingly, by the end of the reformation, the largest population of French Huguenots was in…
South Carolina. My current state of residence.
In fact, South Carolina has the last remaining active Huguenot church in the country, down in Charleston, where Donnette and I visited this last weekend.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
We were wandering in the city Saturday afternoon when we checked the map and realized that we were only a couple of streets over from it, so we walked over, so that we could at least say that we saw it. It is a beautiful church, and we would have been content to have just seen it from the outside and moved along. Fortunately, we ran into Mrs. McNab.
Mrs. McNab is a member of this very church, who happened to be finishing up some business there when we stopped by. Normally, the church isn’t open for visitors, but when I mentioned that we were going to work with a protestant French denomination in France, she insisted that we quickly step in to have a look around.
We got to take our picture in this beautiful church, which was exciting for Donnette and I, though maybe not so much for Oliver, as he fell asleep before we’d left the building. Isn’t that chandelier amazing! Who says all protestants were austere?
Mrs. McNab gave us a wonderful history of the building, and the congregation, and we were so delighted to hear all of her wonderful stories about this historic church. But if I were being honest, the thing that really struck me as I stood in front of this church was what it meant, in terms of the gospel and sacrifice and God’s goodness to those who serve him above all else.
There has never, to my knowledge, been a Frenchman who wasn’t proud of being French, and who didn’t love living in France. We probably all feel that way about our homeland, but the French are known for being especially proud of their country, and for good reason, it is an amazing place. History, architecture, food. Food. Food. *3* But this church, the Huguenot church, reminds us that there are bigger things than our home, even if we love our home with all our hearts. Men left France because the doctrines of the reformation, salvation through faith and grace alone, in Christ alone, as He’s revealed in the scriptures alone, and all to God’s glory alone, that these things were enough to die for, enough to move for, enough to move across the ocean, around the world for. That makes this church sacred ground, because if those men, and countless others in other countries as well, had not left, we would not, today, hold these things for what they are, the essence, the core of Christianity. Yes, it’s a beautiful church, but what it stands for is far more beautiful.
So, a big thanks to Mrs. McNab. We had a wonderful time in Charleston, made even better by her generosity.
Charleston was just the first of many stops for us this month. Thank you all for your prayers.
*1* In all fairness, it wasn’t until my second to last semester of seminary that we decided to go to France, so there really wasn’t that big a gap.
*2* I was interested in French, reformation era history. But, truth-be-told, I was mostly interested in finding a biography that was the appropriate number of pages, no more no less. Fortunately, this one fit both requirements.
*3* Yes, it’s worth a triple mention.