Ordination and Induction of Rev. Hugues Pierre
On the evening of Saturday 30th October, a congregation of around forty-five gathered in the newly-developed church building on Rue Saint-François, in the centre of the beautiful historic city of Pau, for the ordination and induction of Rev. Hugues Pierre. Prior to its recent redevelopment the church had served as a private garage, giving off-street parking for the adjacent property which had been the family home of Mr Pierre’s father-in-law. The family’s kindness in making this available to the congregation has been a great encouragement and meets all the congregation’s present requirements.
At the centre of the old town is a steep escarpment upon which stands a castle, redeveloped with the characteristic extravagance of the renaissance, though the connected defensive tower reveals a more ancient (and troubled) history. At one time it was the possession of Jeanne D’Albret, Queen of Navarre, a wise and courageous leader of the French Huguenots who died in 1572, a few months prior to the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre when up to 30,000 Protestants were treacherously slaughtered. Amidst such violence many more believers fled France, and the Roman Catholic church regained its ascendancy over the nation, preventing further attempts at Reformation. John Calvin was of course a Frenchman, but his association with the Swiss city of Geneva, where he had fled during an earlier persecution, means that many in France today do not even know that he is their fellow countryman.
However, in the gracious providence of God, the Presbytery of Navarre & Aragon was established by the General Assembly in May 2021, and the congregation of Pau recognised as being entitled to call their own minister, on a self-financing, ‘tent-making’ basis. Encompassing both sides of the Pyrenees, the Presbytery of Navarre & Aragon is bilingual, with French and Spanish, though business is generally conducted in English for the benefit of those appointed by the General Assembly to assist its initial development.
Mr Pierre is a native of Pau, who after his conversion began to look for a suitable seminary where he could study the Scriptures. Not finding any suitable facility in France, he began exploring the possibility of studying in Spanish and discovered the online seminary developed by Rev. Jorge Ruiz. It is interesting that Mr Pierre’s skill in the Spanish language was developed when he was invited to spend the summer school holiday in South America with an Argentinian friend. Little did he then think, that the language he learned playing football would later enable him to prepare for the gospel ministry. After completing his studies in Spanish, Mr Pierre spent one year at the Free Church Seminary, during which time he has developed an excellent grasp of English.
Mr Pierre and his wife Diane have four young children, Rachel, Elysee, Calvin and Maria, and live in a recently renovated barn connected to the home where Diane’s parents now live. Their home, situated a little outside of Pau, is surrounded by cornfields, and has a dramatic view of the Pyrenees, some forty miles distant. Now that his studies are complete Mr Pierre’s language skills are being utilised as a translator for a Christian publisher based in Quebec, translating English language theological books into French.
(Rev. Hugues Pierre, his wife Diane and their family)
The congregation which began to meet as an extension of the Spanish Mission work in 2016 now comprises twelve communicant members, and with the children and others who attend, more than twenty regularly gather to worship God. Encouragingly one member of the congregation, Mr Paul Pontacq, a member of the French judiciary presently working in French Guiana, has been accepted as a divinity student and has recently begun his studies at the Seminary.
Meeting with the congregation in Pau, Rev. Jorge Ruiz, Moderator of the Presbytery, conducted worship in French, preaching appropriately from 1 Corinthians 4:1,2 and emphasising the preacher’s responsibility to be faithful before God in declaring the riches of the gospel. There had been some technical difficulties in broadcasting proceedings via Zoom, which perhaps hindered some from participating in the meeting. However, after public worship had concluded, it was possible to associate Rev. David Blunt (North Uist & Grimsay) and Rev. Maurice Roberts (Inverness, retired) with the Presbytery.
The Moderator then asked Mr Pierre the prescribed questions that are always addressed at an Ordination and Induction. On this occasion however, the questions which relate to the minister’s theological convictions and commitment to Biblical orthodoxy were asked (and answered) in both French and English. While this perhaps extended the service a little, it was felt important, given the significance of the vows being taken, that everyone present was clear about what was happening.
(Members of the Presbytery of Navarre & Aragon)
With Mr Pierre having affirmed his clear Confessional commitment, the Moderator then invited him to sign the formula – which is a clear declaration of his resolve, through the grace of God, to maintain, assert and defend the doctrine, worship, discipline, government and jurisdiction of the Church. Next Mr Pierre was invited to kneel, and with the laying on of hands, the Moderator led the congregation in the prayer of ordination and induction. This was followed by the members of Presbytery extending the right hand of fellowship. Together with Mr Ruiz from Rubi, Barcelona, was Mr Wilson Calle, an elder in the congregation there and a member of the Presbytery. Additionally two members of the Presbytery from Scotland, Rev. Bill Scott, who had served as interim moderator of the congregation, accompanied by his wife Isobel, and Rev. James MacInnes were able to be present. Other members of the Presbytery – Rev. Graeme Craig, Rev. Davide Ratti, and Mr Alasdair Manderson – were able to join proceedings via Zoom.
With the help of Fabien, a young man in the congregation who has an excellent grasp of English, Mr MacInnes addressed the new minister, drawing three lessons from the example of Epaphras, a faithful minister of Christ (Col. 4:12,13). Also with the help of Fabien, Mr Scott addressed the congregation, challenging and encouraging them from Exodus 15:22-27 to remain faithful, even in the hard experiences of the Christian pilgrimage.
(Some of those attending the Ordination and Induction)
The evening concluded with a tremendous spread of food and a time of informal fellowship when a presentation was made to the new minister from the congregation. The small congregation were greatly encouraged by the support of the wider Church, with some joining via Zoom, and many sending greetings to their new minister. Prior to Covid-19 there was regular outreach in the city centre, and this has been supplemented by an online presence, with a regular ‘blog’ published by Mr Pierre. Rather than prepare new material, Mr Pierre has generally published short extracts from Reformed writers, generally in relation to worship and psalm-singing, and through Facebook he has been able to interact with those who are interested.
Although it is conventional for the new minister to preach on the first Lord’s Day following his induction, on this occasion both Mr Scott and Mr MacInnes were asked to preach. Following the evening service there was a fellowship which was concluded by singing Psalm 124. In both the French and Spanish Psalters each Psalm, in keeping with the Genevan style, is associated with one specific tune. The tune in French and Spanish for this Psalm is ‘Old 124th’, which tune we would also use for the second version. It was therefore possible for the French and Spanish and English speakers to sing simultaneously this wonderful song of praise. Perhaps to a trained ear, only interested in the technicalities of music, it may not have been a beautiful sound, but for those present it anticipated that great day, when from all the nations of the earth, the Church of Christ in all its fullness will be gathered in the presence of the Lord of Glory.