​Psalt choir members prepare to go on stage for their Aug. 24, 2019, concert. Photo provided. 

Janie and Neal Blough
Thursday, January 2, 2020

On the day the G7 Summit began in Biarritz, France, another international gathering, a few hundred miles to the north, proclaimed the powerful message of reconciliation and healing of the nations.

 PARIS, France (Mennonite Mission Network) – A tale of two cities runs throughout human history: the city of Babel, resulting in the scattering of peoples; and the New Jerusalem, a joining of all peoples, cultures and languages. This parable came to life in France Aug. 24, the first day of the G7 Summit, which convened the world's richest nations in Biarritz, on the Atlantic coast in southwestern France. (According to Research Institute – Global Wealth Databook 2018, these seven countries hold 58 percent of the global net wealth, $317 trillion.) 

The same weekend, Janie concluded a week-long worship seminar sponsored by an organization called Psalt. As she has done for several years, she taught the biblical and theological foundations of worship and the role of music in worship. Attendees were primarily young adults from multicultural churches in Paris with many immigrant members from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Most urban churches in Paris fit this profile.

 "Praise of all nations," the theme of this year's Psalt conference, emphasized worship as the context for a gathering of cultures that leads to peace and reconciliation between nations. The seminar ended with a concert prepared by the participants.

The juxtaposition of these two events – one that was heavily covered by global media, and the other, a simple concert in a small Baptist church in Paris – was a stark contrast.

 The worship seminar concert was also an international event with songs from many parts of the world. Many of the songs made us think of the G7. One came from Brazil, sung in Portuguese, as the rain forest is burning. Songs from China and South Korea reminded us of the major tensions there. Another one, sung with an Israelian melody, contrasted with the tensions in the Middle East. Lingala lyrics reminded us of the church's vitality in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Songs from the United States, sung in English, were prefaced with remarks about difficulties of reconciliation among the races in that county. The closing hymn, from South Africa, was led by a woman originally from Brazil, and sung by people of many origins.

Scripture readings throughout the concert referred to the promise to Abraham to be a blessing to all families of the earth, the church as the community of "neither Jew nor Greek …," and the vision of the new city in Revelation to which all nations will bring their glory and where the tree of life will produce fruit for the "healing of the nations."

When events are discouraging, we don't always know where to look. But Mark 4:26-27 tells us that God works as one who plants seeds that grow mysteriously while we sleep. The signs and growth are there. May we learn to see them and speak of them amid the loud voices of the rich and the powerful. The kingdom of God is here among us in unexpected ways, and we are to witness to God's glory.






Janie and Neal Blough have served with Mennonite Mission Network in France since 1975, teaching in seminaries, churches and communities, and developing the Paris Mennonite Center. They also build global church relations and work for peace among Christians.



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