Flowers, songs, and prayers—coping with grief in Paris

Grief is a process, also in Paris. In the wake of the bloody attacks, people continue to come to the sites of the attacks to pay their respects to the victims. The central congregation of the New Apostolic Church in Paris is close to one of the locations. How are our brothers and sisters coping?

It is Sunday afternoon. A group of young people are standing outside the bistro La Belle Équipe singing “J’ouvre les portes de mon Coeur” and “Plus près de toi, mon Dieu”. Passersby stop to listen. A few pull out their mobiles to take pictures. There are mountains of flowers testifying that something terrible has happened here.

La Belle Équipe, a trendy Paris bistro, was one of eight locations targeted in a coordinated terrorist attack on 13 November 2015, killing 130 people. The young people placed 19 roses on the growing memorial in front of the bistro—one for each of the victims killed. Then they headed back to the church, the New Apostolic congregation Paris-Centre.

Divine services resumed

The attacks in Paris two weeks ago this Friday had shocked and stunned the brothers and sisters. The church in Paris remained closed on the Sunday following the attacks. On Wednesday, 18 November, divine services resumed.

In a letter to his French charges in the wake of the attacks, District Apostle Koberstein wrote: “What can we do when something like this happens? Let us do what small children would do. If something terrible happens they run to their mom or dad. Let us go to our heavenly Father and place our small hand into His big hand. And let us pray together—for ourselves, for the victims and their families, and for all who are suffering.”

Do not judge, but pray

Bishop Pierre Fetter also referred to prayer as the best reaction. He had come to Paris-Centre on Sunday, 22 November, as a sign of the Church’s special support for the congregation. He based the service on Romans 8: 38–39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On Sunday afternoon, the youth of the Paris-Nord district gathered in the church in Paris-Centre. The young people walked to the nearby bistro that had been targeted in one of the attacks to lay down flowers and pay tribute to the victims. “I have never seen our young people so affected,” Priest Vianney Fullhardt, the district youth leader reported On their way back to the church there was subdued conversation. “One of the things we talked about was that we did not want to condemn the attackers, but to pray for them as well.”

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Andreas Rother
France, Congregational life