A City of Refuge
It is a dangerous thing to equate human action with the Gospel, but with that caveat, there is much we can learn by observing how Christians act when confronted with a palpable need for mercy. What was it that drove 13 pastors in a tiny Protestant village in France to place themselves, their families and their parishioners between the Nazis and their Vichy French allies on the one side, and thousands of Jewish refugees on the other?
In Le Chambon, an entire village conspired to protect and harbor a stream of refugees from those who sought their lives. The refugees were not French and they were not Christians, yet day after day, year after year, Rev. André Trocmé and his fellow pastors and villagers risked their very lives. Today, we know the end of the story. They were on the “winning” side. But when they acted, they could not have known that, or whether they might personally live to see it.
Theologically, the Protestants of Le Chambon worshipped in different churches, tenaciously clinging to the doctrinal distinctives which separated them, yet, they acted as one, the body of Christ. There are many lessons to be learned from their example, i.e. how we can be faithful to our personal convictions, yet act corporately. The first among equals in this group was the Huguenot pastor Trocmé, who led the rescue effort despite the opposition of his own Reformed Church leaders, who feared his actions would put the church in danger. Trocmé believed that a failure to act presented a far greater threat to the church, and with that we must agree, even while disagreeing with a number of his theological views.
We will present Trocmé’s story more fully in a future issue, but for now, we tell the story of Le Chambon through the eyes of a young boy who found in that tiny French village a city of refuge.
On the Cover
Le Chambon Day, Acrylic, by Theresa Crout.
The January-March 2012 issue includes these articles:
- Le Chambon: City of Refuge
- William Boetcker, “The Inside Man”
- The “Ten Cannots”
- Gottschalk of Orbais
- Reminiscences Among the Indians