Based in Provence, L'Oasis Christian Fellowship, Lorgues, serves the predominantly elderly ex-pat community. Peter Massey explains how it started.
In 2OOO, after a badly needed holiday in Provence, we had a real sense that God was calling us to France to provide a place of shelter and rest; a place for people to spiritually charge their batteries. It seemed such a crazy idea but shortly after returning to Ireland where we lived, I was made redundant. As a result we started to explore the possibility that God was saying something to us.
Watch Peter explaining how L'Oasis began.
The dream was that we try and find a house with space for people to come and stay and that our home was to be open to people from all denominations and none and be an oasis of calm in a beautiful and restful part of the South of France. Needless to say there were many difficulties and hurdles on the journey and it was tempting at times to give up, but God always stepped in and opened doors.
Becoming accepted by the local church was difficult at first. There was an understandable wariness of us as 'these people from Ireland who had just parachuted into the area wanting to start a sort of church'. This was complicated by the fact I am an Anglican minister but eventually we were welcomed and now our ministry has been accepted by the Diocese in Europe and that has helped.
We first learnt about fresh expressions in 2006 and this gave us a real sense of belonging, not just to the church, but to something new and exciting that seemed to understand and reflect our own experience and walk with God.
Our Sunday worship is based around Communion but is informal in character and is always followed by a shared meal which, in true Provencal style, may go on till 5 or 6pm as people share fellowship together and catch up on each others lives. We meet twice a month, once in our own home in Arc-en-Provence (or in the garden in the warm summer months) and once in a local chapel which is part of a retirement home where we are made very welcome.
When we came to France, we were unaware of the vast numbers of retired ex-pats who either live or have second homes here. There are many needs within this elderly and vulnerable group of people and a third of our fellowship is widowed. Loneliness, low self-esteem and lack of mobility are all growing problems but God has blessed our fellowship with many gifted people of all ages and our Sunday club for the children is growing as well.
L'Oasis comes under the ARK association – this exists to assist the English-speaking communities of the Var in areas of pastoral care where there may be need of compassionate care or personal support. We work both independently and alongside other agencies who share a similar concern for the welfare and well being of the resident ex-patriot community in this part of France. The ARK is established as a French Association which has a similar status to a UK charity. It is guided by a steering group of professional and dedicated people who live and work in this part of France and share the concerns for the needs of the community. This work is endorsed and encouraged by the British Consulate in Marseilles, the Anglican Diocese in Europe and the British Association.
It is an unusual but rewarding 'mission field' and the potential is enormous for communities such as ours to be fostered throughout the south of France, and that is part of our vision. Our focus is on encouraging fellowship and sharing the gospel through action and pastoral care; to be a place of healing and growth and simply offer ourselves and our home for the Lord to use. We seek to be church without walls, Christ-centred, people-focused and Spirit-led.