There’s a certain poignancy about spending a final Sunday in Paris. Much as the day itself turned out, weather was changeable – storming hard with great dark droplets, then blue skies breaking up fluffy white cloud. I had promised myself a return visit to Theatre Bobino in Montparnasse to Hillsong Paris, not least because Brian and Bobbie Houston, senior pastors, were in attendance which is a bit like an Archdeacon’s Visitation but much less formal.
Things were going well, the place was packed to the rafters – it seats 850 and they’re going to need to find something bigger soon – and the worship songs, mostly French translations from the new Hillsong album were obviously well-known. English subtitles were up on the multimedia screen. Within ten minutes of Brian’s opening, the smoke alarms went off and the entire placed plunged into silence and darkness, with the exception of emergency lights and instructions over a temporary PA from the firemen in attendance – a legal requirement. They were using some dry ice earlier and I did wonder if the guy working the valve had been a bit over-enthusiastic with it. I watched with interest since the whole outfit is multimedia based, so lighting, computers, sound systems all collapsed and I wondered whether people would stick it out or leave while the organisers figured out what to do. We waited, chatted and sang a bit a capella. Brian has a fine Pentecostal pastor’s voice, but didn’t attempt to carry on with his message, just suggested that since there might be a few spare minutes, if you had come with your girlfriend, now might be a good time to propose to her. I sat next to a very nervous and rather proper-looking young French girl who looked as if she were probably a Catholic since she sat woodenly most of the time in contrast to most of the rest of the crowd who were letting it all hang out with a good deal of abandon. She told me that she’d been ‘invited by a friend to come and have a look’ but seemed as out of place as a Muslim at an Irish wake.
After almost half an hour, we were back online. I was impressed with the fact that preacher Brian didn’t repeat everything he’d said originally – the word du jour seems to be that when a lot of people recognise and exercise their abilities rather than just a few buttressing the whole structure, the Church gets built – 1 Peter 4:10 being the main text. The meeting did go a bit formulaic after he’d wrapped up with general prayer for healing, prosperity, salvation and so on. I left during the last part of the meeting to find His Own Self standing in the foyer, so, being me, I stuck my hand out and we exchanged a few words. Which was nice.
Lunch in the Marais on a Sunday is always a buzz. The Jewish places are open and the gays hangouts are crowded – a satisfying interlude with good charcuterie and cheese without tourist prices.
Paris itself is surprisingly crowded everywhere on a Sunday, mostly with locals reclaiming their city – not a Japanese camera plus attached tourist in sight. We wandered down to Opéra to catch a movie. Melancholia was on the list. Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, Breaking Waves) is an interesting director and something of an acquired taste. This psychological disaster movie is apparently somewhat autobiographical since his childhood was plagued with fears of nuclear war. Critics seem divided, so you might like to judge for yourself whether it’s worth seeing. The movie starts and finishes with a planet crashing into the Earth so since we know how it’s going to end it’s what happens in between that’s interesting. Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, a raffish and exceedingly wrinkled John Hurt and beautifully waspish Charlotte Rampling provided some heavyweight personality. Dunst goes commando, if you like that sort of thing. The score from Tristan and Isolde was quite beautiful, in a regretful kind of way.
Finally quite a good dinner at Brasserie des Capucines, around the corner. Few tourists.Very bobo…