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The Lery family, Strasbourg

Hello to everybody at Clapham Holy Spirit. Some of you might remember a French family living on Narbonne Avenue and some Sundays paying a visit to CHS? We have still in our hearts  many fantastic memories of our time here in 2006-2009, a time where two of our kids received their first communion and where they started learning English.

We moved back to France in Strasbourg where I, Francois-Xavier, used to work before, back in the same international organisation - the Council of Europe. My wife Laurence, whose professional career was significantly impacted to say the least by her moving husband, moved from working in a hospital as  pharmacist to teaching part-time in secondary school,  a work where she can combine her scientific expertise teaching biology with teaching social care, an area which keeps her busy for the other half time in the NGO Médecins du Monde.

Our kids have grown up with Mathilde our eldest one getting her baccalaureate last year and now studying publishing, bookshops and libraries in an "Institut Universitaire de Technologie" near Paris. She's just had her first work experience with a traineeship in the publishing house of the Scouts et Guides de France. She thus managed to combine her love of books with her engagement in scouting. She will be involved in the organisation of a jamboree taking place in Strasbourg this July with 15,000 scouts and guides aged 14-17.

Our second daughter Pauline is participating as well as she's 16. Her twin brother Pierre and she are in the international secondary school "Lycee international des Pontonniers" and still don't know what they study on one year time after their baccalaureate... They have all maintained their excellent English-speaking skills, thanks also to a couple of stays at Graveney school in Streatham,  very kindly hosted by friends or parish members...

After our expatriation in a Church of England parish in CHS, in our impatriation (a neologism for the new phenomenon of expatriates feeling homesick getting back to their native country) we got back to our rather traditionalist Roman Catholic parish of St Pierre-le-Jeune.

The functioning of the church in Alsace is a bit peculiar compared to the rest of France, for historical reasons inherited from the time where Alsace was occupied by the Germans in 1870-1918. In 1870, tired of fighting the Brits for ages France entered a silly (pleonasm) war against Germany... and lost it. The defeat was complete and as a war reparation Alsace and part of Lorraine were transferred to the newly created German Empire. The years to come coincided with huge social progresses steered by the German Chancellor Bismarck, including a social security system. At the same time, France  which used to be called the elder daughter of the Roman Catholic Church became a lay state, with the Church formally separated from the State by a law of 1905 revoking Napoleon Bonaparte's Concordat.

So when Alsace came back to France at the end of WW1, Alsatian people were very happy recovering their French citizenship, but refused to lose their German system of social security... and their state-governed church. So until now, even after May 68 and the 20th-century- long secularisation, Alsace churches are still state-governed, with clergy salaries paid by the government. Most of people in the rest of France don't know this, otherwise a lot of non-churchgoers would probably refuse to pay their income tax! So our priests are civil servants... They enter the same  salary grid as the other civil servants from the very large French public system. I have a friend pharmacist inspector for the Ministry of Health who was a few years ago very proud of reaching the same grade as the Strasbourg archbishop! 

Our parish and the French church in general have had several topics for discussion over the last years with controversies about gay marriage made legal in France in 2014, the evolution of the rules around palliative care and terminally-ill patients, with a recent controversial case judged at the European Court of Human Rights (which is part of  the Council of Europe) and last but not least the January terrorist attacks in Paris, which were quite a trauma especially in a region used to the coexistence of  large communities of Catholics, Protestants and Jews with eg their own schools or hospitals. This should be an example for having the same peaceful "live-together" with the growing Muslim community. 

We keep an eye on the CHS newsletter and the life of the parish, of course very happy to see Ruth succeeding to Jeremy and to know that many of you whom we met some years ago are still actively involved and keep CHS active and lively! all the best to all of you. Anyone passing by in Strasbourg or wanting to have their kids improving in French speaking can drop an email to Francois-Xavier for a visit or even a stay.