Dr. Edgar Reporting, Part 2
July 31, 2009
"The last two portions of Calvin500 spanned June 30 to July 10. We began with a wonderful trip to Paris, Noyon, Orléans, Reims, Strasbourg and Bern. Over 100 people came along. Our travel agency, the Witte Travel company, did an amazing job of shepherding us around.
"We learned about Calvin’s early life as a Roman Catholic in Noyon, his law studies in Orléans, his fellowship with the Reformation-minded circle at Saint-Germain-des-Près, including abbot Guillaume Briçonnet, Guillaume Farel, Jacques Lefèbre d’Étaples and Gérard Roussel.
"In Strasbourg we visited the very church where Calvin preached. He came at Martin Bucer’s request, to serve the French refugees, during his own exile from Geneva (1538-1541). Bern was the powerful center for much of the Swiss Reformation. It was wonderful to share this time with WTS board chair Jack White, and his wife Norma, recovering well from her health struggles. We also enjoyed the company of Tim and Kathe Russell, a current PhD student, and co-organizer of the conference."
"The final portion was 5 days in Geneva itself. Another large number joined us here. It was a special treat to hang out with Dave and Jenny Coffin and Steve and Thea Vanderhill. In Geneva we were treated to (count them!) five lectures each morning and three sermons in the evening. Worship was at Le Temple Saint Pierre, which has (erroneously) been known as the 'Cathedral' since World War Two. On the Lord’s Day, our friend Sinclair Ferguson preached a powerful message from Philippians 3, urging all the pastors and theologians in attendance to count all their work as loss, compared to the surpassing knowledge of Christ. His wife Dorothy and his son John (WTS M.Div.) were in attendance. The evening service featured the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, a leader in the struggle for the gospel in that world-wide communion.
"Dr. Lillback, president, preached here, and in Aix, on 'All the Glorious Offices of Christ' from 1 Corinthians 1:29-31. Westminster grad and trustee Philip Ryken, Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, preached on 'A Wide Door for Spreading the Gospel,' from 1 Cor. 16:5-11. Several other Westminster connected people preached or spoke. Every presentation was memorable. Topics ranged from particular theological points to history and sociology. Henri Blocher spoke on 'Calvin the Frenchman.'
"Isabelle Graesslé, President of the Reformation Museum, spoke on Calvin’s views on women. She stressed his love for his wife, Idolette de Bure, and his often tender relations with the women he encountered, such as the Duchess of Ferrara. Darryl Hart discussed Calvin’s impact on America. Recent WTS grad Dr. Jae Sung Kim spoke on Calvin in Asia. Dr. Kim has written a biography of Calvin in Korean. Former WTS professor Rick Gamble brought us up to date on Calvin research.
"The third colloquium was held in Aix-en-Provence. 'Calvin Revisited: Acknowledgement and Challenge' was hosted by IRTI (the International Reformed Theological Institute). The event was held at the lovely Jesuit conference center La Baume-les-Aix. The symposium included worship, lectures, and visits to places like the Musée du Désert, where the persecuted Huguenots (French Protestants) are commemorated. Again, the menu was rich (as was the French food!), as we were treated to first-rate scholars speaking on every aspect of John Calvin’s life and work. The final evening was a celebration held in the garden of the Seminary in Aix, where we ate more good food, and yours truly played some Calvinist jazz piano!
"Besides the superb presentations, other highlights included times of fellowship with friends, new and old, from all over the world; marvelous publications (my suitcase was far heavier on the return journey!); a boat trip down Lake Geneva; and… not to be taken for granted, great weather. Many of these events were filmed and recorded, so those unable to participate will be able to get their own 'taste' of Calvin. Barbara and I returned home with an enormous sense of gratitude, for what we learned about the Lord’s rule over history, the joys of fellowship, and the nurture of our souls. Anything but nostalgic yearning, these colloquia have motivated many of us to seek a new Reformation in our times.
"So, there is much work to be done. Perhaps we can measure that in 100 years. As many said when parting, 'See you at the 600th!'” - Dr. William Edgar