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The American Church of Paris

October 25th, 2015 · No Comments · France, Paris, tourism, Travel


Paris has two major American churches and, curiously, they are only about 800 yards apart, with the Seine River filling much of the gap.

We checked out the American Cathedral on a Sunday evening back in 2011, and today we had a look at the American Church in Paris — and the experiences were markedly different.

The American Cathedral seems to be hanging on, in a secular era (in the West, anyway), while the American Church, across the river, appears to be thriving.

It was today, anyway, as a crowd of at least 250 turned out for the 11 a.m. service one day after the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1965 visit to the American Church.

A person pretty much has to go looking for the American Church because it is located in one of the least accessible areas of Paris (the seventh arrondissement) despite being located on the famous Quai d’Orsay, which is on the left bank of the Seine.

Paris is a city dotted with train, metro and bus stops, but the American Church is about half a mile from any of them. The Pont d’Alma metro stop is the closest access point, and it requires a walk over the nearby bridge and down the Quai d’Orsay.

Which is a long way of saying … anyone who attends the American Church, and 250-plus did, must really have wanted to be there.

The music and the message were a carryover from the MLK events of the previous day, with Dr. Luke Powery, the dean of the Duke University Chapel, preaching.

The service also featured “spiritual” duets from the operatic Angela Owens and LaToya Lain, as well as three hymns from the same tradition, led by the indomitable Amazing Grace.

To scan the back pages of the order of service is to get a sense of the American Church’s reach in the city.

It is involved in numerous charitable organizations, loans out its facilities to dozens of groups, including 10-step programs for escaping addictions; and has three services every Sunday, as well as musical performances in the early evening. (A classical pianist was due later today.)

The American Church seems to have all sorts of clergy, too. A senior pastor, two part-time associate pastors, a youth/young adult pastor, a visiting pastor … and more.

The church also is a popular location for weddings.

The service we attended suggested the church, which has no specific religious affiliation, would fit comfortably among the liberal-trending Protestant sects of the United States.

The American Cathedral, meanwhile, is directly tied to the global Anglican Church (known as Episcopalian, in the U.S.), and seemed more attuned to the calm and quiet school of American Protestants.

The Cathedral is more grand, befitting its name. The Church is no bare-bones operation, not with all that stained glass and organ pipes behind the altar, but it has more of a “just folks” vibe to it.

Americans with interest in worshiping among Protestants, might be interested in both of these long-standing churches, reminders of the influx of Americans in Paris, in the 19th century, and of Americans keen to find a church that made them feel they were still on the other side of the Atlantic. At least on Sundays.

(The photo, above, is taken from the church’s wiki page.)



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