Missionaries Steve & Miki Thrall explain the vision behind La Pommeraie
Note from Paul Cooke: I first met Steve in the UK over a decade ago and was impressed by his vision for sharing the gospel through the arts. Steve regularly preaches in evangelical churches around Normandy, and France Mission is very happy to handle gifts for him and Miki or for La Pommeraie through our link with Artists in Christian Testimony International. Please just contact me (email@example.com) if you’d like to support this ministry.
For generations France has been at the forefront of the downward spiral of European secularization. Christianity has been scoffed at, ridiculed, and marginalized. It’s been almost impossible to be taken seriously as an intellectual while at the same time affirming faith in the gospel of Jesus. Thankfully the wind has shifted and there are signs of hope! The number of new Bible study groups and church plants has been slowing increasing.
One of the doors that’s opened is by way of the arts. The French population is generally very suspicious of anything religious yet warmly embraces quality art and good artists, be they Christians or not. The Church has often been reticent to explore this path, which disappoints us. We believe that the human ability to imagine and create comes from being created in the image of God.
In March 1988 we came to Paris to be part of a church-planting initiative. Along the way we met an increasing number of Christians who were professional artists in the areas of theatre, music, mime, dance, and visual art. While we worked hard to find opportunities to share the gospel, our French artist friends had ample opportunities even when they were not seeking them. This shouldn’t have surprised us. In France good art attracts attention. Art is indirect. It breaks down walls and opens doors by asking questions, inviting dialogue, exploring emotional responses through creative work. Art helps to build relationships and community.
For nearly two decades our ministry has been primarily oriented toward artists and the Paris arts community. Three years ago, we moved to a property called La Pommeraie in Normandy with the desire to provide a place to receive creatively gifted people who work in a wide variety of artistic disciplines. La Pommeraie consists of a 300-year-old thatched-roof cottage and two guest houses on one metric acre surrounded by beautiful farmland. We’re 45 minutes south of Deauville and Honfleur and 1.5 hours by train from the centre of Paris. Please click here to see a short presentational video.
The vision of La Pommeraie is to provide a quiet, inspiring place to rest and create. Our desire is to support artists in their creative process, while opening doors to a deeper spiritual encounter with God, the great Creator. Artists need to find a place to escape the busyness of life to concentrate and focus on their creative work. Artistic creation often requires time, space, and a peaceful setting: three elements hard to find in a busy city. We desire to create a welcoming place where a variety of creative people can come to find a listening ear, a place to rest, and space to work. We want to welcome both Christian and non-Christian artists. For believers, in addition to a place to work creatively, it will also be a place of pastoral care and discipleship. For non-believers we’ll provide a place to work and welcome them into our home for conversation and discussions on creativity and exploring spiritual hunger.
Artists are influencers in French society. Philosopher Jacques Maritain said, “Art is the John the Baptist of the heart, preparing its affections for Christ.” We desire for La Pommeraie to prepare the way for creative people to be inspired by their Creator.