Tag Archives: Spring Harvest

Of history and wine

Our major trip while we were at Le Pas Opton was an all-day outing centred on wine and history … and a great deal of eating!
We began in the town of Clisson which, on first sight, looked like a backwater. It turned out however to have quite a history, having been named after Olivier IV de Clisson who, at one point, was the second most powerful man in all France.
(The town is also twinned with Cowbridge, just outside Cardiff. That’s absolutely nothing to do with our visit but allows me to get a mention of Wales in!!)

Apart from places to get coffee, and apparently lots of places to buy women’s shoes, there was nothing much to do except visitthe chateau so we did and at 2€20 each it was pretty good value.
The views fro the battlements were excellent, especially of the Eglise Notre Dame on the other side of the river. The town is at the confluence of the Sèvre Nantaise and the Moine so was a strategic point in the Vendeen wars in the 1790s.
From Clisson it was on to Domaine Des Croix, the family vineyard run by Josiane and Joseph Batard not far from Clisson.
Any thoughts of this being a wander along a few vines were dispelled the moment the minibus pulled into the farmyard. The welcome drink was a glass of sparkling muscadet to get us ready for a feast!
We looked at the vines and were given full details on how the crop developed – this is basically a two-person operation with a bit of extra help. Joseph and his employee deal with seven acres and 17,000 vines to produce their different types of muscadet.
It was fascinating to see the care and attention to detail needed to produce high-quality white wine.
Then we sat down to the kind of lunch that farm workers would have. The food kept coming: bread, pate (pork and duck), rillette, saucissions, ham, cheese – and samples of all the other wines available from Domaine Des Croix.
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, out came cake – two types – and jam, followed by coffee and tea.
All the time, as Josiane told us about their life at the vineyard, there was a sense of her total commitment to what has to be done to preserve this way of French life. You could tell it was so important to her.
Martine, our delightful Spring Harvest minibus driver, told us that the vineyard had been chosen particularly because its name – with reference to Des Croix, the crosses, in it – referred to a period of French history when nuns in the area had been persecuted for their faith.

The ‘how much more’ God

We are beginning almost a month in France as I come towards the end of a Sabbatical –  a gift from the Methodist Church.

It’s a chance to do a number of things and here all the cliches could come out: recharge the batteries; rest from the fight; find yourself; do something different. In a way they are all true and all wrong.

A sabbatical can be a glorious waste of time – and that may be just what you should do. I know of at least one friend who decided that he would spend the time reintroducing himself to his family because he spent so long away from them working that he believed, rightly, that he owed them the best gift: time.

For me, two months into the three, I’m beginning to hear something clear from God. Whether it will translate into anything usable for work I don’t know but I do know that I can sense him speaking in the place where we are now.

We’ve begun our time in France at Spring Harvest’s holiday Park Le Pas Opton. It’s our fourth visit and this time we’ve brought our little caravan to the Vendee at the beginning of a trip around six different caravan sites from the West coast to St Tropez, via St Etienne.

This morning, Christophe the site manager, was speaking at the morning worship and talked about logic, or rather the illogicality of God choosing to work with people like us to share his love in the world. He quoted Jesus (always a good idea, I find!) who, in Matthew’s Gospel, encourages people not to worry:

Matthew 7:

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Christophe went on to talk about the logic of asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and having something open but what struck me was the ‘how much more’ God. In this conversation where we can expect the obvious to happen – so doors open when you knock – comes a Father who surpasses the ordinary and works on the ‘how much more’ level.

I’m excited to explore more of this as the final sabbatical goes on. What does it mean to follow a ‘how much more’ God. How does it change expectations? What does it mean for ministry, for church, for the way church works?