a bit monkish.
“To get here, do not take the road to Moussey!”
These words were included in the email directions to our chambres d’hôtes (B&B) near Troyes, the capital of Champagne, in July 2006. As my dad, my son, and I drove north, we saw the road to Moussey; and, faithfully following directions, we avoided taking it. About a kilometer north of the Moussey turnoff, we found our quaint accommodations for the night at the Domaine de la Creuse.
In some ways, I’m still a child. If someone tells me not to push the button, my finger will immediately be drawn towards it. Such was the case with Moussey. Because we were told not to go there, I had to go there. As we returned to our chambres d’hôtes one evening after a day in the Troyes cathedral and the final resting place of St. Bernard of Clairvaux's remains, we approached the Moussey turnoff. My dad looked at me, and getting my consent, applied the brakes and slowed down. From the backseat I could hear my 12 year-old joking (in his best French accent), “Do not go to Moussey! Do not go to Moussey!” We made the right turn and headed down the narrow farm road.
Before we ever saw the city-limit sign, I was already in love with Moussey. Towering above the little village was a crumbling, Romanesque church tower. As we approached, we realized this was a working church. Standing about three-stories high and covering an entire city block, the church dominated the sleepy village. Despite the frail appearance of its stone blocks and clay stucco, this 12th Century church had survived the Hundred Years’ War, the French Revolution, two World Wars, and countless other abuses. The building was still being used as the village church, and would be celebrating its 900th anniversary the following week.
How many Mousseys do we miss in life because we’re seeking the best, the latest, the trendiest, the largest, and the most convenient? No one visits the church in Moussey. It’s not in the tourist guide books or travel web sites. It just sits there, serving as the spiritual center for the people of the village like it has for 900 years. It’s difficult for us in North America to process history before the the American Revolution. When Paul Revere made his famous ride, the church in Moussey had been holding Sunday services for roughly 700 years.
In theological disciplines, it’s fashionable to find some new aspect of a theory or teaching. We get bored presenting the same ideas of the Trinity, the atonement, or even the nature of God, so we construct new understandings to keep our scholarship fresh. The same goes for preaching, or church growth, or other aspects of the Christian life and ministry. It’s as simple as “New is good. Old is bad.”
For me, I prefer Moussey. Its 463 residents don’t think their town is on the societal cutting edge, but that’s probably why they live there. Sure, the stucco of the church has been patched and repainted several times, but the building is the same one built in the 1100s.
The next time you’re tempted for the popular, trendy aspects of life and ministry, maybe it’s time to take the road to Moussey.
(c) 2016 Michael C. Voigts
I'm a follower of Christ serving as an Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary.