The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Woman heads Lutheran church in Paris

In France, attitudes toward female pastors are changing rapidly, said Marie-France Robert, the first female to head the Paris region of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France.

Marie-France Robert
Marie-France Robert
“When I first started conducting services, people would ask, ‘But when will the pastor arrive?’ The image they had of a pastor was that of a man,” said Robert, 60, who is serving her second five-year term. “Today no one would ask such a question.”

And in 2000, Robert participated in a celebration of Christian unity. “Priests of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths offered me their stoles [in] recognition of my ministry,” she said.

Parisian congregations have changed demographically over the years. In Saint-Denis, in the northern suburbs of Paris, 85 percent to 90 percent of parishioners are immigrants, she said. “Many were not Lutheran originally and sometimes there is tension between them and older members of the congregation,” she said. “We try to achieve equilibrium.”

Robert also serves two parishes, one with “a very strong African presence,” she said, and another where “the congregation is half ethnic French, half immigrant.”


Glennys Thormodsgaard

Glennys Thormodsgaard

Posted at 2:17 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/23/2007

Pastor Robert:
I am pleased to read your article in The Lutheran (email version). We are grateful for your ministry in France. It is especially significant to our family as our oldest son, David Curtis Thormodsgaard, was the first confirmand of the English speaking congregation of Saint John's Lutheran Church in Paris on May 7, 1967. It is encouraging to know you are there, continuing in this ministry. May God continue to lead and guide you in your work.
Glennys Thormodsgaard,
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Posted at 9:59 am (U.S. Eastern) 4/26/2008

As someone that attends Pastor Robert's church at Saint-Paul de Montmartre (we have a website at http://www.saintpauldemontmartre.fr), I would like to congratulate her openly for the wonderful community and special atmosphere she helped achieve in the church.

I find that the energy brought into the church of those that have just joined is really wonderful, and there really is a balance between tradition and 'newness' (if that is a word!) that she has managed to cultivate. I'd even go so far as to say that the element of 'destabilization' I initially experienced caused by the absence of the little 'traditions' I was used to, has really caused me to focus even more on the importance of the word, yet without being distracting. Just brilliant. I invite anyone who is visiting Paris to celebrate church service with us on Sunday to see for yourself!

For those of you reading this in the United States, I would like to emphasize that having a woman at the head of a church (let alone two) or even a region in France is really exceptional, and Pastor Robert really does deserve the attention and praise that she is receiving.

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