This weekend I attended a L’Abri Conference. I’ve had a few people ask, “What’s L’Abri?”, and to that I have mumbled something quickly like, “I think L’Abri is a French word for shelter.” AND “It’s a conference about Christian thought and contempory culture and….stuff. Oh, and L’Abri was started by a great man named Francis Schaeffer many years ago. He’s dead now.” But my vague summary fell so short of what L’Abri really is.
So, taken from the L’Abri International Fellowship website, here’s a better picture of L’Abri. (notice that I at least got the first part spot on.)
“L’Abri is a French word that means shelter. The first L’Abri community was founded in Switzerland in 1955 by Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith. Dr. Schaeffer was a Christian theologian and philosopher who also authored a number of books on theology, philosophy, general culture and the arts. The L’Abri communities are study centers in Europe, Asia and America where individuals have the opportunity to seek answers to honest questions about God and the significance of human life. L’Abri believes that Christianity speaks to all aspects of life.”
And each year a L’Abri Conference is held in Rochester, Minnesota. So, after a weekend of conferencing with L’Abri folks from all around the world, I have a renewed appreciation for Schaeffer’s ministry. And I left with the thought, “I wish I would have gone to a L’Abri study center when I was younger.” Not that I can’t now, it’s just that I have children, a husband, and bills, and responsibilities and such. But perhaps there will be an opportunity in the future.
L’Abri does have a special meaning to me. An elder at a church where Doug was working had studied at L’Abri in England once upon a time. He was the one to encourage Doug to come to St. Louis to study at Covenant Seminary where professor Jerram Barrs was teaching. Jerram Barrs had been his beloved teacher at English L’Abri years ago. Because of L’Abri, Jerram Barrs, and our friend, we moved to St. Louis 13 years ago and have made it our home.
And oddly enough, Doug and I had some unique premarital counseling. Instead of the traditional talks of conflict resolution and the handling of finances, we were given a book. It was titled L’Abri, by Edith Schaeffer. I think our pastor counselor friend thought this book would help prepare us for ministry since we were going off to seminary after our wedding. I’m not sure that it practically helped us in the early days of our marriage, but it opened my eyes to the incredible ministry of the Schaeffers and of their rich prayer life and dependence upon God for all things. Her book chronicles the first days of L’Abri in Switzerland.
My head is still spinning after a full weekend of lectures and learning. I am still processing one particular workshop entitled, “Vocation and Calling” given by a delightful young woman from Canadian L’Abri. It was a lecture I wish I would have heard as a senior in high school, a senior in college, and one I needed to hear as I again reconsider my passions, giftings, and calling in life.
And in the meantime, I’m still thawing out from the cold Minnesota winter weekend, catching up on my sleep, and downloading my brain.