Rev. Roger & Beri Fray
When we married in 1969 we were both primary school teachers, and our journey from teaching in Newbury, Berkshire, to ministering here in La Vendee has been full of surprises, not least to finding ourselves embracing ‘la vie francaise’. We were both Christians when we married, but not overly committed, or involved in our local church. The birth of our two daughters made us more aware of ‘things spiritual’ and we began to attend church regularly, where we were warmly welcomed as a family. This early experience has coloured our ministry, as we realise the importance of offering a welcome to all who come, whatever their background. Someone once told us ‘every contact leaves a trace’ and we hope to leave a trace of Jesus with those we meet. We know we fall short, but sometimes only get one chance – and this is true for all of us.
Through an increasing involvement in church life, which variously included leading Prayer and Praise services; Home group leadership; Roger training in Youth work and subsequently setting up and running a Youth Club; both training for and being part of a Prayer Ministry team; Beri training as a Lay Minister (Reader), Counsellor and Spiritual Director; and both being members of various church committees – oh, joy!! In all this we were aware that we were being moved on, in different ways, and 1989 saw us both leaving teaching – Roger to become Bishop’s Officer for Children’s Work in the Oxford Diocese and Beri through a bout of ill-health. She was then asked to take on the running of our local Christian bookshop – heaven for an avid reader – and after a year was invited to be full-time Pastoral Assistant at St. Nicolas, Newbury, a large and active town centre church. Father God was beginning to make His plans for us a little clearer, and in 1992 Roger was selected for training for full-time ministry, spending 2 years at St. John’s College, Nottingham, followed by a curacy in Grove, Oxford Diocese. This was to be an amazing training place, with a great vicar, Dick French. A time we both look back on with gratitude; a time which was to stand us in good stead for what was to come!
Having sold our own home in Newbury and bought a small cottage in rural Brittany, we came to recognise the need for the spiritual support of the many British people who had made the move to France. For some this had been a good experience, for others the dream had gone sour. Still others had lost their life partners and were ‘all at sea’. As Roger was coming to the end of his curacy we both, separately, came to realise that God was calling us to France to set up an Anglican ministry, and October 1999 saw us take the step across the Channel, with the blessing and enthusiastic encouragement of both the Diocese in Europe, under Bishops Hind and Scriven, and ICS (Intercontinental Church Society), an Evangelical Anglican Mission Agency. ICS was to give us great support throughout our 6 1/2 years in Brittany, during which we established 4 congregations in different parts of this lovely area of France. We had good relationships with both our Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters, and held many joint services in English and French, and even tri-lingual services including Breton. All in all life was going well, ministry was growing, and we felt settled in Brittany for life, but…….
Father God had other ideas. Through our contacts at the newly established Christian campsite owned by Spring Harvest, we had regularly visited La Vendee to offer spiritual support to the team setting up this new venture. This involvement grew and we were invited to be speakers. We then recognised the need for pastoral support, both for guests and staff. Gradually we came to recognise that we were being moved on, called to establish a new fellowship in St. Gilles Croix de Vie and to strengthen our links with Le Pas Opton (LPO) the Spring Harvest Holiday Park. We moved south in April 2006 and set up Joie de Vie Christian
Fellowship, an independent non-denominational church, to minister to english-speakers in the St. Gilles area. God has been adding to our numbers such gifted, solid Christians, and like St. Paul, we thank God for them every time we think of them. We have a ‘partnership’ ministry with them, which is a real blessing for us. They are prepared to give of their time and talents with freedom and great generosity. So, our adventure with Father God continues…… at present we are content to follow His leading here, and we rejoice that new things are opening up. He has obviously decided that we are proficient in French as we are now running a French language home group! In true French, and biblical, fashion we meet over a meal. We have no set programme but invite our French friends to bring their questions, concerns and prayer requests, and as yet have not been without a topic!
Following Roger’s death in July I will continue to lead Joie de Vie as we came here as joint Ministers in 2006.
I ask that you keep me in your prayers, and I look forward to seeing you when you are next in France.
As always, I welcome offers from ministers and worship leaders to enrich our worship.
Just give me a call: Berenice Fray