On October 1, the first floor of Brock Hall filled with men and women aged approximately fifteen to seventy-five. Chattanoogans, Alabamians, and North Carolinians traveled to Brock for multiple reasons. Some were simply admirers of Francis Schaeffer and wanted to hear anything and everything related to him. Others were past students of L’Abri who desired to reunite with lifelong friends. Some were in the area and connected to Covenant as students, alumni, or professors. Others were a mix between these three. While the L’Abri Lectures were not initially part of the planning for the Francis Schaeffer Conference on True Spirituality, they nicely coincided with the conference.
Although classrooms usually do not fill until the five or so minutes before class, the audience for the L’Abri Lectures began arriving around 8:30 a.m.—thirty minutes before the event actually began. After registering, the people ate scones and drank coffee while meeting new people and catching up with former friends. By 8:50, the room was crowded with a mass of people.
L’Abri was founded in Switzerland by Francis Schaeffer and his wife in 1955—the same year that Covenant was founded—at the start of the hippie movement. Schaeffer’s desire was to establish a safe place for Christians to ask questions and express their doubts.
Today, L’Abri has spread to 8 locations in 7 different countries. At these locations, young people study and attend lectures. More importantly, people from all age groups meet together over meals to fellowship together.
Mary Frances Giles, a worker at the Southborough L’Abri, lectured after lunch, discussing the relation between food, place, and being human, saying, “As humans, we long for both a physical place prepared for us and the physical presence of being in someone’s community—Christ did not come to Christianize us, but he came to make us more fully human.” L’Abri takes this call seriously by making meals a place where individuals can come with dignity knowing that the food and drink has been prepared specifically for them.
The College intentionally planned the lunch, scones, and desserts which were provided for the conference attendants in an effort to encourage community and conversation.
Andrew Fellows, a L’Abri member who was already at Covenant for the Francis Schaeffer conference, stayed another day to deliver a lecture on what it means to be human. In this lecture, he said, “To be human is to be made in the image of God. In the image of God, humans uniquely exist in the natural, the cultural, and the eternal realms. As such, we are creatures who show the world God’s face but who are completely dependent upon him.”
Fellow’s lecture was preceded by Dr. Davis’ “Would Francis Schaeffer Prefer NPR over Fox News? Resisting Self-Imposed Cultural Blindness.” Davis’ neatly outlined lecture proved that Schaeffer would either listen to both Fox News and NPR or neither. In this he showed how as Christians we should seek answers and truth without compromising God’s Word. All three lectures are featured on SoundCloud.
Although these lectures with the follow-up panel discussion ended at 3:30 p.m., Grace Humbles (‘13), who helped organize the event, “left at 5:00 p.m. and people were still there talking. L’Abri is a place to talk and to learn together.”
In the ‘60s, Covenant College hosted conferences for L’Abri, and Francis Schaeffer spoke on the Covenant campus. The October 1 event helped reinstitute this tradition by uniting the two institutions.
Chaplain Lowe, who became friends with Andrew Fellows and his colleague David Illman, said: “I would love to see Covenant continue to strengthen our relationship with L'Abri. I think it's very feasible, given our complementary visions and our history with Francis Schaeffer. As we continue the Francis Schaeffer Conference on True Spirituality and the L'Abri Lectures, I hope we can build on an already solid foundation. David Illman also mentioned his desire to have Covenant students visit Christian Heritage in Cambridge, something I think could be an interesting element to a program like our May term in London, or a Break on Impact trip."
The connection between Covenant and L’Abri looks hopeful for the future. For the present, we do not know if this conference will be annual, but the conversation between our institutions has begun.