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In 1781, the French adventurer, Baron de Rullecourt attempted to invade Jersey. His troops landed secretly at La Rocque, by night, and almost succeeded in forcing the island to surrender. But the militia fought on! The Battle of Jersey had begun!
(sound of guns firing, shouts, yells, screams, horses galloping)
At La Rocque, the Rector of St Martin, Francois Le Couteur, brought along his own two cannons, and roused the local forces to attack. While the main battle was going on in St Helier, they fought against one hundred Frenchmen at La Rocque.
(cannon booming fire)
Finally, the battle was over, and. the French were defeated.
But what has that got to do with our Church of Grouville?
Eight years later, Francois Le Couteur became Rector of Grouville, and we were fortunate to have this brave and patriotic man looking after the people of Grouville.
It was a time which needed a strong Christian, as firm in the faith as in battle. Throughout the island, there were quarrels over Church pews, people drunk in Church. The Rector of St Lawrence neglected his church services, and spent much of his time drinking in a tavern.
(enter soldiers, singing badly, pulling trolley on which are guns; carrying bottles of ale. )
Stack the guns here, they said.
There's no battle on at the moment.
I reckon we should use our guns on those traitors, the Methodists. They're never in the Militia on Sundays.
Well, that's as maybe. But I have heard tell of good works they do.
Good? They never drink. Not a drop! A little wine never hurt no one - that's what the good book says.
(swigs from bottle)
I don't says I agree with them. But they are good people. Their heart's in the right place.
They're always preaching at you, Just like the Rector. I calls them killjoys! Killjoys! They takes all the fun out of life.
(they disappear to side, soldier 2 still muttering "Killjoys…")
(The lights dim and a small congregation takes its place. The Rector appears and goes to the pulpit. ) Spotlight on to highlight him)
Francois Le Couteur
My message to you this day is taken from the words of St Peter: "Brethren, be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom be may devour. Resist, steadfast in the faith."
A few years ago, the French set out in secret to invade our Island. We defeated them. Why? Because we were awake, vigilant, alert! I myself played a small part in this fight by bringing my cannons to bear on their forces at La Rocque. But what if I did not forsee trouble, get those cannons? What if I had not kept them in good working order? What if I had been lazy about cleaning and testing them? It was because I kept them ready, prepared for battle, that I was able to help defeat the enemy.
Now we must be like that in our own lives. We must be ready to fight against the devil, and resist temptations. St Paul tells us to wear the armour of God. And I tell you, such armour needs constant repair. All too easily we neglect our spiritual duties, and become complacent, lazy and sinful. And too many in our island let their Christian armour wear out, become rusty, and fall apart. They are those whose lives are marked by vice, and the wickedness of too much drink.
But another snare of the devil is false pride. We have no right to sneer at the work of John Wesley that the Methodists have just begun in Jersey. Do not presume that you are right and they are wrong. There is much good they do, and they are a sober, upright people, who heed the word of God and the voice of conscience.
In comparison, our own lives are often so poor in spirit, so lacking in godliness. We surrender too easily. We are too complacent.
In the States, I have criticised the Jersey roads as being narrow, winding, muddy lanes, ill fitted for the traveller. We must take steps to improve them, and also to make sure that our lives follow the straight, true path of righteousness.
Let us pray that it may be so!
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(bows, leaves pulpit, walks down main aisle and out)
(bell tolls briefly in background)
Francois Le Couteur died of typhus on 15th May 1808. His solid faith, his freedom from worldliness, but above all his kindness towards the poor and unfortunate, made him loved and respected by all.