Our take: The nation of France, known more for secularism than it's religious fervor, is experiencing an unusual growth of evangelical churches to the point where the faith has been called "the fastest-growing religion in France." Some believe this is due in part to a desire for a deeper sense of community and more freedom for emotional expression and connection that churches have to offer. According to the French National Evangelical Council, the number of churches in the country increased from 769 to 2,068 last year alone.
In a large former factory warehouse outside Paris on a Friday night, some 4,000 people assemble in prayer and praise to a God who loves all equally, they are told. Its mostly a minority crowd: young, African, from mixed heritage, and white. Hands are raised; a choir moves from jazzy to solemn gospel tones. Faces mark a wide range of emotions at week's end.
"His love goes past all borders, forgives everything, has no limits," the pastor cries out to a great many "amens."
This working-class area is one of Frances official urban sensitive zones." The Charisma Church, as it is called, abuts the back of a trucking center. But the mood is welcoming. People actually smile. Many worshipers travel an hour or more to get here, and press into dozens of church buses that ramble between local tram and train stations. It is a megachurch in a country where faith is officially relegated to the private sphere and unofficially frowned upon.
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