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Steady perseverance builds French ward

After years of slow growth, meetinghouse planned for growing Church in Valence

VALENCE, France — Missionary work began in Lyon and its surrounding regions in 1909 when missionaries entered the area. Twenty years later, in 1929, the Valence Branch was created consisting of four members and two American missionaries. After years of slow but steady growth, a ward was organized Dec. 11, 2005. A planned new meetinghouse will be a monument to the perseverance of the members and missionaries.

Like many European cities, Valence maintains the charm of the old world in its historic district. Membership in this city in southern France has grown slowly but steadily since missionaries first introduced the gospel in 1909.
Like many European cities, Valence maintains the charm of the old world in its historic district. Membership in this city in southern France has grown slowly but steadily since missionaries first introduced the gospel in 1909. Photo: Photo by Dennis Gioffredo

Following a declaration of war in 1939, the 21 missionaries working in France gathered in Valence before returning to the U.S. Leon Fargier, the sole active Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the country at the time, almost single-handedly conducted the affairs of the Church in France during the war. He visited members throughout France at great effort and sacrifice, including visiting the two sisters in Valence.

Missionaries returned to Valence after the war in 1946. Relief aid packages from the Church were distributed by Brother Fargier to suffering members in France.

President James L. Barker was soon sent to re-open the mission. He organized conferences and encouraged many musical groups to tour France.

Growth of the Church was slow during the next years, hampered by the economic crisis following the war. In 1949, Church meetings in Valence were held in a restaurant with three members. It was a time of many picnics with missionaries.

Little had changed by 1955 when Church meetings were held in a small store on Avenue de Chabeuil with four members and four missionaries serving in Valence.

But by 1958, membership grew to 15 members and six missionaries, requiring Church meetings to be held in a small store on the road Jean Jaures in Bourg les Valence. There were few Church manuals in French. Members relied on the Book of Mormon and selected sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. Still, several baptisms were held.

Yet, by 1974, only two sisters remained, Jeanne Charrier and Andree Dufour, requiring the closing of the branch until 1981. During those years they did what they could by meeting each Sunday at Sister Dufour's home. Members from Grenoble came once a month to administer the sacrament.

Members and missionaries are grateful for their comfortable meetinghouse.
Members and missionaries are grateful for their comfortable meetinghouse. Photo: Photo by Dennis Gioffredo

Jean Louis Darguence was called as the new president of the Valence Branch, which met in a room on the road Rue des Alpes. Four adult members and three children attended. Paul Reynaud followed as branch president. Meetings were held in a room on Rue de la Gare. Several more people were baptized.

During the next years, meetings were held in a home on Bourg les Valence where Jombership continued to grow slowly, but steadily, prompting Church leaders to plan for the construction of a meetinghouse. Laurent Lechifflart and then Philippe Barbier served as branch presidents.

President Daniel Mocellin of the Lyon France Stake attended Valence Dec. 11, 2005, with his two counselors, Andre Seon and Robert Bertola, to create the Valence Ward where Brother Barbier was called as the bishop.

Today, there are 250 members in the Valence Ward with about 75 attending regularly. The missionaries, along with present members, are witnesses of the creation of this ward.

Construction of a meetinghouse in Valence could begin soon. Land has been purchased. The old factory on the property has been razed. Members eagerly await the opportunity of worshipping together in a beautiful meetinghouse.

The Leray family is grateful for their comfortable meetinghouse.
The Leray family is grateful for their comfortable meetinghouse. Photo: Photo by Dennis Gioffredo
The Meloen family is one of a growing number of young families who characterize the increasing membership in the newly created Valence Ward.
The Meloen family is one of a growing number of young families who characterize the increasing membership in the newly created Valence Ward. Photo: Photo by Dennis Gioffredo

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