Reformation 500

October 29th, 2017

The church has finished its nine days of special events during Reformation Week, to remember and inform about the Reformation that started 500 years ago, in the city where the Counter Reformation started. The exhibition and conferences during the week did not have large attendances, but they were what we were expecting for such events. Then on Sunday over 300 people from various evangelical churches in northern Italy came together in one of the cinemas in town for the Reformation Day service. After lunch, we from Trento gave a guided tour of the city, emphasising the significant buildings of the Council of Trent, also to help our visitors to pray for the city. We then all ended up in the square in front of the church where the working meetings of the Council were held and the decisions taken, to conclude with another prayer. Weaving through the crowd there was a red thread, to symbolise our connection with the Reformation and with the believers of the past, on which people had attached notes with what they thought would change the world in the future and what they would do about it – a new 95 thesis for a new situation.

Reformation 500

October 15th, 2017

The 31st of this month will be the 500th anniversary of what is generally considered to be the beginning of the Reformation, the posting of the 95 Thesis by Martin Luther. The diffusion of the teachings were blocked in many countries by the Council of Trent (1548-1563), that discussed and rejected much of what the reformers were saying, setting down instead for the first time many opposite doctrines (salvation by grace and faith, revelation by Scripture and tradition, the Apocrypha, transubstantion, etc.). So as a Protestant church in the city of the council, we thought it would be appropriate to remind the city of what started to be taught 500 years ago, and that was rejected here. Hence from the 21st to the 29th we will be organising a series of events. Every day, in a hall across the road from the cathedral where the decrees of the council were signed, there will be an exhibition explaining the Reformation, that people will be invited to see. Then each day from Monday to Friday there will be a talk or conversation about some aspect of the Reformation: the Bible, the music, the people, … Finally, on Sunday the 29th, there will be a service with about 400 people (many from other evangelical churches in northern Italy will come specially for the occasion), followed by a time of fellowship together, visiting and praying for the city, and then a rally in the square in front of the church where the discussions of the council took place. Pray for this witness, that the people of Trent will understand better what the Reformation was (and is) about, and for love from us as we present it.

Mini camp

October 1st, 2017

This year we are trying something different in the children’s ministry, with four “mini camps” during the year – instead of doing the usual Sunday School, we will try to mimic a camp in the space of an hour. This aims to create excitement in the children for the activities, strengthen relationships (especially between the classes, that are usually separated), and give other people an opportunity to serve in the children’s ministry. Always with an eye on the growth of the children as disciples. Today there was the first such mini camp. The idea was to go to a nearby park for the hour, but the rain washed out that possibility. So we fell back on Plan B, adjusted our activities a bit , and held the camp in our usual hall. It was a great success, as we did various activities together (across the age groups, it was good to see the older children learning to help the younger ones rather than putting them down), a lesson based on the activities, and a bit of food and free play. I don’t know about the children, but I’m looking forward to the next mini camp!

End of the year

June 12th, 2017

The school year has finished, although Pinuccia at the preschool and Luca and Mattia at the nursery keep going until the end of June. With the end of the school year, the Sunday School as well has finished, so yesterday there was the presentation of the year’s ministry with the children. It worked well in showing how the children had grown in their relationship with God over the past 9 months.

Now instead it is time for our major ministry commitment for the year, at least for how much time we put into it. From Friday until Sunday there will be the church children’s camp that Pinuccia and I organise and run (with help from various other adults and teenagers), with 13 children from 7 to 11 years old. Pray for a good weekend, that the teaching will help them to understand better their faith, and that we will be able to teach and model Christianity during the non teaching time of the camp as well.

New hall

April 24th, 2017

Today there was the first service in the church’s new hall, almost a year that it was purchased, due to bureaucracy and renovation work. There were a few technical hitches and there is still some work to do, but the tripled space was a breath of fresh air. Due to a larger than normal number of people, we ended up with people standing up anyway, but at least we have the room to fit them in – we just have to buy some more chairs.

Twin power

March 25th, 2017

One of my jobs in the afternoon whilst Pinuccia is at work is to go to the nursery to pick up Mattia and Luca, take them to the school to get Daniele, and then take them all home. A 2km round trip, including 4 level crossings and 3 times through the ever changing labyrinth that is the construction site as they put the railway underground. Whilst Luca and Mattia were in the double stroller it was not too difficult, but now that they are bigger and there is fine spring weather, I am using more active methods – walking (sometimes with an elastic strap on the wrists) or pushing their tricycles. However, Luca is a faster walker than Mattia, so I am often running back and forth between the two to keep them going and on the footpath (or going in the right direction through the maze), or walking sideways as Luca pulls the elastic on one arm forwards and Mattia the other one backwards, or keep having the two tricycles hit each other. Fortunately, there are lots of damsels around at that time picking up their own children, and who help this poor knight in distress. So in the past couple of weeks I have had ladies offering to push a tricycle for me, or to hold the hand of one of the children. Now, Lavis, the town where we live, is fairly small, and thanks to the twins and Pinuccia’s work at the preschool, our family is quite visible. So the first time that I was helped, when Pinuccia returned home she immediately asked, “You had trouble picking up Mattia and Luca today?” – someone had spied on me and told her at the preschool. Then yesterday, a lady who I don’t ever remember seeing before took Luca’s hand, that started chatting, “You are going to school to pick up the other son now? But the daughter is at the middle school, right? Next year the twins will be going to preschool. Will the mother be there as well?” Such is the result of having twins in a small town.

5 snapshots

March 12th, 2017

Some snapshots of church activities in this period:

1. On Saturday, the women of the Valsugana valley held an evangelistic dinner. The 10 ladies in the group had 53 friends come. My usual rule of thumb at Trento is that to have the same number of people not from the church as from the church is a good sign, but to have more than 5 times the number is amazing. Many of the friends commented on how much they felt the love between the members of the group, but also towards each one of them personally.

2. Last weekend the Christian groups at the universities (IFES) of north-east Italy had a camp together. A group has just been started at Trento thanks to the witness of Bruno, a Brazilian student. At the camp there were Bruno, two of his friends, and two students from the church at Trento and one from Rovereto who are studying in other cities. It is great to see the university ministry taking off again – it remains close to my heart (it was the main reason why I came to Trento in the first place).

3. This weekend Ruben (a Brazilian missionary working with refugees), Latif (the pastor who fled from Pakistan) and two other Christian refugees from Pakistan drove to Switzerland to speak at the United Nations about religious freedom in Pakistan. Our ministry to refugees is to not only help with their immediate needs, but to give them a political voice as well.

4. Next Saturday there will be the second meeting on raising children, to help both those in the church and their friends in this important role.

5. On Saturday morning, the cleaning group will be hard at work again preparing the new hall for when we move. A very important ministry! It is probably not a typical couple of weeks, but it gives an idea of the range of areas in which the church is trying to reach out.

A feverish weekend

February 20th, 2017

I was looking forward to last weekend, with a couple of good opportunities to encourage others and be encouraged by them in different ministries – a visit to the group in the Val di Non valley on Saturday afternoon, and the lunch with the refugees on Sunday. However, I missed all that as my weekend, and in fact most of my week, got wiped. It all started on Monday afternoon, when Luca picked up a fever. And a couple of hours later had a febrile seizure. This is more frightening than dangerous, but Pinuccia took him to the hospital where they stayed the night. I thought it was a bit strange that Luca had a seizure and Mattia did not. But sure enough on Thursday morning Mattia got a fever and a couple of hours later had an identical seizure. So back to the hospital with him, although at this point everyone knew the cause so he came back a few hours later. These seizures are not too rare in small children, but having happened once they are a lot more likely to reoccur. So for the next three years we need to keep sure that their temperatures remain under 38.5°, and always have near the children a medicine to give them if the seizure is longer than normal. Both had a strong fever for two days, which was impossible to keep under this level, and the fever returned intermittently for the next three days. So Mattia still gets the fever occasionally, but has been so filled with anti fever medicines that his skin and stomach have started to rebel. Then on Thursday evening Stefania and I got the fever as well, so I spent an unpleasant weekend at home rather than doing the things I was looking forward to. Stefania and Daniele both had a slight fever this morning (Monday), so they had no school, whereas I still have a higher temperature than them. At least I am becoming a bit more active now. But probably the person who was hit hardest by the fever was Pinuccia, who has done a great job of running the house and nursing five sick people, whilst I spent most of my time moving from bed to sofa and back. Those Sicilian women are small but tough! However I think she is more tired than me now. Anyway, I had good reports from the refugees lunch, and there lots of ideas to work on now.

Various events

February 13th, 2017

There are a few special events in the church in this period. Last Saturday there was the first of three meetings on parenthood, using the expertise of a couple of people in the congregation (Daniela and Enrica). It is always a good sign when half the people who attend at not from the church. The next meetings are in March and April. Next Sunday we will be continuing our reflections on what ministry God is calling us to amongst the refugees. This time we will be listening to the refugees, to understand their needs and what they would like to see. So they will be coming to a lunch hosted by Ruben (a missionary specialising in refugee ministry, who is a part of the church), with a few non refugees coming as listeners.

Renovation work always takes longer than expected, but we are getting very close to moving to the new hall. So there will also be some working bees to do some cleaning up in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, the folding walls which were between the Sunday School rooms have been taken down and moved to the new hall. This makes the Sunday School lessons a bit of a challenge. Pinuccia rose to the occasion and was happy to do her first lesson for a few years (since the twins came along) – also because she was the only person courageous enough to prepare something for all the children together, from 4 to 13 years old!

Preparing for ministry

January 13th, 2017

Last night we continued our program for the integration of and help for the refugees, with the working group meeting for the first time. The group, with a few other interested people, are looking at meeting and listening to the refugees at the end of the month. We shall see where to go from there, when we have heard their stories. It was good to work with this group – apart from myself, there are Ruben and Mary, Brazilian missionaries with a vision for refugee work who are leading the church in this integration process, Maddalena who is a social worker, and Cassia. We have been trying to get her involved in the life of the church for some time, and it is good to see her finally mobilised in a ministry. As she said herself at the end of the meeting, “I enjoyed this time together. I was missing being useful to others”.

On Saturday afternoon there will be a training meeting for the Sunday School teachers. Pinuccia is organising it, but it will be run by Enrica and Daniela, two members of the church who work in the area of training and coaching. The meeting will not be so much on how to teach the children, but how can we serve and work together better. There have been some difficulties recently in the relationships between the teachers, so we hope to improve this.