Italy Mission Trip Day 5: Worshipping in Italian…

Today we are in the church in Casorio, near Naples, and had a full and non-stop day of ministry with the folks here. Randy Stonehill and Mike Pachelli did another short mini-concert in the morning (they were awesome) followed by a question and answer session with the locals. After that, I spoke for a second time, then we taught them some new songs. The Italian evangelical church is starved for new material, so this was greatly appreciated. The afternoon was spent in workshops. Kirk Allen worked with the rhythm sections and I spoke specifically to the worship leaders and vocalists.

There are a number of churches represented at this small conference, and we have encountered the very specific challenges of ministering in this area. I’d like to point them out to you:

• First, I had mentioned to you the financially depressed state of this part of the country. It is complicated, having to do with many factors, including the politics, the mafia, the general work ethic, and to some degree, their cultural nuances. It is sad to see so many people living this way. Italy is not a third world country, but in places like Casorio, it really looks like it.

• Only half of one percent of the population considers themselves to be evangelical Christian. It is a very difficult area to evangelize, particularly because most people consider Christians to be cults. Of course, while the general population considers themselves Catholic, it is a cultural faith, not a practiced one.

• As a result of the economic conditions, there is a lot of crime here.  Everyone was saying to me to beware of the Napoli gypsies, who will pickpocket you and scam you.  All four of our host churches’ shuttle vans have been stolen.  There are bars on the windows of all the windows, and you can’t leave anything in any of the cars.  It is in stark contrast to the warmth and friendliness of the people.

• In addition, it is hard for the various churches to work together. They have some inbred suspicions of one another, from Brethren to Assembly of God to Baptist. It is sad also that they have trouble cooperating over things because of theology, legalistic practices (like women wearing head covering), and worship style.

• One other thing that keeps it hard for churches to work together is that they can’t (or won’t) agree with translations of worship choruses. (Yes, I am teaching worship songs in Italian.) I had to subvert a possible uprising during one of my sessions because there was some controversy about whose translation to use for “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” I had brought a version written by Rocco Silvestri from Oak Hills (who speaks fluent Italian). Then our church in Rome provided me with one that was in common use. When I began to use this, another church insisted on using their own version. Once again, this is complicated. There are issues of translation, issues of musical integrity, and theological issues. For example, when we sing “This is the air I breathe,” the Pentacostals take it one way and the Baptists take it another. Historically, the hymnal has been one of the main ways that we as churches maintain our commonality in Christ. Without a standard for worship lyrics, the churches lack the common worship voice. Mama Mia!

• At the end of the day today, everyone came away from the teaching in a positive way, and we all gathered together and sang the songs in a spirit of cooperation. That it came together like that was fun and rewarding, and I thank God for the opportunity to meet so many folks.

• By the way, it is common to greet one another by “kissing” cheek to cheek, both with women and with other men. I am appreciating to a greater degree those who shave every day. I even had a lady give me one of those Italian pinches on the cheek.

Here’s a Photo Page Link from Rick Dupea that you’re welcome to peruse. First photo is me with Randy and Mike.

Food Scorecard: More pizza, some deep fried potato stuff I didn’t recognize, my first glass of Italian table wine, and a handful of varieties of bruschetta. Yum.

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