Today is our big outreach day in Casoria. In contrast to playing in a Roman Piazza, our team will be playing at the corner of one of the busiest (and seemingly dirtiest) streets in Naples. The church has a truck which folds out into a stage, complete with lighting and electrical systems on board. The hope is to play some rock and roll to attract a crowd, then say some words between and after, sharing about Jesus and inviting them to church.
However, our morning is also busy. Bob and Rick meet with the Mayor of Naples this morning, hopefully to impress upon them the intent to present a large, high quality nine-day festival put on by the Casoria Church. It is an extremely ambitious outreach, needing the cooperation of all aspects of government to make it happen. The meeting is very successful, and they even bring back video of the conversation.
Meanwhile, a number of us, led by Brandon Bee, meet with one of the top recording studios in the city. Tucked away in one of the inner city neighborhoods, Rock & Play Studio is a high-end, though somewhat gaudy, recording studio whose lead engineer recently became saved. Douglas is hoping that we can forge a bond with them somehow to benefit local churches, and possibly help with recording worship. We get along famously with the studio folks, and hang with them over espressos that morning. Brandon is hoping to play at the outreach in September, and they discuss the possibility of Brandon doing some training at the studio while he’s there. They are very interested in getting a more American sound, and they really like Brandon’s album.
And this is where it gets really interesting. The band is told to do a little sightseeing while the Casoria crew sets up the truck/stage. After about an hour or two, we head back only to find the crew packing the truck. We find out that the polizia (police) have changed the rules on us, and we must now regroup on the sidewalk. We quickly scramble in order to make our 7 PM start time. We are working with fairly spartan equipment and minimum monitors, but we are close to being ready. Then another set of polizia arrive, and tell us we must disburse.
There is nothing quite so entertaining as watching Italians argue. We feel like the Beatles on the roof of Abbey Road Studios. Bob remarks, “Now this is rock and roll!” The folks from the Casoria church argue vigorously with the polizia, then Pastor Valerio from the Torraccia church (who happened to be there from Rome) jumps in. Someone even shows the polizia the video we have of our meeting with the Mayor. After about 20 minutes of this, Pastor Douglas finally arrives (he had to help bring the truck back to the church), and the matter is cleared up. (Apparently, the chief of police attends the Casoria church, and Douglas had to make a few calls.)
We downbeat to a gathering crowd with our signature opener, “Jesus is Just All Right.” It is surreal. A hundred cars go by us every few minutes, hundreds of people are watching us from their high-rise balcony windows, and passers-by are either annoyed or bopping along. We play deep into our set, wondering if every song we are currently performing will be our last one. Bob joins us and starts ad libbing, “Get Back.” We sound a bit raw and out of control, but it definitely gets people’s attentions. The pastors talk about Jesus. And then it is time to pack it up.
A group of the Casoria folks decide to celebrate by taking us out to dinner. We are exhausted but we cannot say no. As one would expect, Saturday night in Naples is a whole lot bigger, later, and wilder than what I am used to in Folsom. The Italians are drinking Heinekens tonight, and we don’t actually begin eating our dinner until 1 AM. The waitress is not just sassy; she is Italian sassy. Our friend Danilo remarks in heavily accented English, “That waitress looks like if you do not order, she will spank you.” We beg our hosts to let us go home, and they assent, but only after espressos. By about 2:45 AM, we drag ourselves to our hotel rooms to hopefully prepare for Sunday service in a few hours.
As an aside, I have already begun to say my goodbyes to the team. In the cracks of the day today, I have been pulling them aside individually to thank them. I am quite surprised at the depth of relationship I have had with them, and I assume that only time and attention and circumstance will help me sort out God’s hand in it all.
I am preaching in Casoria, and I haven’t finished my message yet. Laying in bed at 3 AM, I am hopeful that God will inspire me before I lose consciousness. As I turn on my MacBook, my eyelids get heavier and the next thing that happens is that I fall asl…
Fun Facts: (1) This was definitely one of the more memorable nights of my ministry career. I don’t remember the last time I rocked at such a weird gig and partied so late for Jesus. I am so glad I am not a rock star; I couldn’t handle the hours. (2) I have come to the conclusion that being Italian is simply a matter of managing your espresso and wine intake throughout the day. Tired? Espresso. Everything else? Wine. (3) We find out that there will be a 24 hour wildcat strike on the trains beginning at 9 PM tonight. This possibly jeopardizes our rides back to Rome tomorrow, so I have to hustle over to downtown Naples with Pastor Douglas to purchase guaranteed (and premium price) tickets. We heard about it only by chance. I am thankful that we did—otherwise, we might not catch our flights Monday morning. (4) Heineken is actually the first beer I ever drank in college. I still have the bottle cap. Good times.
Photos: Brandon (with back towards camera) and Jonathon tour the Rock & Play Recording Studio in Naples (Photo 1). Setting up for the gig in downtown Naples (Photo 2). Arguing with the Napoli Polizia over whether or not to shut it down (Photo 3). It’s only rock and roll, but I like it! The band plays downtown Naples. Note the graffitti in the background (Photo 4). Brandon Bee rocks hard, with Cate Morris providing backup vocals (Photo 5). Bob joins the band for some impromptu Beatles. He’s here with Alessandro on drums and Jebby on guitar (bottom photo).