In Italy we live in an increasingly 24/7 culture. Many in our church have shift jobs, involving working till late in the evening or doing night shifts. As a result,our midweek meetings from 8.30-10.30pm have seen a struggling attendance during the last year and, after a period of discouraging midweek meetings with the same few faces looking at us, we decided it was time to face the issue. We spoke with all those who were struggling to attend trying to understand the reason. Everyone was able to explain why they were struggling to come and they all had valid reasons! So we decided to shake things up and try to have different times and styles for our midweek meetings every week. In this way our hope was that everyone in the church should be able to come to at least twice a month to something during the week. So now we have a Saturday morning ‘Theology for Breakfast’ in the café in our village; we have a study ‘Exploring Christianity’ at a café in Budrio at 6.30 pm; we have prayer at 9.00pm for those who finish work really late and still have 8.30pm for those who preferred the classic time. We also read through Hebrews 12:24-25 to encourage one another of the importance of meeting together.
The building we rent as a church ‘Le Torri’ was a building much upheld by the previous town council and much less upheld by the present town council. As a result,it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what our future looks like there as a church. We had to move out for the summer period as they were doing works, so spent the summer having our services in the local park. It was a good witness for passers-by as for 1.5 hours on Sunday afternoons we held family services involving the children and looking together at the ‘I Am’s’ of Jesus. Some children from the park even joined in the activities! We have now been able to move back into the Le Torri but we would value prayer for the future of this building and wisdom for good relationships with the local authorities.
The evangelical church is not officially recognised in Italy and so in order to exist legally churches set up associations. This enables them to have bank accounts, pay rent etc. We were finally able to complete this process a few month ago. As happens regularly in Italy, however, the law has recently changed! They have introduced a clause which states that it isn’t possible for associations to rent the same premises week after week for religious services. One church near Milan has been closed and prevented from entering their rented premises as a result. We now need to understand whether this law will be applied in Budrio and how we can solve the problem related to this new legislation. A very good local lawyer is helping us understand the way forward and this has been a great growing responsibility for Giovanni and Maura from our church as they study these issues.
So, the difficulties come as situations change from year to year and as a church we have to respond to these changing times with conscientiousness, discernment and integrity. At times we do not have all the answers, but we know in all of these uncertainties that Christ is the head of his church and we go on in faith resting in this headship and trusting that our labour is not in vain in the Lord!
Stefano and Jenny Mariotti