E-book: Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio: Questions and answers about the Church of the Nazarene in Italy (Part 7)

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Missions in Italy

6. The Cerratos, Alabaster churches, and work crews

In this electronic book (e-book), "Pasta, pizza and Pinocchio," Howard Culbertson answers questions he has been asked about missionary work in Italy. Originally published in 1980 for the Nazarene Missions International reading book series, this Nazarene Publishing House publication carried ISBN number 0-8341-0612-4. Some material has been updated for this e-book edition.

Why missionaries in Italy? Isn't Italy considered a Christian country?
     True, it is. But Italy's ecclesiastically institutionalized heritage seems powerless to combat a spreading atheistic materialism. Italy is today a country of unrest, dissent, and discomfort. We maintain a focus therefore on Roman Catholic Italy, not because it is Catholic, but because there are people there with definite spiritual needs. America is considered a Christian country too, but nearly 30 percent of every Nazarene World Evangelism Fund dollar goes to stateside ministries ... because there are people in the U.S. with definite spiritual needs.
Italy was one of the countries where Christianity really got its start. What quenched the revival there?
     It was a combination of factors, including the decision by Emperor Constantine to declare everyone living within the empire a Christian. That so diluted the church with sinners that it never recovered. Then, with the collapse of the Roman Empire, the church stepped into the political vacuum. This politicization of the church distracted it from fundamental spiritual concern and destroyed the independence of its moral authority.
Did we just recently open the work in Italy?
     No, the work officially began in 1948 though the first missionaries, Earl and Thelma Morgan, arrived in the fall of 1952. The Cerratos, the Paul Wires and Roy Fullers have also served in Italy. Both Earl Morgan and Rocco (Bob) Cerrato were of Italian descent.
     After spending nearly nine years of ministry in Italy, Roy Fuller and his family left Italy in 1977, turning the reins of the district over to a national superintendent. He went from Italy to pioneer work among the French-speaking people of Canada. Montreal has a large concentration of Italian immigrants, and Roy soon had our Italian radio program on the air in Canada. You can take a man out of Italy, but you can't take Italy out of the man!
Since you grew up in Oklahoma, did you know the Paul Wires?
     Yes, I knew them before they went to Italy in 1964 and we have kept in touch since they returned home in 1968. We are, in fact, now both living in the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.
Why do so many missionaries leave when the nationals take over the work?
     Normally the change from missionary to national leadership spawns other changes on the district. It's tough for a strong leader to step aside and watch someone else doing his job, and it's tough, too, for a new leader to step in and feel free to work effectively in the shadow of the former leader. Sometimes it seems wiser for the outgoing missionary superintendent to transfer to another field.
Is the Church of the Nazarene really an international church or is it an American one imposed posed on other cultures?
     We're in the process of becoming an international church. Until this point, most of our policies, programs, and procedures have grown out of the American culture, American political system, and American church world. Change is coming, however, and I believe God is going to guide into creating the necessary structures to function internationally.
Do we have any "Alabaster" churches in Italy?
     Yes, we do. The church in Sarzana was built with Alabaster funds. A warehouse in Moncalieri was purchased and converted to a church partially with Alabaster funding. The initial building we used in Catania was purchased and finished with Alabaster money. While we were in Italy, a remodeling and reconstruction project on the Florence property was partially funded by Alabaster.
     Incidentally, alabaster (the rock, not the money) is mined near Florence in great quantities and has actually been used in the construction of some Italian Catholic churches. None of our Nazarene "Alabaster" churches have used real alabaster, however. [ more on Nazarene Alabaster offering ]
I've noticed in pictures of our Italian churches that the sign out front sometimes reads "Chiesa Evangelica Del Nazareno." What does that mean?
     It translates as Evangelical Church of the Nazarene. Some of our congregations like the word evangelical in the title to distinguish them from Catholic churches. Other Protestant churches also use evangelical in their titles, so "evangelical" has become kind of an identifying mark for Protestants in a country where they are such a tiny minority. Using the word "evangelical" gives our people a sense of brotherhood with other born-again Christians.
From what I've seen in photos, the sanctuary interiors of Italian Nazarene churches seem to be quite simple. There aren't even any crosses, are there?
     No. In their reaction against idolatrous excesses of Italy's majority church, the Italian Nazarenes like their buildings to be very simple. They prefer to put a scripture verse across the platform rather than a painting or a symbol. One of their favorite verses is: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
     Italian evangelical believers also hang little scripture plaques in their homes in places where formerly they kept tiny statues or paintings of saints or the Madonna.
You don't really have a need for Work and Witness crews, do you?
     Yes, we could certainly use some. We have building renovation, remodeling, and reconstruction projects which could be done by Work and Witness teams. There's plenty of plastering, masonry, electrical, painting, plumbing, and carpentry work for anybody who can get a team together and come. The church or district sending the Work and Witness team must first have paid its World Evangelism Fund.
If we came on a Work and Witness project, where would we sleep?
     It would depend on the job location. In some cities the church might be able to set up a makeshift dormitory. In other cities we could put a team in retreat/convention facilities owned by other denominations. In some instances we might have to go to inexpensive hotel accommodations called "pensions."
I'm single and teaching school. So I have quite a bit of free time in the summers. Could you use a person like me?
     Yes, we certainly could ... that is, if you're willing to work and pay your own way. We could use you in office work, in work projects, even in ministry with young people. The best thing to do would be to contact the Volunteerism office in the Department of World Mission at Headquarters in Kansas City. We funnel everything like this through them. . . . [ continue reading ]

  Page:  << Prev    |   Introduction  |   1. The Leaning Tower, the Lira, and Women's Lib  |   2. Italian, Illegal Drugs, and Insulated Buildings  |   3. Fiats, Florence, and Furloughs  |   4. The Military, Missionaries, and the Mafia  |   5. Marco Polo and Ronald McDonald  |   6. The Cerratos, Alabaster Churches, and Work Crews   |    7. Communism, Catholicism, and the Charismatics  |   8. Sincerity, Self-support, and Sowing the Seed  |   9. Books, Broadcasting, and the Bible College  |   10. Culture Shock and Carpeting  |   11. A Word from My Heart  |   Next >> 


Communism, Catholicism, and the charismatics

Next chapterDo you think it's possible that the pope is a born-again Christian? . . . Don't you find that the American Catholic church is quite different from the Italian Catholic church?. . . Don't you think we'd be a lot better off praying for the Roman Catholic church than fighting it? . . . [ read more ]

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Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
 
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658
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