6. The Cerratos, Alabaster offering churches, and work crews
Missions in Italy
ebook: Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio: Questions and answers about cross-cultural missionary
service in Italy (part 7)
In this ebook, "Pasta, pizza, and Pinocchio,"
Howard Culbertson answers questions he has been asked about missionary work in Italy.
Originally published for the Nazarene mission book series by what is now called The Foundry,
this book carried ISBN number 0-8341-0612-4. Some material has been updated for this ebook
- Why missionaries in Italy? Isn't Italy considered a Christian country?
- True, it is. But Italy's ecclesiastically institutionalized
heritage seems powerless to counter a spreading atheistic materialism. Today, Italy is a country of
unrest, dissent, and discomfort. We have planted churches in 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 about 20 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
- 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 unconverted 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 concerns and destroyed the independence of its moral
- Did we just recently open the work in Italy?
- No, the work officially began in 1948 when an independent Italian holiness moved merged
into the Church of the Nazarene. The first Nazarene 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. The Fullers 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 away from a foreign missionary as a leader 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. Thereforfe, it sometimes weems wise for the
outgoing missionary leader to transfer to another field.
- Is the Church of the Nazarene really an international church or is it an American one
imposed on other cultures?
- We're in the process of becoming an international
church. Up until a few years ago, most of our policies, programs, and procedures had grown out
of the American culture, American political system, and American church world. Change in that
regard is happening, however, and I believe God is going to guide us into creating the necessary
structures to function as a truly international church.
- Do we have any Alabaster offering 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
- 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 the 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
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 Nazarene Mission Teams crews,
- Yes, we could certainly use some. We have building
renovation, remodeling, and reconstruction projects that could be done by Nazarene Missions
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 Nazarene
Mission Team must first have paid its World Evangelism Fund.
- If we came on a Nazarene Mission Team 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 summer. 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 volunteer coordinator in the
World Mission office at the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas. We funnel everything
like this through them. . . . [ continue
The Leaning Tower, the Lira, and
Women's Lib |
2. Italian, Illegal Drugs,&n
3. Fiats, Florence, and&nb
4. The Military, Missionari
es, and the
5. Marco Polo and
6. The Cerratos, Alabaster Churches, and
Work Crews |
7. Communism, Catholicism,&nb
8. Sincerity, Self-support,
the Seed |
9. Books, Broadcasting, a
nd the Bible
10. Culture Shock and&n
11. A Word from
Communism, Catholicism, and the charismatics
|Do 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? . . . [ more
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