The meeting place of Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Filadelfia (CERF) in Milan, Italy, is undergoing a major renovation. For some time, the congregation has been meeting in a 630 square-foot former computer store. The building, surrounded by apartments and factories, is located on the northern outskirts of Milan. Many people from southern Italy moved to the area during the 60s and 70s, seeking employment.
The church’s renovation consists primarily of constructing walls to separate the building’s open space into a worship sanctuary, a fellowship area, and two classrooms. The project’s initial funding was $22,000 (US funds); Christ URC in Santee, CA, contributed about half of that while other URCNA congregations gave the other half (through donations to Christ URC for the support of the Milan church). Although the renovation is off to a good start, another $30,000 is needed to finish the project.
“Christ URC is committed to supporting Rev. Andrea Ferrari (of Milan) and the long-term work of establishing the very first Reformed denomination in Italy that confesses the Three Forms of Unity,” says Rev. Michael Brown, pastor of Christ URC, Santee, CA. “We thank God for the churches in the URCNA who are supporting this vital mission and helping us shoulder the burden of making disciples in that barren country. This is still much more work to be done, both in the building and, more importantly, in planting more churches. We pray that more churches in our federation might come alongside us and help.”
“If other funds will be raised for this purpose,” says Rev. Ferrari, “it will be a great blessing and we’ll be able to speed up the completion of the work.”
Rev. Ferrari says, “Not having an Italian federation of churches, we consider ourselves part of the URCNA, even if because of geographical and historical reasons we are distant from many of our sister churches. We sense a strong relationship with the URCNA and we try to pray constantly for the churches and for their ministries. For instance, this year our Consistory decided to collect twice every year an offering for URCNA missions (in June we sent the offering to support the Spanish ministry of Rev. Ruben Sernas). We also try to invite URCNA pastors so that we can develop a relationship with our sister churches and establish a model for a future federation in Italy.”
Dan Ventura, a student from Westminster Seminary in California (WSC), spent a six-week internship in Milan this summer. He exhorted 12 times, which freed some of Rev. Ferrari’s time for more study and sermon preparation.
“Dan also went with me in Romania for four days, where we are continuing to help a small group of believers to plant a Reformed church in Bucharest,” relates Rev. Ferrari. “We are seeing if it will be possible to have one young man to go to WSC and become ordained by a consistory in the URCNA.”
Rev. Ferrari often has traveled to the United States and Rev. Brown will make his fourth visit to Italy this October.
“For me personally, Andrea Ferrari is much more than a missionary our church supports, or even a colleague and Reformed minister. Over the past six years, he has become one of my closest friends,” says Rev. Brown. “When I visit the mission field, I am not only blessed with spending time in mutual encouragement with a faithful and trusted friend, but I am able to renew fellowship with one of the warmest and most loving congregations I have ever had the privilege of knowing. As anyone who has spent time with that church will tell you, the people of CERF are some of the most God-fearing and self-sacrificing Christians you will ever meet. And although I am only a quarter Italian by blood, they always make me feel as if I am 100% one of their own. For our unity runs deeper than the blood of nations, it is bonded in the blood of Christ.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the August 22, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.