On May 16, 2013, Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia church leaders examined Mark Patterson for his license to exhort. Having successfully sustained his exam, Patterson exhorted on May 19.
Rev. Andrea Ferrari relates that Mark and Sonia Patterson and their 12-year-old son, Daniel, began attending Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia in Milan about a year and half ago. Both Mark and Sonia graduated in 1998 from the Evangelical Theological College of Wales at Bryntirion in Bridgend, South Wales. Mark subsequently pastored a Calvinistic, Baptist church in Cambridgeshire, England, for about six years. The family moved to Italy in 2005, but Mark was discouraged by his experience with Italian evangelicalism.
“I understand that Mark began to gather information about our church in 2010/2011 and I received a letter from him in January 2012,” says Rev. Ferrari. “Our first conversations focused on the spiritual condition of Italy as well as covenantal theology and Reformed ecclesiology. We had a few meetings and then I met his family. I told Mark and Sonia that in order to be part of our church family they had to embrace our confessional documents and follow the procedure explained in our Church Order.”
Rev. Ferrari adds that Mark was raised in the Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland, where “he had as his mentor the late William Still of Aberdeen, who was used of God to encourage a number of pastors both in the UK and US.”
This background helped Mark assimilate the finer points of covenantal theology, but he also sought counsel from Reformed leaders. “As we were in the process of considering Reformed ecclesiology, Mark wrote to some prominent ministers in the UK he knew to ask for advice: Sinclair Ferguson, Edward Donnelly, Ian Hamilton and others.”
The Pattersons became members of the Milan church and fit well in the life of the congregation. The consistory began discussing ways to utilize Mark’s gifts and experience for the benefit of the church.
“In October 2012, Rev. Michael Brown visited us for Reformation Day and we asked for his advice,” says Rev. Ferrari. “We decided together that the best way to go was the licensure exam following the directives of the Church Order.”
The hope is that Patterson will exhort two times per month beginning in September, once in Italian and once in English. Rev. Ferrari explains that the English exhortation will be for the sake of English speaking visitors as well as providing an “international flavor” to the church in the multiethnic city of Milan.
“We do not know what the future has in store for Mark and for us,” he adds, “but thus far we are much encouraged by the fact that the Pattersons decided to join our church because of its faithfulness to the Reformation.”
The Milan church continues to grow, having welcomed four new members via public professions of faith on Sunday, June 9, 2013.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 13 of the July 10, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.