Nothing New Under the Sun: Missiology Then and Now

Lords SupperReading Acts and the New Testament epistles, we realize that apostles, missionaries, evangelists and Christians in general live very ordinary lives as they sought to fulfill the Great Commission. And this applies as well to evangelism, as they followed the great missionary mandate given by the Lord to the church (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). As Daniel and his friends, Christians in the first century were exiles of the dispersion within the idolatrous and hostile kingdom of Babylon (cf. I Peter 1:1; 5:13). Therefore, it should not be anachronistic to say that also at that time Christians were living in a culture that we can define as pluralistic and secularized (pagan!).

There are various similarities between ancient and contemporary Western cultures. After all, we are always speaking of human existence. This consideration helps us to ponder that we too, living within the cultural context of pluralistic and secularized (pagan) Europe, need to live and share the gospel with simplicity and spontaneity as the early Christians, trusting the instruments and the method that our Lord and his apostles passed on to us. In fact, following the paradigm of the church in Jerusalem, more churches were planted on the basis of apostolic teaching, brotherly love, sacraments, and prayers in the house of God (cf. Acts 2:42; Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13). And this is the same manner in which the Reformers planted churches throughout Europe in the sixteenth century and the pattern that we need to follow in the twenty-first century.

In a letter written to the Polish missionary movement in 1556, Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli insists on these very principles. As he thought to Poland as a mission field, Vermigli rejoiced for the “zeal for divine worship” of those few nascent churches and praised their efforts “devoted to cleansing the religion of Christ” (“Letter No. 126, “To the Polish Lords Professing the Gospel and to the Ministers of Their Churches”, The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 142). The joy and encouragement felt by Vermigli came by the realization that that alone was the right beginning of all missionary endeavor: “The first step toward godliness is to know rightly the things that God wants to use in worshipping him” (Ibid., p. 143). And turning to the shepherds of the flock, he insisted on the same truth: “You reverend pastors who are already in charge of God’s churches, I ask and beseech you through Christ not to fashion any delays in restoring his temple” (Ibid., p. 145). But how to plant churches? What did Vermigli suggest for such superstitious and pagan land as Poland in the sixteenth century? What were missionaries supposed to do to confront idolatry in Polish cities and villages?

According to Vermigli, the first necessary ingredient is good teaching. “When I say faith,” wrote the Florentine reformer, “I do not understand by it faith which people have fabricated by their cleverness, by a figment of their imagination, or a judgment of human prudence. I mean a faith which, as Paul taught, comes from hearing, not just any hearing, but only that of God’s word, as we already have gathered by God’s grace in the divine letters” (Ibid., p. 143).

The second fundamental ingredient is to apply with carefulness the teaching of Scripture to the sacraments: “Let the evil seeds and rotten roots be cut of right down to their beginnings, for if they are neglected at the start […] they are much harder to pull out later. Care must be taken that this be done regarding the sacraments and especially the Eucharist as sincerely as possible. There, believe me, the lie the plague-bearing seeds of idolatry” (Ibid., p. 145).

Thirdly, there is the need for pastoral care and for the government of the flock. “The minds of Christians should not be greatly preoccupied in external rites and ceremonies but in feeding on God’s word, in being instructed by the sacraments, in being inflamed to prayer, and being confirmed in good work and fine examples of life. I advise you by all means to bring discipline into your church as quickly as possible, for […] we labor in vain without that discipline” (Ibid., p. 147).

May God help us so that even in twenty-first century Europe we may recover the venerable “three-signs” missiology!

~ Pastore Andrea Ferrari


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The Gospel: Our Only Comfort in Life and in Death

HC 1

In the month of February 1551, the Reformer Martin Bucer died. Peter Martyr Vermigli, a dear friend of Bucer’s, wrote a letter of condolence to Wibrandis Rosenblatt, Bucer’s widow. Vermigli wanted to “bring [her] some comfort by [his] letter” (“Letter No. 59, “To the Widow of Martin Bucer”, The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 115). But how could he bring comfort before the reality of death?

Scholars of various disciplines have observed that today the media deliberately conceals the reality of sickness, old age, and death. Everything must appear bright, spectacular, beautiful and desirable, lest in the natural course of our existence we despair of not having any comfort. In fact, this is our spontaneous response before the reality of death. In his letter, Vermigli sympathizes with Bucer’s widow and considers that the gospel shows that “death is the penalty and punishment for sin so that the sense of that punishment of God’s wrath warns and teaches that sin is more and more horrible and hateful” (Ibid., p. 117), and that’s why “people who are destitute of Christian hope bewail their dead without any consolation” (Ibid., p. 119).

However, those who belong to the faithful Saviour Jesus Christ taste comfort even in the face of “savage death” (Ibid., p. 115). In fact, as he consoled Bucer’s widow, Vermigli noticed that Bucer “died for good so that he might stop dying daily”. Now, continued the Florentine Reformer, Bucer “lives in safety [and] I do not bewail the lot of [his] departure because he, since the earthen vessel of the body has been broken, has returned to the God who sent him into the world” (Ibid., p. 118).

Brothers and sisters, as we think to the comfort of the gospel, let’s consider with a spirit of prayer those who live in the fear of death, being kept in slavery by the devil all their life (Hebrews 2:14-15). And as we think of those in Italy, in Europe, and all over the world who are still under the power of death, let us pray that they might be saved (Romans 10:1), and that, as Vermigli prayed for Bucer’s widow, by God’s mercy, “faith, hope and love [will] console [them]” (Ibid., p. 120).

~ Pastor Andrea Ferrari

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Praying the Lord of the harvest

Tuscan harvest






In the days of his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ was often surrounded by great crowds. Observing the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-36). In times such as those, the One who came to be the Good Shepherd thought about the preaching of the ancient prophets who denounced the corruption of Israel’s shepherds (cf. Ezekiel 34) and proclaimed the promise about the coming of shepherds after God’s own heart (cf. Jeremiah 3:15).

The Florentine reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli shared this sentiment. Considering the decline in the pastoral care within Christian churches in his time, Vermigli not only denounced the corruption of those who were supposed to take care of the flock but especially looked to the Lord of the harvest who “ascended on high” promising to give to the church pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:8-12). In fact, Robert M. Kingdon explains that “Peter Martyr Vermigli was one of the most prominent theologians arguing for [a three-mark] definition of the true church,” namely the pure preaching of God’s word, the legitimate administration of the sacraments, and the orderly government of the church (“Ecclesiology: Exegesis and Discipline,” in A Companion to Peter Martyr Vermigli, p. 378). For this reason, in a letter to the church at Lucca – written shortly after his flight from Italy in 1542 – Vermigli speaks of his time in Strasbourg and tells of his meeting with Bucer. Writing about the “need for pastors [and that] we suffer for a shortage of them”, he considers what a great blessing was the ministry of Bucer for the whole city and concludes with a strong assertion: “Behold, dear brothers, there are truly holy bishops in our time” (“Letter No. 6, “To All the Faithful of the Church of Lucca,” The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 97). And going back to the fact that in Lucca people suffered for lack of holy bishops, Vermigli says: “I have prayed, and I am still praying [for this need]” (Ibid., p. 98).

Brothers and sisters, since even today Europe is a plentiful harvest with few laborers let us hear the exhortation of our Lord and – as Vermigli – let us pray “to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

~ Pastor Andrea Ferrari
Chiesa Evangelica Riformata ‘Filadelfia’, Novate, Milano

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Today’s great priority for missionary labor in Italy

200286501-001In the sixteenth century, various Reformers and many Protestants suddenly found themselves without a true church. If we consider the influence of Roman Catholicism in the life of people and of communities, it is easy to see that after the decline of the hope for reform from within the church, many believers felt like exiles of the dispersion in Babylon (I Peter 1:1, 5:13), as Daniel and his friends felt after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Many Christians lived like foreigners and strangers in their own country, longing for the pure spiritual milk and for the communion of the saints. Suddenly, many realized that Europe was a mission field, because as they looked for true churches as close as possible there were very few possibilities.

Among these exiles of the dispersion looking for an asylum, there was the Florentine Peter Martyr Vermigli. In a letter on “flight in persecution,” Vermigli thinks about how many and what kind of churches one could find in Italy, France, and Belgium and makes a sad comment: “I do not see how I can concede that visible churches have been set up in those regions, founded on good regulations, in which the pure teaching of Christ is proclaimed, the sacraments rightly administered, and some form of discipline is in place” (“Letter No. 5, On Flight in Persecution,” The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 85). And responding to those whom accused him unjustly of having fled from Italy, he adds: “We may say more correctly that those who flee from there are joining themselves to the churches rather than leaving them. Those who flee for the sake of religion usually go to a place where there are daily sacred sermons, where the sacraments are rightly administered at given times, where God is praised by the faithful gathered together, where good pastors have been assigned, where they can have lawful and organized dealing with the other faithful” (Ibid.).

As he looked to the spiritual condition of sixteenth century Europe, this was the great priority for Vermigli: true churches were needed which believers could join. What do you think today’s great priority for missionary labors in Italy is?

~ Pastor Andrea Ferrari

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Vermigli on the Two Parts of Scripture: the Law and the Gospel

PMVThe Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) said that “Whatsoever things are contained in the holy Scriptures should be referred unto two principal heads, the law and the gospel.” (Commentary on the book of Judges, London, 1564, p.1)

In a sermon delivered to theological students at the University of Oxford, Vermigli explained that the two tables of the law make us “shrink in utter terror from transgressing even the least of his commandments” (“Life, Letters, and Sermons”, The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 302). In fact, our human condition before God is lived out before what his law requires of us. And this is our problem because in Adam, as it pertains the law, we are guilty and corrupt.

This is the reason why divine services in Reformed churches usually include the reading of the law, so that we shrink in utter terror from transgressing even the least of the commandments. Therefore, the law shows us the greatness of our sin and our misery. And that’s why – again in the words of Vermigli – “those who are strangers to Christ and do not believe, can do nothing to please God” (“Predestination and Justification”, The Peter Martyr Library, V, p. 171).

However, if on the one hand the law shows us our sin, on the other hand, the gospel shows us our forgiveness and justification. Again, that’s why in our divine services after the reading of the law and the confession of sin we have the announcement of the promise of the gospel. First of all, the gospel shows us that Christ gives forgiveness to sinners because he bore their iniquities, so that it is as if they never transgressed any of the commandments. But this is not all and there is something even more wonderful: the most perfect obedience of Christ to the law becomes ours, so that it is as if we always fully obeyed the law!

These observations help us understand why Vermigli insists, “that gospel should be distinguished from law and law from gospel” (“Predestination and Justification”, p. 114). This is our faith and that in which we glory ourselves: Christ’s merit, for “eternal life is the reward of such righteousness” (“Predestination and Justification”, p. 150).

~ Pastor Andrea Ferrari

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What the Church in Italy Needs is Something Ordinary

Perugia agriturismoNowadays, ordinary is a bad word. In a culture that is constantly looking for the next big thing, who wants what is ordinary? We want the spectacular. We want what is bigger, better, and exciting. We desire extraordinary gadgets, extraordinary kids, and extraordinary lives. To feel validated as a person, one must not settle for what is ordinary.

Our approach to church is not much different. In a world that values novelty, innovation, and relevance, the expectation is for pastors to appear hip, worship to feel amazing, and teaching to be useful for our most recent news feed of felt needs. We don’t want ordinary ministers of ordinary churches, but bigger-than-life celebrities who lead transformational movements that are in a rush to make a radical impact on our lives. We want churches that are worthy of our personal quest for the spectacular. We want churches that are worthy of us.

In such an age as ours, why should we bother planting churches that are committed to the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament? Such an endeavor seems backwards and counterintuitive. Yet this is precisely what the Head of the church has called us to do. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us our marching orders:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)

The goal of the church’s mission is to make disciples. The means of the church’s mission is the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament in the local church.

This becomes clear when we consider how the Apostles sought to fulfill the Great Commission. After receiving the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:1–4), they preached the gospel (vv. 14–36), baptized people (vv. 37–41), and began meeting weekly with those who “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). Not long after receiving their commission, they planted a church.

The whole book of Acts goes on to document this pattern of planting churches that were committed to the ordinary means of grace, following Jesus’ prophecy that the Apostles would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). The Apostles went throughout the world preaching the gospel, baptizing believers and their households, and planting congregations where they appointed elders to oversee the new disciples (14:21–23). This work continued in the transition from the Apostles to ordinary ministers (1 and 2 Timothy; Titus), and remains to this very day (Eph. 4:1–16).

The necessity of the local church for the making of disciples can hardly be overemphasized. This is our Lord’s chosen means for gathering His redeemed people, feeding them with His Word, receiving their worship, nurturing their faith, and bonding them as a community rooted and established in love (Rom. 12; Eph. 4; Phil. 1:27–2:11). The local church is a manifestation of the people who belong to Christ, and also the place where He meets them through the means He has ordained: an ordinary ministry of Word, water, bread, and wine.

Those means do not appear spectacular to the world. There is nothing particularly exciting or novel about a ministry of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. It is the same routine each week. We hear the Scriptures proclaimed, we come to the table, we sing, we pray, we enjoy fellowship, and then we go home. There are no halftime shows, no rock concerts, and no celebrity personalities. It is plain, ordinary, and even boring at times. Truth be told, it is about as exciting as watching a tree grow.

But then Jesus said that the coming of His kingdom is like the growing of a tree (Luke 13:18–19). A tree doesn’t grow by big and marvelous events but through the slow, steady diet of sun and rain year after year. The same is true with the kingdom of God. More often than not, it does not grow by what the world considers a mark of success: big buildings, big budgets, and big names. Instead, it grows in simple and often small services where the gospel is proclaimed. It grows where believers and their children are baptized into the covenant community. It grows where repentant sinners come to a holy meal that appears tiny and insignificant. It grows where ordinary members of a congregation love and serve one another. It grows in those late-night, unglamorous meetings of the elders as they seek to tend faithfully to Christ’s sheep.

We do not need more movements, more conferences, and more celebrities. We do not need the next big thing. What we need are more churches committed to the way disciples have been made since the Apostles planted a church in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: the slow-going, unspectacular, ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament, where God is raising dead sinners and creating a living communion of saints.

By God’s power and grace, we are growing together into a tree whose glory will not appear fully until the end of the age. Until then, the extraordinary is God’s business. Our task is to be faithful to fulfill the ministry Christ gave us, as ordinary as it is.

By Michael Brown, published in Tabletalk Magazine

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Does Italy need a new denomination of Christian churches?

Does Italy need a new denomination of churches? According to the standards of the Protestant Reformation, the answer is “Si!” Article 29 of the Belgic Confession (1561) points out what Scripture teaches regarding the marks of a true church:

“The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if discipline is exercised in punishing sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowleged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.”

The sad reality, however, is that churches bearing these marks are very hard to come by in Italy. Few places preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments faithfully, and exercise church discipline according to the Word of God. Although the Protestant Reformation initially gained footing in the sixteenth century, it was subsequently crushed by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Consequently, Italy has not had a strong Reformed and Protestant presence in the past 450 years.

Today in Italy, Roman Catholic churches dot the horizon throughout the country. Huge cathedrals (such as Milan’s Duomo pictured above) attract thousands of tourists every day of the year. Yet, not on one day of the year is the Gospel of God’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone proclaimed. They stand only as a tribute to Rome’s abandonment of the good news. Tragically, no confessional Reformed denominations exist in Italy today.

A small handful of people, however, are working to change that. Rev. Andrea Ferrari, URCNA minister and pastor of Chiesa Evangelica Riformata ‘Filadelfia’ (CERF) in Milan, is laboring under the oversight of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA to establish confessional Reformed churches in his native country. Le Chiese Riformate in Italia (The Reformed Churches in Italy) is the suggested name at this time of this future denomination. We pray that Christ, the only Head of the Church, will raise up faithful men and women within Italy to labor in this difficult in work of planting true and solid churches.

We remember Paul’s words to the Romans that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The cathedral downtown may attract thousands of tourists and visitors every day of the year, but not on one of those days is the gospel preached. On the outskirts of town, however, it is being proclaimed each week. And as long as the gospel is preached, Christ’s church will be established and not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it.

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Why is the Heidelberg Catechism important for the church in Italy?

The Heidelberg Catechism explains the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed line by line. Pastor Andrea Ferrari explains why this is important for the Christians in Italy.

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The Divine Irony: Reflections of an Ulsterman in Milan

Patterson FamilyWritten by Mark Patterson

Romanticism or realism? Growing Christian character in Italy. When we think of Italy we invariably think of its illustrious history. From the glory days of the Roman Empire to the Italian Renaissance we could be fooled into thinking that Italy is a romantic mission field. Every little town has a “Via Alighieri Dante” or a “Via Leonardo da Vinci”. All the major cities, from Rome to Florence to Verona to Milan have Renaissance culture imprinted on them. However, Italy is no place for a Christian romantic! This land needs realists, men and woman who are prepared to role up their sleeves and earth their theology in the harsh reality of this valley of tears.

As I wrote in my first article, during my teenage years I was a punk. I hated everything about the “new romantic” fashion scene of the 1980’s. It was all hairspray, makeup and falseness. Punk was direct, raw and offensive to most but at least it was honest. When I surrendered to Christ I maintained that direct, honest approach. At first I saw the visible church as a bunch of “new romantics” and felt so out of place. Then I read about Donald Cargill (“No King but Christ!”), who was a Reformed Minister and Scottish Covenanter. Here was a Christian who lived out his theology. He opposed the newly installed King Charles II after the King renounced in 1662 the Solemn League and Covenant, which he formerly promised to uphold twelve years prior in 1650. (Treaty of Breda) Over the next two decades Cargill was a fugitive but preached on, eventually being arrested and hung in 1681. This type of Christianity appealed to me. Men whose devotion to their God meant more to them than their lives. I then discovered as I read more of the Bible and Church history that Cargill was no exception. On the contrary, he was walking in a great tradition that sought to be God pleasers.

Since coming into membership of CERF I have come to appreciate more the Continental Reformed believers, who 100 hundred years before Cargill had that the same spirit. Guido de Brès (1522-1567), for example, the presumed author of the Belgic Confession, heroically died as Cargill in 1567 as did tens of thousands in the area we now know as Europe. How did they resist? What kept them brave? The answer must be they had a mind and heart grasp of divine truth. Truth grounded in reality. It cannot be a coincidence that for so many who resisted persecution unto death were confessional. They had a summary of saving knowledge that was “earthed” in daily living.[1]

There’s nothing romantic about dying. Those centuries, the 16th more than the 17th, were bloody periods and to be a Christian then meant having a practical theology that could withstand all the powers of hell. History records that Elector Fredrick III in the mid 1560’s wanted to make Heidelberg a safe haven for Reformed believers who were then suffering all over the region. It’s hardly surprising then that the catechism he commissioned has as its first question how to possess comfort not only in living but also in dying. Reformed theology is supposed to be a practical theology that produces real men and women, real boys and girls who wear no masks. This is the type of person Italy needs. A person willing to be disliked for the glory of God. A person who will refuse to compromise the principles of gospel-cantered worship and insist there is right way and a wrong way to worship God. A person who will put their roots down into Italian soil and be prepared to get their hands dirty fighting against false religion and the obvious secularism that pervades everywhere these days.

So please, put to death any romantic view you may have of Italy! It is a very needy mission field, not for the faint hearted. It is a place to come and live out your theology in real time, worshipping God as His Word prescribes. View it as a place to come to, serve Christ and His Church, to search for the lost and grow Christian character.

I heard it said years ago that the LORD is more interested in your character than in the work you will ever do for Him. Romans 5:4 confirms this. After telling us that we have been justified by faith and have peace with God through Christ alone, Paul goes on to pin point the one thing every Christian must expect in life, namely ‘tribulation’. He says the same to Timothy in his farewell letter. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim. 3:12) However, tribulation is allowed in order to produce in the believer “proven character” which leads to hope, which “… does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Christian hope is a precious commodity. It is obtained via a process. It is gained by living the ordinary Christian life by embracing the circumstances the LORD has placed you in and worshipping Him regardless.

Italy is great place to help grow Christian character. It is teaching this Ulsterman the true meaning of the expression “leaning on the LORD”. Rev. William Still often used that expression when replying to the question, “How are you?” At times he would modify it replying, “leaning very hard on the LORD”. May the LORD help you too, to lean on Him continually in whatever circumstances you may be in.

For now, I remain an Ulsterman in Milan.


[1] Cf. Geerhardus Vos. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation. The Shorter Writings of G. Vos. P & R Publishing. 2001. p. 10 “The knowledge of God communicated by [revelation] is nowhere for a purely intellectual purpose. From beginning to end it is a knowledge intended to enter into the actual life of man, to be worked out by him in all its practical bearings.” From “The idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline.” May 8th 1894.


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Reformed Family Reunion

reunionWritten By Dan Borvan

Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV)“There is one body and one Spirit . . . one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” 

My wife and I recently visited Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Filadelfia while on vacation in Italy. We planned our trip to include a Sunday in Milan so that we had the opportunity to worship with Rev. Ferrari and his congregation. What we encountered there was unexpected.

I come from a small family. In fact, the majority of my extended family lives on the same street in a Chicago suburb. Needless to say, we never held an official family reunion. There was no reason – we saw each other multiple times per week. As a kid, I was curious about people who traveled across the country to attend family reunions with dozens of guests, hours of stories, and lots of potato salad. Sometimes, they even printed t-shirts to commemorate the occasion. I could not imagine taking a trip to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins that I had never met. I never understood how people who had never met could feel an instant connection just because they were part of the same family tree. What kind of bond can you have with people you don’t really know?

These many years later, I have had opportunities to visit dozens of Reformed churches in North America and the U.K. In every case, I have sensed a connection to people I had just met – my brothers and sisters in Christ. The bond of the Holy Spirit unites us, and we fellowship not as complete strangers but as members of the same family. We share the same beliefs, speak the same theological language, and possess the same spiritual lineage.

I did not know what to expect in our visit to CERF. I had met Rev. Ferrari briefly a few years ago and we share a few mutual friends, but I had never worshiped in an Italian-speaking congregation. I had a few questions before we arrived: Will I have any idea what is happening in the service? Will anyone speak English? Will my wife and I be out of place – sitting when everyone is standing, standing when everyone is sitting, wandering aimlessly not knowing where to go?

All my anxieties dissipated when Rev. Ferrari picked up my wife and me from the Metro station.
He speaks perfect English and is very gracious and kind. He introduced us to members of his congregation, many of whom speak English fluently. They offered us a warm welcome. Those who did not speak English instantly recognized my Americanisms and said, “HELLO!” while I sputtered “Buongiorno” in my Chicago accent. Despite the language barrier, a genuine connection was made. We recognized that we shared the same bond even if we could not communicate it.

Rev. Ferrari introduced my wife and me to Mark and Sonia Patterson, who served as our CERF ambassadors for the day. Mark, as you know from his Ulsterman in Milan posts, is from Northern Ireland. Sonia is a native Italian who studied in the U.K. My wife and I talked with Mark and Sonia for hours over the course of the day. Mark professed thankfulness for the opportunity to discuss theology with a native English-speaker. He, Rev. Ferrari, and I “talked shop” over coffee. Our common Reformed heritage eliminated any introductory formalities and allowed us to speak as if we had known one another for years. We share the same Reformed pedigree, use the same inside lingo, and value the same truths. I felt like I was chatting with guys from my presbytery.

Rev. Ferrari and Mark provided us with sermon notes in English. More than just an outline, the three pages of notes allowed us to follow the message closely. The language was different, but the redemptive-historical approach and clear law/gospel distinction made me feel as if I was in my home church. After the service and subsequent Sunday School (with Mark providing helpful translation), most of the congregation gathered for lunch. We had a great time chatting as we enjoyed simple yet delicious Italian food. Many in the congregation have a deep level of spiritual maturity, which is amazing for such a young church.

I still have never loaded up the station wagon for a cross-country drive to a family reunion but I’m sure that it could not surpass the joy of my Reformed family reunions in North America, the U.K., and Italy. Gathering for worship and fellowship with my newfound brothers and sisters in Christ at CERF expanded my view of the Reformed Family Tree. Although language and distance separate us, the bond of the Holy Spirit unites in a way that transcends all physical barriers.

Please pray for Reformation Italy and Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Filadelfia. If your travels take you to Italy, arrange to spend a Sunday in Milan and experience your own Reformed family reunion.

Daniel Borvan is a PhD candidate in Church History at the University of Geneva. He holds degrees from Westminster Seminary California and Oxford University. He is Under Care of the Midwest Presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He lives in London with his wife, Marcy.

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