Bringing the gospel to Perugia and Umbria
As Paul was called (along with his companions) by a man of Macedonia urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us,” we too have been called by a group of men and women of Perugia (about 15 people for now) to help them establish a confessional Reformed church in that area of central Italy.
Perugia is a university city of around 170,000 people. It is the chief city of the region called Umbria and has a very old story that predates the beginnings of the rise of the Rome itself. In fact Perugia is an Etruscan city. The Etruscans were the people dominating central Italy before the Romans. The small region of Umbria (around 5200 square miles) counts a little less than one million people but very few Protestant or evangelical churches are present.
Being only 100 miles North of Rome, Perugia has always been subjugated to the Roman empire and later to both the spiritual and temporal power of the church of Rome. Apparently, Umbria was not touched by the Reformation compared to other regions of Italy.
At present, besides two older and very small Waldensianschurches, in the entire region there are only seven Plymouth Brethrenchurches, six Assemblies of Godchurches, five independent Pentecostal churches, and two independent Baptistchurches, all of them established no earlier than the late twentieth century. It appears that the number of protestants and evangelical believers is less than 500 people in the whole of Umbria!
The influence of Roman Catholicism is pervasive in the area, due especially to the influence of St. Francis of Assisi and Franciscan devotion, which still attracts annually a huge number of pilgrims and visitors in the region. Because of this, people in Umbria tend to have a more sensitive religious and moral conscience than in other regions. The postmodern lifestyle has not yet been able to take strong roots, especially in smaller cities and towns. This makes it easier to relate personally to people and to find opportunities to talk about religious matters. Nevertheless, even though the influence of Roman Catholicism is not as strong as in the past, the power of idolatrous secularization is making itself felt also in such relatively conservative society as that of Umbria. It seems that even here the idols of money, entertainment and fun are blinding people more and more about God and human life in relation to God. As in the case of Europe and the rest of Italy, Umbria is indeed a pagan land and a very needy mission field.
In the Sacred Prayersof the Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli, one of the chief theological theme is that of the church: its worship, order and witness. In a prayer on Psalm 47, Vermigli prays for missions:
Our triune and holy God, help us to "conquer new peoples for the faith and make nations, which so far have been without the faith, to obey your word” and grant to us that with “sincere enthusiasm, joyful admiration and zealous support […] believers take part in this for when people are brought to church they will there find salvation and praise God’s goodness” (Sacred prayers drawn from the Psalms of David, 46). Amen!
May we pray like Vermigli for Perugia, Umbria and Perugia and Italy.
~ Andrea Ferrari