On Sunday, January 6, 2019, I had the honor of being installed by the Consistory of Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia (the Reformed church in Milan, Italy) as minister of the Word and sacraments. Using an Italian version of the URCNA form for installation, elder Vittorio Calderaro read the form and gave the charge to me and the congregation. I felt the weight of responsibility for this awesome task as I publicly affirmed my sense of call and gave my promise to labor as diligent workman: “Io credo and lo prometto, con l’aiuto di Dio” (“I believe and do promise, with the help of God”).
Afterward, I preached on Christ’s Great Commission to the church from Matthew 28:16-20, exhorting the congregation to be courageous for the gospel and encouraging them with Christ’s promise that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. We concluded the service by receiving the Lord’s Supper, communing with Christ and one another. I am humbled to serve this precious church and pray that I will be for them a good and gentle shepherd, faithfully proclaiming the Word and tending to their souls.
Being the first Lord’s Day of the 2019, we began a second service dedicated to the exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism. As we know, the Catechism provides children and adults alike with an arsenal of truth from God’s Word, preparing us for a life of service to our neighbor. It is a tremendous joy for me to explain the Catechism and help people grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. My plan is to teach through the Catechism this year by following its consecutive 52 Lord’s Days.
MUCH WORK TO DO
Italy is a country rich in history, art and cuisine. It is the land of the ancient Romans, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the fashion capital of the world. But when it comes to the gospel, it is poor and impoverished. Less than 1% of Italians identify as Protestant. There is no Reformed or Presbyterian denomination in the country. Although the Reformation thrived in Italy during the 1520s and 1530s, it died at the hands of a violent Roman Inquisition in the early 1540s. The elders and I have much work to do with regard to evangelism, outreach, discipleship, and shepherding the congregation. We are excited about the work and covet your prayers.
Nowadays in Italy, the Roman Catholic Church does not execute Protestants and burn their books as they did during the Roman Inquisition. Technically, freedom of religion exists in the country and is supposed to be protected by the state. As we have come to discover, however, such freedom is very limited for Protestant churches and ministers. For example, my religious visa was stalled for several months due to the fact that the state does not officially recognize Reformed and Presbyterian denominations. We also had a difficult time finding a landlord that would rent a house to us since some were convinced that we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and would use the residence for church meetings. In the minds of many Italians, to be Protestant or evangelical is the same thing as being part of a strange cult, since it is outside of the Roman Catholic Church. It is amazing to think that, almost 500 years after the Roman Inquisition, these stigmas still remain in Italy and affect the daily lives of Christians.
Despite the challenges of moving to another country and getting settled, we remain encouraged and joyful as a family by God’s sustaining grace and mercy. We recently found a house to rent and hope to move in within a few weeks. Janie is eager to make a home for us, show hospitality to the church, and build relationships with neighbors. Iain began school in January and is doing well. All of us are improving daily in our Italian and enjoy being forced to speak this beautiful language. God has given us a heart for Italy and Milan in particular. Please pray that we will continue to adjust to a new life in a new culture.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
We need your prayers and support. To summarize, please pray that:
Christ will be preached faithfully and clearly;
The Lord will provide many opportunities for evangelism and outreach;
The church will continue to grow in maturity, faith, hope, and love;
The Browns will continue to improve in their language skills and adjust to Italian life;
Iain will make a few good friends in school;
The Lord will provide for our funding.
This mission to Milan is only possible with the faithful prayers and generous contributions of people like you. If you would like to help us meet our goal by making a donation, you may send a check to:
Escondido United Reformed Church
1864 N. Broadway
Escondido, CA 92026
Checks should be made out to Escondido United Reformed Church. Please indicate that the support is for Rev. Michael Brown as a missionary to Italy.
~ The Browns
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