Newsletter 39 - December 2001
At the university (and Rome)
In the group at the university we continue to read through Mark's Gospel together, and the group is going well. As well as the people I mentioned last time, Jacqueline has been coming fairly regularly as well. She came quite often last year, but lives about 40 kilometres from Trento and has little of her degree still to do, so is not always in town. But she tries to come as much as she can on Thursday mornings.
Having recreated a base once again, when we restart after the end of year break I want to direct the group more towards the aims that a university group should have, that is training the students, and evangelising on the campus. So I hope to be able to work more with Robyn, Miriam and Jacqueline to do this together.
At the beginning of the month I was at Rome, for a training weekend for leaders of GBU groups in Italy. This is one of the two key meetings for the student movement during the year. There was a good participation, with half of the groups (seven) represented, and another three that had to pull out for various last minute problems. There were certainly more than I was expecting - when we organised this for the first time two years ago, only one student was prepared to go, and we had to cancel it. The Bible studies and seminars were helpful for the students, but just as important were the times when they talked together about what they did in their universities. They could hear about what other groups were doing, and be encouraged that evangelism at the university can work and be effective. I too came back with some ideas for next year.
In the church
The influx of new members seems to have stopped - at least there is not a new person every week as there was before - with it seems to me eight new people continuing on regularly in the church activities. The challenge now for the church is to help them become fully a part of the life of the church. As part of this process, a couple of weeks again we held a "newcomers' meeting" for the first time, to speak about who we are as a church, and to give them an opportunity to introduce themselves.
Last weekend should have been a big weekend of evangelism in the church. First of all, there was the group that had been invited to hold an evangelistic meeting at the local deaf and mute association. Unfortunately, half of the group came down with the flu, and they had to cancel the trip at the last moment. There was also the church bookstall at the town market days. However, due to people being away (it was also a holiday weekend), but due more to a lack of desire to do it, there were not enough volunteers to man the stall for one day, let alone two. So for the first time after about 12 years, we were not present at the market days. In a way, this is not a big problem: there is no reason that having started an activity that we should continue doing it forever. Perhaps it is indeed time for a change. What is more of a problem is that it has not been replaced by anything else. Apart from the regular weekly meetings, it was the only activity that we did together as a church, and certainly the only organised evangelistic event. But we can not even sustain that. So in the next few weeks and months there will be some thinking going into our church activities and public evangelism, and I will probably be trying to promote and do some new things in and with the congregation.
3-6/1: FEMI conference - for Italian Christian workers and missionaries
16-20/1: GBU staff meeting, Annual General Meeting of the association and meeting with the Executive Committee
3/2: Visit to the church by a Christian bookshop - last year a similar visit was a great help in getting good literature into peoples' hand, because due to our isolation people in the church usually do not have much access to Christian books.