Newsletter 64 - May 2008
In the church
In my previous newsletter, I mentioned that it seemed in some ways the end of an era for me, as I stopped going to the last of the cell groups that had been created and I was leading five years ago, and which are now all run by others. The last few weeks have seen what could be the beginning of a new era for the church here at Trento. For example, at the recent annual church meeting some important decisions were taken:
1) The Rovereto church planting project, that I mentioned last time, was officially approved by the church. There is a meeting to formally present it next Sunday, and in June there will be the first evangelistic event of the project.
2) The church decided to support the two elders of the church with €200 per month. It is not really much compared to how much time they dedicate to the church, but it is a sign of a maturity of the church that finally they want to financially support their own leaders.
3) “Project Nehemiah” was approved, in which the church will be working amongst the disadvantaged of Trento, in order to have a positive influence and take the Gospel into the city. The work will probably start after the summer break. A part of this project is the employment of a person in the church (Jury) part-time to look after it, as well as to lead the church planting work in the Valsugana. Thanks to the generosity and vision of ECM, the mission will pay him for the first 12 months, then the year after will pay 6/7 and the church 1/7, then 5/7 and 2/7, and so on so that after seven years the church will be fully supporting the person.
The last two decisions mean a big shift in the mentality of the church: instead of people leading the church in their free time from work, family and often wider Italian church commitments, which was limiting a lot what the church could do (although the time I could provide alleviated the problem a bit), the church is setting people apart to serve them and others. This is a model which should be able to cope better with the church growth.
With these changes, there are now three of the five parts of the Trentino Church Planting project in place - the Rovereto and Nehemiah projects, and the employment of someone in the church part-time. There are still two to go: renting our own hall for the church (the desire is there, the obstacle is that nothing suitable and affordable has been found yet), and the church planting apprenticeship scheme (to train people in church planting, so that they could then pioneer church plant in the areas of the province where there is no evangelical witness at all, or somewhere else in the world; the obstacle here is that no-one has yet been found to do the apprenticeship).
At the beginning of the month I had my annual meeting with the elders, to talk about the program for the cell groups after the summer break, and about my personal program. We try to have partly a common program across the groups (a direction that we want the church as a whole to go), whilst leaving freedom for each group to fill in the rest of the program. So next year we will be looking at our responsibilities in the congregation. Each group will prepare for themselves studies in John’s letters, whilst over the summer (hopefully I will have time whilst in Australia!) I will prepare some studies on the Italian translation of the book Life in the Father’s House by Mack and Swavely, that each group will be able to use. Towards the end of 2008 I will also prepare a series on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, that the groups will be able to use later on.
We then had to postpone deciding about my personal program, as there are still some doubts about some of the church activities. Leading the groups at Rovereto and on Wednesday nights is certain. However we don’t know yet how best to organise the class for the older children in the Sunday School, the Youth Group and the Young Adults' Group; we don't know if the English language group will take place (it depends if there are any English speaking students next academic year, as most come for a one year course); and there is the possibility of starting introductory meetings for new people in the church (that average about one a month at the moment). Things will be a bit clearer by the end of the month, although probably we won’t know for sure until September. And then we will be better able to identify how I will be able to help the church.
We are preparing now for our trip back to Australia - about three weeks to go as I write this. There is some material to prepare for my presentations (as well as getting visas and other paper work), but a lot of the necessary work has been done. Last newsletter we asked for a car to use whilst in Australia; thank God that a couple of weeks ago someone, without having heard about our need, offered a car to ECM to be used if it was needed.
Below is a list of our major movements and appointments whilst in Australia - it doesn't mention all the churches we will be visiting. There are still some free days; if you would like us to visit your church or small group or you personally, please let us know. One meeting to note is the Italian Café at the ECM Centre (15 Malvern Ave, Croydon) at 7.30pm on July 9th. Here we will be talking about our ministry at Trento (and especially about the Trentino Church Planting Project) in more detail than we will be able to do in most of our other meetings, as well as offering various Italian edibles! There will also be a similar sort of meeting at Carlingford Anglican on July 20th at 3pm. You are of course invited to these meetings if you would like to hear more about what God has done in the past four years at Trento – and what we pray he will do in the next few years.
Naturally we will not be present for the last four activities, but I have listed them so you can pray for them as well.