Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Potluck at our Italian Valdese church
Lucy has made a fruit salad, here called macedonia, and we carefully carry it on bike and train to Lucca, because after the church service is l’agape, a love feast, or in common American terms, a potluck. This is the first real chance we have had to talk to people at church for any extended time. Although everyone has brought food, the meal is still served Italian style, in multiple courses. This has the advantage of extending the meal so the conversation time lasts longer, but it also means that some of the women and men of the church must continually carry out and distribute the various dishes. They do, at least, use plastic plates so that there aren’t 200 dishes to wash at the end.
Lucy and I sit near Eldo, an elderly man who greets us warmly every Sunday, though the first time we met he seemed afraid to talk to us when he found out we were Americans. I think he feared we couldn’t understand Italian, but he is over that now and chatters on steadily, even though in truth we only understand about half of what he says. We find out he is 88 years old and is a retired designer of mechanical equipment, although I can’t swear that I understood that correctly. We also talk to Andrea, a twenty-something who reminds us of my nephew Jacy. Andrea loves classical music and is part of a musical group that performs in a Catholic church near his home city of Barga. He sometimes plays the piano to accompany our congregation in singing, and he and Lucy talk about church music.
We are growing fond of this church, though we would love to see it using more modern Christian songs. It uses hymnals that appear to be full of old English hymns translated into Italian with some changes made so the lyrics rhyme. Andrea agrees with us that the church needs to appeal more to young people, because he is one of only five members near his age. There used to be a Valdesian church in Barga, but it has ceased to exist because the congregation has mostly died, and now Andrea comes to Lucca for fellowship. We fear that could happen to this church as well in another fifteen years, although today the potluck is buzzing with conversation, and the room is packed about as full as it can get. We leave with stomachs full and a couple of new acquaintances.
The photo at the top of the page is of Eldo and Andrea. Directly above shows about half of the congregation. Samuele serves food while standing in the place where I was sitting before I got up to take this photo.