Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.”
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
We have stumbled across our church home in nearby Altopascio
deeply appreciate my upbringing and roots in the Catholic Church—but
I am more comfortable with the music, informality and overall
approach of certain Protestant churches. Lucy and I are long-time
members of an independent church in Gig Harbor, but finding a similar
church in Italy has not been easy.
2011 to 2015, we took the train to Lucca and attended the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese. The train ran on a limited schedule on Sunday,
and we would have to stay in Lucca until mid-afternoon before we
could return to San Salvatore. We often had to ride our bikes to and
from the train station in the chill and rain in the winter.
we were welcomed by like-minded and friendly people, many of them our
age and older. The structure of the Sunday services reminded us of
denominational American churches of the 1960s and earlier. Songs were
from an old hymnal, accompanied by a pianist. A few individuals would
read Bible passages. Pastor Domenico Masselli would make some
announcements and then preach a sermon. He spoke clearly and
supported his lessons with numerous Bible passages, which we could
read in our English versions to aid us in understanding the messages.
Then we’d all go up front to celebrate communion. We’d recite the
Lord’s Prayer in unison, and everyone would disperse.
were happy to encounter kind people who shared our beliefs, but we
still found the experience lacking. The songs were taken from old
English hymns that had been translated into Italian. Forcing verses
from English to Italian and attempting to maintain the rhythm and
rhyme made for some odd and hard to understand wording—definitely
not conducive to meaningful worship. We would hang around after
church to greet people, but our lack of skills in Italian meant that
conversations were short. The only invitation we ever received to
share lunch came from an English-speaking German couple.
had done web searches for Protestant churches that might be closer to
Montecarlo but came up empty. And then one day in April of 2015, we
were walking in a residential area in Altopascio and passed a house
that had a sign outside: Chiesa Cristiana Evangelica di Altopascio. It listed
10:30 a.m. at the time for the Sunday meeting. Could this be real, or
was this an old sign of a church that once had existed but was no
Google search for the church revealed almost nothing. The church had
no web site. An old newspaper article mentioned a concert that had
been held there in March of 2009. We had our doubts, but we would
have to go on Sunday to find out. And so, during our last week in
Italy in 2015, we drove our borrowed car 10 minutes to Altopascio and
parked a few blocks from the house. Almost immediately, we heard
it—loud singing accompanied by various musical instruments. This
church was—is—alive and active, and we have been attending
it ever since whenever we come to Toscana.
Some members of the music team at the Chiesa Evangelica di Altopascio.
found about 50 or 60 people gathered in the home of the pastor. A
large room had been custom-made for the meetings. Sunday school for
children is held in a side room. It’s an independent church,
founded and led by Italians, though certain characteristics remind us
of the the Italian version of the Assemblies of God church we
attended a few times in Padova.
music is our favorite part of the gathering; we actually prefer it to
that of our church in Gig Harbor. The songs are relatively new. The
lyrics, written in modern Italian and taken from Scripture verses,
are projected on the wall behind the music team. The leader plays a
guitar and is usually accompanied by a keyboardist and sometimes a
drummer. Three or four vocalists with microphones assist. But it’s
not so much the melodies, words and instruments that appeal to us as
it is the sincere and worshipful way in which the music is presented.
Fervent prayers are offered between songs. Eyes are closed. Some
people raise their hands. There is a strong shared feeling that God
also like the fact that the culto—Italian name for a Sunday
service—relies heavily on sharing from the congregation. Some 20
minutes can be taken for members to share verses and lessons they
have learned. On one Sunday, the sharing went on so long that the
pastor didn’t even give his message. We only regret that we still
can’t understand all that is said during the sharing and sermon.
For some reason, we were able to understand more of the sermon at the
church in Lucca.
Breaking bread for the Lord's Supper.
are gradually learning peoples’ names, and this winter for the
first time, we were invited to dine at the house of two of the
church members. Getting to know Silvio and Anna has been one of the
highlights of our first month here in 2017, and we look forward to further
developing this friendship. Silvio is one of the elders in the
church, and I have approached him with an offer to create a free web
site. Hopefully, this will help us become more involved with the
community. And, more importantly, maybe it will also help a few more stranieri
can find the way there.