After a few years in northern Italy, we have moved ‘home’ to Sicily. Here I grew up, here my parents laboured. Palermo is the 2018 Italian ‘Capital of Culture’. And what a feast of richness in this city, capital of Sicily, with over 1 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area, defined by many as ‘the most conquered’ of world cities.
Coming home, yes, but still being shocked by the ‘culture’. There are the car horns. Every excuse seems good to show theirs off! Even where there is no remote need for a blaring noise, still they insist on making themselves heard. Culture. Quiet table in the cafe, no-one nearby. Time for a quiet coffee. We head for it, then, shortly after, so does everyone else. After all, close, noisy community is everything! Culture.
Yet beyond these superficial idiosyncrasies there is a deeper culture. Losing face must be avoided at all costs. Since weakness will be crushed I, therefore, must be strong and not let myself be trampled by anyone. Respect is what I demand everyone to show me. I’m central, no-one else. Culture.
Moved back to the new challenges and opportunities of a large city like Palermo, we are increasingly reminded and convinced of the extraordinary relevance of the gospel.
The ‘cultural’ context here needs a thoroughly gospel-centred response. The gospel, in fact, is visible in the beauty of culture, in subtle shadows of culture or by its very absence – in the stench of evil culture. Yet, whether by obvious presence, subtle shadow or tragic absence – it is always the gospel that stands out to us.
In Palermo we are struck by the fact that 55,000 university students are really crying out for the gospel. Not that they know it, not that they are aware that is their real need, but in reality every move they take points to their desperate need for the greater story. For a new culture. For something which redefines their spiritual outlook, but also how they study and plan and live and enjoy. And that is precisely what the gospel of Jesus does. It defines and redefines. It creates a new culture.
So here we are. LifeHope is a new church-plant for Palermo. Our aim and desire is to reach out to this generation. Not just the young, mind you, but those who are part of this day, who live in a contemporary world and who need to be reached today. We start out as two couples – us and Andrea and Sheila Crocivera. At the heart of our vision to see a gospel-centred church planted in this great city is the opportunity among university students.
We have already begun to connect and informally gather several unchurched contacts, keen to explore the gospel, some dechurched who have had some experience of a church, but have since checked-out (for a range of reasons) and a few local churched friends who are keen to support the launching of this new gospel-venture.
We are committed to respond to the culture with the gospel. Central is God’s word which we will be expounding faithfully and relevantly. But we also want to see healthy gospel-centred community, and generosity as well as a holistic emphasis on blessing the city.
In other words we are longing, dreaming and working towards a new culture – a gospel-culture. As we begin gathering regularly we are praying for others to join us and for others to come and help us!
More broadly, throughout the country there are encouraging signs of new passion and vigour among a growing generation of Christians who want to drill deep and reach wide. Impatto (Acts 29 in Italy), a growing family of church- planting churches with which we are massively involved, is committed to do all it can to be a part of this movement. On a personal level we are also amazed by how many significant pastoral relationships we are having and in them all the gospel- culture, the real answer for Italy, is at the centre.
For more information: www.lifehope.it and www.impattoitalia.org/ about-impatto