Today was devoted to visiting the Italian Church Office in the Bergamo area and ended with a dinner with family and friends at Lake Iseo, reputed to be the most beautiful lake in Italy. Again, today was a day above all expectations. In order to understand the Italian heart, love of family, spirit of doing things, you have to be right in the middle of it. You cannot learn about it from reports and phone calls. You have to be right here!
First, we went to the office
The office is one great room that has the administrative section with Carmelo and the media center which is run by his daughter Delia. There is also space for the Bergamo church to meet and another studio-like location off to the side.
We talked about the Church in Italy which has the largest concentration of brethren in the Milan/Bergamo area. Services alternate between Bergamo and Milan which are about 45 minutes apart.
We went through a list of questions that we at the home office about communication and reporting. We had agreed on a number of improvements about how we at the home office can be more helpful to strengthen the reach of the Italian proclamation effort and the viability of the Churches
Carmelo showed us from top to bottom all the operations of proclamation, which is done in great part through their Website. Also, there is a new venture of subjects on video that has brought new subscribers to the http://labuonanotizia.org.
The Italian site is professionally done. We were struck by the quality of work that the Church produces here.
The site has on front an eight minute video by Director and pastor Carmelo Anastasi. One has been produced and edited by an outside firm, but they will be now producing them in-house much through his daughter Delia's work who is skilled in video editing. The short program has a casual feel and is very warm. It is produced by "Ambassador Bible Studio."
The rest of the site contains articles in Italian and a letter from Director/Pastor Anastasi
There is also a Website for the churches only at https://www.chiesa-di-dio-unita.it/ which, again, is professionally produced, has a welcome message from pastor Anastasi and contact information for the congregations. Very well done.
There is a virtual subscription list of about 2500 readers of the La Buona Notizia publication. There are 600 subscribers to the paper version of the magazine. Booklets are produced on demand. There is an active Bible Study Course course that is managed online for almost a hundred. Carmelo showed me the email interactions with questions from students. It was encouraging to see all this activity. We were impressed as to how well organized it was.
Midday we went to lunch at a nearby mall and had a salad and pasta. Then for GELATO. That’s ice cream. It’s no problem to convince Bev for a gelato.
Angelo was on his phone a lot
After lunch we first went to off-site storage and saw where they store a lot of equipment. A lot of their effort is focused on the Feast of Tabernacles. This is attractive to foreigners who swell the ranks from the 40 – 50, who are in all of Italy, to well over 200. The warm heart of the Italian brethren plus the attraction of historical and biblical sites has been a hallmark of the Church.
We then went back to the office. We talked a lot more. Carmelo showed us a map of Italy and where all the people in Italy are scattered. We also talked about people in neighboring countries who are subscribers. One notable one was a lady in Albania across the Adriatic Sea and another in Croatia.
When church services are conducted the Italians provide Webex capability to 24 viewers with one in France, but mostly scattered people throughout Italy
We got to know more about the Anastasi family. They have four children from oldest: Salvatore, Daisy, Lucca and Delia. Salvatore and his wife Anita live in Brisbane, Australia and we met them there last March on our visit to Australia. We will see them again next month at the Australian conference. Small world.
We learned about how Carmelo became part of the Church of God. It was when he lived in Montreal, Canada in the 1970’s. His brother Salvatore was there, too, and heard the “World Tomorrow” program and introduced it to Carmelo.
Carmelo returned to Italy and in 1980 was instrumental in founding the Church in Italy. He came to study at Ambassador College in the late 80’s. In 1995 he helped organize the United Church of God which he still directs to this day. He is greatly loved by the people he works with and the brethren.
Eating with Italians is an art and an experience
Dinner always begins with appetizers of several types of focaccia bread and olive oil is always available in a bottle. We were joined by Carmelo’s older brother Salvatore and his wife Brigida and another couple Enzo (Vincent) Alfieri and his wife Margarita. So, there were ten of us. Lots of good lively discussion and laughter.
Then as we went back to the car we saw an imposing statue of Garibaldi who unified Italy in the 1800’s. It is late to bed for us, but tomorrow we don’t have to leave the hotel until noon. Services will be held in Milan at a downtown hotel near the main train station where more people can assemble.
The Day at the (Church) Office and Lake Iseo
Friday, June 17, 2016
Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy