After Milan, we had fairly short train journey to the city of Parma, which long time readers will recognize as one of our favourite places in all of Italy, and one of our stops on the first trip we took to Italy. Here we met up for a short visit with Tony Hedrick, who has done more than anyone to get us started in Italy.
There is just something about Parma: pristine streets and squares, beautiful buildings, a stunning castle, and the best (and most reasonably priced) food that we’ve come across. Since it is the birthplace of parmigiano reggiano and parma ham, you know they must have something figured out. I could spend a lot of my life, without regret, strolling it’s streets and sampling it’s kitchens.
But the best part of Parma are our friends who live there, all of whom have been an incredible source of support and inspiration for us. The idea of moving to Italy is far less intimidating because we know we have them to count on.
Unfortunately, because of my inability to plan a reasonable amount of activity within a sensible amount of time, I’m left with a tinge of regret that we didn’t linger a little longer. But a 48hrs is better than none at all, and since our stay spanned a Sunday, we were able to spend some time at the church, which we have heard so much about but have never experienced firsthand. We have written previously that the Italian churches that we have seen haven’t been as boisterous as one would expect from such a fun culture, perhaps a legacy of the Catholic church. This one was the opposite, helped by a large Latin American contingent who are doing a great job setting a tone, and a place with amazing worship, hospitality, and all of those other things that a church needs.
As a representative of the Canadian church-and by extension our brothers in the UK and the US, with whom we have so much in common-I think we all need to experience a powerful church service in a foreign setting to remember that we are not the pinnacle of all that the church can be. We have spent a long time in the position of those with much to offer, and for good reason. After all, God has been doing some great stuff, and for a long time. There is nothing wrong with believing that we have something to contribute to our brothers and sisters around the world, and I am fully convinced that God expects us to be generous with all that he has given to us. But when we begin to think that they are somehow reliant on us-that without us they would wither and die-is to underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit. God hasn’t set the church in one area of the world to be givers, and everywhere else to be receivers, like some sort of missional charity. We are all givers, and all receivers, and in equal parts, all the while operating simultaneously in generosity and humility.