This morning marked our second Sunday in Rome and I was determined to go to Rome Baptist Church. This church was founded by Doug and Helen Ruchti in 1962. I came to know the Rutchis when they retired in, ironically, in Rome, GA when I was a student at Shorter College. The church is an English speaking congregation that ministers to Baptists worldwide.
Factoring in a slower bus schedule and allowing for 30 minutes of walking I left earlier than necessary – 9 AM for a 10:30 worship service. As I was walking out of my apartment I caught a glimpse of the bus rounding the corner so I raced to the stop just in time to leap in the bus as it was about to pull away. Once in it occurred to me that I may not be on the right bus since the stop serves two other lines. I asked the few passengers on board and of course none of them spoke any English, no matter how loud I spoke! One lady was convinced that I was on the wrong bus after I pointed to her on my map my intended destination, so I promptly got off the next stop a mile down the road in order to wait for my bus. As the bus pulled away I saw the number – you guessed it, I just got off my bus. Forty minutes later my next bus came around again. Nonetheless I made it to church with five minutes to spare.
As with any travel to “strange” places that involve living, eating and traveling differently, I am trying to look at such things as adventures and not inconveniences. Language barriers, lack of adequate hot water for four, experimental dishes for dinner and inexplicable and at time indecipherable bus schedules are all part of the great adventure!
Rome Baptist Church meets in a very modest room with a pipe organ behind a simple pulpit (although it was never played) and a piano to the side. Besides the pianist, the music was accompanied by two young folks playing acoustic guitars. The room itself could seat maybe 200 or so and the walls were completely bare. This is quite a visual shock considering that I have spent the last two weeks in some of the most ornate churches filled with the world’s most notable artwork. In some ways, its simplicity was a welcome respite. In the worship bulletin handed to me by a friendly usher it was noted that last week they received in contributions 732 euros (about $1000) and 192 attended the service.
The familiar hymns “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “What Wondrous Love is This” were a welcome embrace that reconnected me with my traditions of back home. We also sung a couple of more contemporary hymns of which I was vaguely familiar. All the music was sung enthusiastically by the diverse congregation of Europeans, Africans, Asians and Americans. I sat near some students from Geneva College in Pennsylvania.
Everyone was dressed very casual with the exception of the pastor who was the only one I saw wearing a coat and tie. I counted 18 children sitting for the children’s message. The sermon itself was delivered solidly and believably from an authentic evangelical perspective. I met “Pastor Dave” afterwards and although we have exchange emails in the past, he regretted that we have yet to get together for lunch. I reminded him that we have little more than a week to go, but in fairness I have not had a gap in my schedule since the day I arrived.
After services we grabbed a quick lunch of Panninis and chips and ate by the steps of the Pantheon. Actually, Aaron spotted a McDonalds and decided he needed a fix and so met us at the steps with his fries and quarter-pounder!
We spent the afternoon walking through the Roman Forum, the ruins of Rome’s ancient city center of commerce, politics and worship. Although the day was warm (30 degrees Celsius, which I have yet to figure out the conversion; just trust me that it felt warm) touring through the ancient relics of the past was intriguing. Everywhere one turned there was something ancient to see and here we were walking where the Caesars, the philosophers and the common folk alike walked.
Walking among the ruins is a stark reminder of the transitory nature of all things. Nothing has permanence and all things come to nothing sooner or later. This is not bleak, but simply a call to reflect on where we place our trust.
I have to admit that after thirteen straight days of what seems to feel like non-stop walking my legs, feet and hips are starting to feel like over-cooked pasta! Yet there are several more days yet before the class time is past time. We meandered home and for the last several hours have been relaxing, nibbling on leftovers, and playing cards.
Amy has made the determination that we live in a neighborhood largely populated with professionals. I find this hard to believe in light of the graffiti and the modest surroundings, yet I think she is right. Every morning we see men and women dressed smartly and carrying their brief cases and such on the way to work. Also while many of the cars parked around here our typically small compact cars, there are a few BMWs, Alfa Romeos, MNIs (so you know it is good) and at least one Bentley.
The owner or leaser of this apartment is a school teacher for special needs children.
I hope to get to bed a bit earlier tonight and catch up on some sleep. We have an early start tomorrow meeting the class near our apartment to visit the catacombs along the Appian Way.
Grace, peace and love to each of you,