The Revd Bernard Fray of York spends two months each year as Chaplain to the Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit in Genoa, Italy.
Many people express surprise when they learn that the Anglican Church (under the Diocese in Europe) still exists in a great number of the larger cities and tourist centres of Europe.
One such church is in the Port of Genoa in Italy. In former years, busy cities attracted English professionals and general workers to those places, and as a growing community there, an obvious place to meet with each other, was in a church.
The church was designed by the architect G E Street (of Law Court fame) and opened in 1874. One of Queen Victoria’s daughters paid for the organ to be installed. Sadly, during WWII, the church was badly damaged and the instrument was destroyed.
I have had the pleasure of being connected with the church for five years. The last few months have seen a complete change in attendance. We have gained a large number of young African immigrants. They are mostly Roman Catholic but as they do not understand the mass in Italian, they come to worship with us. Many are from Nigeria, so are familiar with English. Some have university degrees; others have difficulty in reading and writing.
We have helped many to write their stories of how they got to Italy. Those stories are on display in the church, and are heart-breaking to read. Having read them while maybe on holiday or just curious, visitors have sent us donations from various parts of the world in significant amounts. These help us donate food and clothes and to pay the 20 Euros per week for accommodation which the local authority requires for a shared room , usually in a former monastery or convent in the city.
Many of the young people would have to sit begging to raise that amount, if we were not able to help. It is a great drain on our resources but we do what we can for everyone.
The local historians in Genoa are very proud of the church, because it is “different”, and the “Friends of the Church of the Holy Spirit” help by raising money when repairs are needed, even though many of them are members of the Roman Catholic Church elsewhere in the city.
The picture shows most of the congregation on one summer Sunday this year. There were English, Italian, Japanese, Swiss , American, Dutch and various African languages in our “family”. To have the joy of worshipping with these wonderful young people who have nothing, is both humbling and uplifting.