Spirit of Italy - Venice, Oct. 5, 2007

October 11, 2007

Spirit of Italy: Venice – Oct. 5, 2007


Fifty members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, led by Bishop Beverly Shamana, are currently engaged in Spirit of Italy 2007 – an inaugural event for the Conference as tour members visit 8-13 locales “to be stirred by God’s heart of creativity while building and deepening relationships as the Body of Christ,” in the words of the Bishop. Tour member are experiencing the art and architecture inspired by the Christian faith of Italy’s world famous artists, including Da Vinci and Michelangelo.


Among those taking part in this “spiritual journey of a lifetime” are Bruce Pettit, a member of the Conference Communications Commission, and Chuck Myer, who served as editor of the Connection. They agreed to file a series of stories about their experiences along the way.


In this entry, Bruce takes us to The City of Canals.


By Bruce Pettit


In this ancient city of 118 islands, 400 bridges, and 160 canals, Bishop Beverly Shamana cited the baptism story in Luke, where Jesus came up from the water and there was a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”


The Bishop addressed the 51 of us on a tour of Italy’s architecture and faith monuments. After walking narrow alleys – single file – we came to the center of Venice, Campo Bandiera e Moro de la Bragova. “This place surrounded by water is delighting our souls,” said the Bishop. “This is a place where we let God’s spirit infuse us, and we remember our baptism.”


Whenever you cross a bridge in this city, you go from one island to another. Venice was formed in the 7th century AD after the Barbarian invasion. Buildings are supported by wood hammered down deep in the lagoon. Why would anyone build here? Because it was strategic for east-west trade before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope. Marco Polo in the 15th century was a Venetian.


We visited the 900-year-old Basilica di San Marco, and saw the magnificent frescos set high in archways to represent heaven. For people who could not read, the frescos were a means of receiving the stories of the New Testament.


It is considered mandatory to take a gondola ride in the canals when in Venice, and 41 of us did. Ten others opted not to. Tony Lardizabal of Temple UMC in San Francisco said, “At 25 Euros it is not worth it!” Gondolas are entirely for tourists these days. Now motorboats transport commercial goods through the canals.


The previous day we crossed a moat on a drawbridge to reach the small town of Sirmione, which is actually a medieval fort. Dominant families of the Middle Ages protected themselves with forts. At this one, opening on Lake Garda – Italy’s largest lake – inhabitants used trickery to defeat their enemies. Invaders were allowed to enter through an open gate on the lake – a deliberate scheme to suggest carelessness. Then the gate was closed upon the enemy and they were slaughtered.


We went to Verona, where Shakespeare set his play Romeo and Juliet. We dutifully traipsed to the balcony that allegedly was Shakespeare's inspiration for the famous balcony scene in the play.


The Rev. Bill Marx of Santa Rosa First UMC found a spiritual application in that scene. On that balcony, Juliet wonders of Romeo, “Wherefore art thou?” when in fact, Romeo was there all along, unbeknownst to her. Likewise, God is always here for us – sometimes unbeknownst to us, said Rev. Marx.