Few experiences remind me of the common bond that unites all Christians as vividly as attending a worship service in a different city or country when I’m traveling. When I’m in Rome—as I am for the next two and a half weeks—this usually means worshipping at Rome Baptist Church.
It was a joy to make my way back yesterday morning to the church—which is tucked away in a lovely alcove off Via del Corso in the heart of tourist Rome—and to see the small sanctuary packed to overflowing. The congregation looks like a United Nations meeting. The church has many Filipinos, as does Rome generally. (Apparently Rome has been an attractive destination for Filipino emigrants in the past several decades because many Filipinos are Catholic and because the immigration standards have not been quite as strict, at least until recently, as in many countries.) One also hears African inflected English in the pews. And on any given week, there is also a large block of America college students, who are in Rome for a semester abroad or on a short term mission trip.
Something about the mixture of worshippers from many different countries always reminds me of Revelation 7, where John says that he “looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne … and crying out ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Rome isn’t always heavenly, but it seems in these moments of worship to briefly take the shape of heaven.