The Lent Project

The Terriers Lent Project for 2017

Supporting the ministry of the Anglican Chaplaincy in Genoa: the Church of the Holy Ghost

    This year our Lent Project supports  the Church of the Holy Ghost, Genoa, one of the Anglican Chaplaincies in the Diocese of Europe as it seeks to restore its building and develop a demanding and exciting new field of ministry.

    There has been an active Anglican community in Genoa since at least 1818. Originally there was no Church building and services were held in the house of the British Consul. In 1863 land was purchased in piazza Marsala and a contract signed for work estimated at a cost of 14,179 Lire. The Church of the Holy Ghost was built according to designs by the architect George Edmund Street, who was for more than thirty years the Diocesan Architect for the Diocese of Oxford. Street was chosen for this project because he was a recognized expert on medieval Italian architecture. The Church was consecrated in 1872 by the Bishop of Gibraltar and has been used by the Anglican community ever since. As an expression of the mercantile partnership between England and the City of Genoa the Church is both historically and politically significant. When a group of Englishmen founded the Genoa Football Club in 1893, the Anglican community became involved, with several of its members playing in the newly founded team. The first Italian Championship was refereed in 1898 by the Chaplain of the Church of the Holy Ghost, the Revd Richard Douglas.

    During the Second World War, Genoa was an important strategic target and the church was severely damaged by allied bombing. Most of the Church interior, including the organ, the beautiful stained glass windows and the original flooring was destroyed. At the end of the war the Church was restored to a state in which it could be used again for worship. Five of the original pews and the brass eagle lectern survived the bombing and the mosaic of the Good Shepherd behind the altar was restored after the war. This restoration of the Church after the bomb damage of the 1940s (over a third of all the buildings in Genoa were destroyed by RAF attacks) made possible the continued use of the building for worship, and for concerts and meetings, but there are few amenities of the kind which would enable the congregation to build up its ministry today. Since 2012 restoration work and repairs have been going on in order to conserve the building and guarantee its future. The chaplaincy council has adopted a programme for maintenance and restoration of the Church of Holy Ghost which will affect both the exterior and the interior of the church rendering it more welcoming and accessible for worship and for the wider community.

    Today the congregation of the Church of the Holy Ghost worships in English, in the tradition of the Church of England. It has maintained an ecumenical fellowship with other Christians, and it offers a spiritual home to people from other countries and cultures who wish to worship in English. Members of the present congregation have come from as far away as Japan, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Cameroon and North America.

    The congregation no longer has a resident chaplain. It is officially under the care of the Priest in Charge of Milan, the Venerable Vickie Sims, who is also Archdeacon of Italy. The weekly Eucharist, and a mid-week Communion Service, are maintained by a rota of house-for-duty locum chaplains, who serve for one month or two months at a time. The small resident congregation (the electoral roll is about a third that of St Francis) has a significant ministry to a transient population of students, holiday-makers, and people working in Genoa, and an increasing ministry to English-speaking refugees who are currently housed in two large camps on the edge of the city.

    The restoration programme for the church building is estimated to cost 350,000 Euros. The chaplaincy has little financial resource and the Diocese in Europe is permanently cash- strapped, having very few “historic resources”. Because the building is outside the UK it is not eligible for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Italian equivalent has many other calls on its funds. This places an extremely heavy bur-den on the small, but faithful and outgoing, congregation. Because of the link with the diocese of Oxford through the architect G.E. Street, and because of the strong echoes of our own situation during the past five years, the Church Council approved the Church of the Holy Ghost as our Lent Project for 2017. We are aiming to provide sufficient funding to enable the congregation to renew the church’s lighting system.

    If you would like to learn more about Genoa and its people, Nicholas Walton’s book “Genoa, 'La Superba': The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower” is highly recommended. You can see more about the work of the Chaplaincy in their website here

    Tony Dickinson