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The History of our Church in Milan

The beginning: 1872-1903

In 1873 a group of about 20 people left the Free Church of Milan and guided by Pastor Oscar Cocarda founded the first Baptist community in the city. The reasons for our forefathers' faith are three: they were convinced that believers must be baptised, they had a different understanding of the pastoral ministry and hoped for a congregational organization of the church.

We would like to point out here that the Italian Free Evangelical Church is an 18th century tentative to create a protestant church entirely Italian following the ideals of the political Risorgimento based on standards, for the most part, anticlerical and Garibaldian.

In 1875 a young Pastor was appointed in Milan: Enrico Paschetto. Under his guidance the community grew in numbers and activities and a more central place was found. The place of worship was in Via del Pesce 39 (today Via Paolo di Cannobbio).mappa-diaz The district then was very different: popular, somewhat ill-famed with little winding streets. New baptisms of Catholics followed every year and a Sunday School for children was opened and teaching hymns was begun. Also some Catholic parents sent their children to the Sunday School, a very rare thing in Milan. Many members helped the Pastor with his activity, among whom a certain Angelo Barni, a humble, uncultured blacksmith; he became a tireless evangelizer and deacon and was an assiduous and studious reader of the Bible and a true pillar of the young community. Paschetto's activity in Milan extended beyond the pastoral field, in fact, exactly in that period he was called to teach Hebrew at the International Linguistic Institute.

In 1881, Pastor Giuseppe Colombo arrived. He remained only two years in Milan and organized the Church Council. In 1883, Pastor Nicola Papengouth arrived in Milan, a gentleman by birth and education. He was the son of a Dutchman, an officer of the Russian navy, and a Polish woman. He was born in Odessa on the 15th of June, 1858 and was baptised in Paris in the Seine. Here he studied painting and then passed to classical and theological studies in Switzerland. Then he followed his father to Naples where he helped with the work of evangelizing. He is remembered as a refined, open, generous man, a little eccentric. The little community grew among a thousand difficulties; in 1889, there were 33 members and a lively Sunday School. It was Nicola Papengouth who had the intuition to begin evangelizing together with other evangelical churches then present in Milan (Waldenian, Methodist and Free Church). Thus a “Milanese Evangelical Christian Circle” was founded and a “Society for Mutual Assistance and Charity of Evangelical Christians in Milan”. They began holding services and reunions together.


1903-1949: the growth

In 1903, Domenico Scalera became Pastor. He had the gift of a great oratory ability which he immediately put to profit so that soon the place in Via del Pesce became too small for the numerous sympathizers who crowded it during the sermons and conferences.

The community therefore moved to a place in Via Bossi 6 and, after this also became too small, to Via Giulini 1. Thus began the problem which worried the Baptist community for half of the last century, id est, finding a place of worship.

In 1906, Pastor Giovanni Ambrosini arrived and under his direction a church registrar was finally instituted and a youth association called “Activity and Vigilance” was established with the scope of propagating the study of the Gospel among young people.

In 1914, Roberto Teubel became Pastor of the church: he was born in Bohemia in 1873 and was a citizen of the Austrian-Hungaric empire. After only 7 months the first world war broke out and as Teubel was a citizen of the enemy country, he was confined to Sardinia where he remained until 1918. In this period the church was guided by a member, Angelo Messa, and the elders. Back from his forced exile Teubel began his activity again with renewed energy, reorganizing the Sunday School and the youth group. New baptisms increased the number of members to 70 and a new Baptist church was opened in Varese. Unfortunately in 1931 at the age of 58 Pastor Teubel suddenly died of a cerebral haemorrhage. The loss was particularly serious for the congregation of Milan.

pastore ScrajberPastor Scrajber was sent to Milan to help the church. However, the temporary assignment continued until 1949, when due to his age he had to leave. Under his guidance the community grew to 132 official members and the same number of sympathizers, notwithstanding the economic straits, the clerical-fascist opposition and the dangers of the war. These people lived in different parts of the city and outer districts, therefore it was difficult keeping in contact with them. So many of them could attend only the service on Sundays. During Scrajber's ministry a new church was opened in Lombardy in Caravate.


The construction of the new temple

After the second world war the construction of a new temple was decided and a church member, Athos Roncaglia, was consulted; his building company was a going concern. First of all, it was necessary to find a place that was central, tranquil, well-served by public transport and not expensive. After some research, Via Pinamonte da Vimercate was found where a workshop had been bombed in 1943. It was Mr Airoldi, an architect, well-known at the time, who planned the temple and Mr Roncaglia's company which constructed it. Among the workers who collaborated with the company were Walter and Athos Brinkman, Mr Roncaglia's young nephews. It was Athos who painted the inscriptions around the baptismal font. After two years of intense work, the temple in Via Pinamonte da Vimercate was inaugurated in 1950. That same year Pastor Carmelo Inguanti began serving the community where he remained until 1980.


Until today

The community continued to flourish under his guidance. The youth group was numerous (about 35 people); it was directed by Vittorio Canfori who was dedicated not only to the study of the Bible but also to the recreative activities. There was a lively choir directed by Mr Minervini. Pastor Inguanti was in charge of the church in Lodi and with some immigrants from Southern Italy he formed the first nucleus of that which would become the community in Casorate.


In 1980 Pastor Giuseppe Morlachetti substituted Pastor Inguanti. His ministry was characterized by the intent to render the community more autonomous with respect to the pastoral figure,open to other churches of the reformed type, more sensitive to the cultural needs of the time and available to the federate and ecumenic work in general.

In 1990 Pastor Spanu arrived and new construction works on the building enriched it with places for the church's activities. Pastor Spanu gave a strong impulse to the ecumenic work, so much so that the church joined the Protestant Cultural Centre of Milan and was one of the founders of the Council of Christian Churches of Milan.