First coffee, 14 Sept 2018. With staff and visitors.

Over the last several weeks, as I was feted over many dinners, coffees, and a final blessing on Pentecost, I have been told repeatedly that Italians do not say goodbye, but arrivederci, see you later. Goodbyes are hard. Arrivederci softens the grieving of farewell with hope and the sure knowledge that we never really leave the people and places we have come to love.

I say arrivederci to Rome in deep gratitude for all who have been so kind to me. The ministers, staff, parishioners and volunteers of St. Paul’s Within the Walls in Rome and The Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, my collegio flatmates, and all the saints in Rome who have loved me and been my teachers and friends over these nine months. The Episcopal Church Mission Office and The Episcopal Church in Connecticut, its bishops, commission on ministry and other ministers and colleagues, Berkeley Divinity School and its leadership, the body of Christ at St. Paul’s Brookfield and Christ Church Bethany, my family and friends.

Leaving home was in some ways remarkably easy. For this I thank the grace of a missional heart that God nurtures within me. It also was not easy. In these months I have lost my father, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, all marking the passing of generations.

You don’t really get to know a place or a people in a few months, just an inkling of their deep deep heart. Yet, I have had the privilege of getting to know this body of Christ at St. Paul’s as my core life for these last nine months, and I have come to love this people. Thank you. Thank you all. I carry you into the service to which God calls me next, and wish for all of you the peace that passes all understanding.

When I was back in North Carolina for dad’s funeral, I had the pleasure of worshipping with Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines, and heard God’s blessing pronounced by Rev. Mary Balfour Dunlap. I pass it on with her kind permission.

May the Lord Bless us and keep us.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us.
May God give us grace not to sell ourselves short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.
May God take our minds and think through them.
May God take our lips and speak through them.
May God take our hands and work through them.
May God take our hearts and set them on fire.

Last coffee, 14 June 2019. With collegio flatmates.

“Da quale Luce mi lascio illuminare?”

“From which light do I let myself be illuminated?”

Visiting so many churches over the past nine months, some of which were holy sites notte-bianca-2.jpgbefore Christ walked on earth, has brought home that every such place has a story. Last evening, I attended an evening centered around the story of the sanctuary of one of St. Paul’s sister churches, the Chiesa Evangelica Metodista di Roma, the local Italian Methodist church, a few blocks away.

By Italian standards, it is a new worship space, with frescoes and stained glass windows crafted in the early 20th century in the Italian Art Nouveau style. In a program of scripture, history lectures, literary and theological readings and music, the congregation explored the story of its church frescoes and stained glass windows.

In addition to scripture, we heard from the Qumran, the early Christian historian Eusebius, a story of the child Jesus from pseudo-Matthew, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley (of course), Walt Whitman, Bonhoeffer, Barth, the beautiful Italian poetry of Giovanni Pascoli and Antonia Pozzi, the Jewish writers Stefan Zweig and Amos Oz, the modern Catholic theologian Ermes Ronchi. Such a creative range!

The music was no less eclectic. A chorus, praise band, pianist and soloists performed traditional and modern church hymns, the Sister Act version of I Will Follow Him, Rhapsody in Blue, famous opera arias and more. The entire evening was a mash-up
of prayer and reflection, education, entertainment and parish talent night. All to build up the body of Christ in this specific place. I can’t wait to try this at home!


The Ever-Young Spirit of God

Nasim had prepared a special Eid breakfast in the JNRC to mark the end of Ramadan. Helping to serve the expected large number of guests was a group from Youth with a Mission, a worldwide ecumenical missionary network. These people from60830950_2430935700272557_984456235669520384_n-780x437.jpg around the world, most between high school and college, were spending three months exploring “what God was up to” (their language!) in various places across Europe.

I was heartened by the energy and commitment of these young people, and their openness to growing deeper in Christ by learning from the sacred other, including today from our predominantly Muslim breakfast guests. As I listened to their experiences, the familial tensions inherent in exploring their adulthood, the excitement of living in an intentional, international community, I placed their stories alongside those of my collegio flatmates and the youth I have come to know at St Paul’s. And I realized that God has placed the world in excellent hands.

I thought too of the college student who was my B&B host in Napoli last weekend. Despite the religious shrines on nearly ever street corner in this old, beautiful and troubled city, she had never heard a pastor tell her how deeply loved she was as a child of God. This information brought delight to her face, which made my day to be sure. Imagine what such simple yet powerful Good News can do for a suffering world!























In the last days, says the Lord, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
Your youth shall see visions
And your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)


The Voice of Many Angels

IMG_3338These last days brought worship and celebration across many languages. Saturday morning was a wedding in Italian and English (the groom’s family was Italian, the bride’s Italian-Nigerian). It was great to hear a predominantly Italian language service in our church!

Saturday evening, a friend introduced me to the Eucharist experience of Sant’Egidio. Several hundred of us from around the world IMG_3344.jpegprayed in (if I counted correctly) six languages, with simulcast in even more. I have been feeling tugged to learn more about this Christian community united in commitment to prayer, the poor and peace, but God needed to give me a bit more of nudge. It was my first contact, and will not be my last – they are worldwide, including in the US.

Sunday was Africa Day at St. Paul’s. Our African Group parishioners worked for weeks to prepare excellent worship – in English, Spanish, Igbo and Kiswahili – and for many hours over the weekend to serve delicious food of East and West Africa.


Tuesday, the Anglican Center hosted a number of pilgrimage groups, including one from Christchurch, New Zealand, who shared a Maori hymn.

I have been so nourished by being evangelized by the voice of many angels (See Revelation 5:11-12.). As I begin to prepare for my return from this mission season, I find the words of a Sant’Egidio hymn to be particularly appropriate.




One of my joys is being with friends and family when they come to town. The other day, I got an email from my cousin Anne Marie. Anne is closest in age to me among my many cousins, and someone I have always thought the world of. She had just learned I was in Rome, and she and her husband Mike were in town with his choir!  

It was a delight to begin a long overdue process of swapping stories and catching up. Mike’s St. Vincent Camerata, at the Benedictine Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino, performed a program spanning 450 years of sacred music, from Palestrina to gospel. Even Dolly Parton’s Light of a Clear Blue Morning! Thankfully, Anne had brought tissues.

Thank you dear cousin, for bringing me the living and joyful Christ in family.


The Communion of Saints

Alexander Paul Nagy

Missionaries are, by definition, people who are sent, which implies that we come from somewhere else. Leaving is part of the missionary life (see Luke 9:57-62). Leaving is an event, and it is also a state of mind. Sent to learn and serve in Rome, I left behind family, friends and community, relationships sustained by the thin connections of modern communication technology.

So it was with my parents. We spoke regularly, and saw each other whenever dad could get his temperamental iPad to work, but it wasn’t the same as sitting in the same room. During my time in Rome, dad downsized and moved to an apartment near my mom’s facility. My brothers were thankfully there to help, but as much as I tried to be part of it, I simply was not there.

This week, I returned for dad’s funeral. While we were not surprised that his frail body finally failed – the 200 meter walk to visit his beloved had recently been replaced by driving, so labored had his breathing become –  I was counting on coming home this summer to see him, to say goodbye.

There have been other deaths while I was away too. The sister and brother of my children’s mother and my wife of many years died over these last months. Mary Anne died almost five years ago, so it marked the passing of a generation, and a major loss for us. Physical separation and grieving have been part of the fabric of my missionary life, threads of connection, remembrance and loss woven through the cloak of joy I have been given as I encounter Christ and seek to be good news among the saints on Rome.

As many of you know, the death of a parent is a major life event. While I am just beginning this season, I have received a reassurance of sorts. Death is painful separation and loss. As Christians, we are also called to live the hope of resurrection. While I have the same difficulty groping for words as Paul (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-39), like him, I am confident that death is not an end. I know my father lives. Because I feel his presence. It is a change, a transition to a new kind of relating, an unbounded communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14). Dad and I are together in a new way, a way that offers me a glimpse of the great multitude whose robes have been washed white in the blood of the lamb (Revelation 7:9-17). There is a continuity of life, of belonging, of love that transcends the physics of time and space (and this coming from a physicist!).

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Some of us with Mom. See my brother John’s article.

The Anglican Centre II

The Anglican Centre is part of my life here. I recently had the honor of preaching at the Centre’s weekly Eucharist. A wise preacher once taught me that a sermon is intended to bring the Word alive to a particular people at a particular time and place. Sometimes though, a sermon has more universal relevance. And sermons also have a personal element. The preacher is listening to what the Holy Spirit is inviting them to say, and as another mentor once told me, they want to hear it in your voice.

This particular sermon has both broader relevance and also speaks to lessons from some of my own experiences serving in the church. I offer it to you, and invite you to offer your own reflections in return. Blessings.

Midwifing the Reign of God is Messy Business



I recently joined other Episcopal parishioners from across Europe for the Convocation’s annual Academy of Parish Leadership. This year, lay, deacon and priest alike were invited to spend a weekend together in Augsburg in prayer and reflection on the theme of holiness, which our facilitators from Virginia Theological Seminary called “the quest to give and receive love.” We talked about holiness and the liturgy, holiness in the habit of the priesthood, and holiness and the call to service in the Gospel of Luke. I enjoyed deepening the relationships across the Convocation that I had begun to develop at last fall’s Convention and at Bishop Mark Eddington’s Consecration in April. I feel close to the pilgrim heart of this community; they have much to over the wider Church.

I was delighted to see our Italian congregations there in force, both the mission parish of Gesù Buon Pastore in Milan and the ecumenical Christiana Fraternitas community in Taranto. While we engaged mostly in English, the organizers worked hard to make our Italian sisters and brothers feel at home, and they reciprocated by leading several of our worship services primarily in Italian.

A major takeaway for me was the section on holiness in the habit of the priesthood. I learned there had been an interesting planning discussion that led to an emphasis on this being about the priesthood of all believers (see, e.g., 1 Peter 2:4-6). We talked about the priesthood as a holy community called to be pastors to each other, to witness and invite others into the Good News, how as priests we are married to the church and God’s mission, and how we live it all through our beautifully broken vows. There is an order of priests whose tasks are laid out in the Examination found on p. 531 of the Book of Common Prayer. And while that Examination excites my heart and animates my call, the call to holiness is first and foremost found in the priesthood of all believers ordained by our baptism. What better place for exploring this than Augsburg?


This season, as we celebrate all things made new and reconciled in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we realize “again for the first time” that it’s all about forgiveness. Christ forgiving us. You and me forgiving each other. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” If you want to hear more, check out my Easter Reflection.

Last week, grace found its way into my life as I visited a friend of many years and we experienced a new chapter in our story, one based on love, respect and forgiveness.  What a perfect way to celebrate Easter. God is good. Amen! Alleluia!

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Don Bosco Church, Montpellier, France

Fare i Sepolcri – A Maundy Thursday Pilgrimage

After Maundy Thursday services, many people in Rome take to the streets to visit other churches to see their Altar of Repose, the side altar designated to hold the consecrated bread and wine once the main altar is stripped at the end of the Holy Thursday service. There is much written about this tradition, which has its roots in the practice of the Seven Churches Visitation, a Holy Thursday pilgrimage to the major churches of Rome.

IMG_3265.jpegChurches beautifully decorate their Altars of Repose. Each altar is an expression of what the Eucharist and this holiest of weeks mean. St. Paul’s went for a candle-lit Garden of Eden theme, signifying the birth of new creation in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.

A parishioner and I joined the evening’s pilgrimage. We found beautiful settings full of meaning. One particular altar was set up as a long table CBpjY0nWMAAxMrn.jpgdecorated with sprigs of wheat, with bread and wine at each place setting. I felt both invited to remember that night with Jesus and his disciples and also to join them at table.

As we walked, prayed and meditated, we told our stories, lifting up our own experiences of death and resurrection. My traveling companion remembered visiting the churches in the small Italian town of their youth. (They called this event fare i sepolcri, literally and quite informally, “making/doing the sepulchres,” as the side tabernacle is also the Good Friday sepulchre.)  There was a hint of Emmaus in our evening (Luke 24:13-35), and joining with so many others in conversation on the streets and in quiet reverence and awe before the altars made it the perfect pilgrimage. Reflection, refreshment, and always, faith, hope and love.