10th Annual International Teacher's Seminar & Inaugural Biblical Study Tour
ROME, ITALY - Report by Steve Staten
November 2004

Rome is called both the eternal city and the city of seven hills. Historically it was the hub of the greatest earthly empire from about 30 BC to 476 AD , the place where Christian orthodoxy triumphed over heresy, and where famous Christians were martyred. It eventually became the stronghold for the faith of nearly one billion Roman Catholics, symbolized by the imposing Vatican which holds some of the most illustrious art forms in the world.

About one hundred and sixty Christians, seventy from the International Teachers Seminar and ninety from the Biblical Studies Tour, spent five days together in tours, classes, fellowship and brainstorming. The ITS group involves those who have met some prerequisites, including the writing of papers and an established role in teaching in their congregations. Douglas Jacoby is the primary force behind both the ITS and the open BST. The former is a developing into a shared consortium for teachers in the fellowship of the International Churches of Christ; Rome marked the 10th annual meeting of the ITS. The BST was promoted through Doug Jacoby's website (www.DouglasJacoby.com). Except for some discussion groups, we were all one big group. Together, we were amazed by the Coliseum (think Gladiator), the Roman Forum, the Vatican, which is home of the Sistine Chapel (think Michelangelo's Last Judgment), the Catacombs and much more.

Friday, November 5th: Pompeii (For early arrivals only)
The conference officially started in the evening but there was an optional one day excursion several hours from Rome near Naples for those who arrived a day early. We were treated to the famous archaeological dig of Pompeii, buried but not completely destroyed, in 79 AD by the volcanic ash spewed from Mt Vesuvius, nine miles away. The city itself was 130 acres and remained hidden for most of the centuries since the first because it could not be found underneath ash and cinders. In fact, this sea town could not be found because excavators expected to find it near the sea but volcanic debris moved the shoreline out by about two miles. First signs of Pompeii were found by accident in about 1600 and its excavations began in 1748. They continue to this day. It is amazing how well the volcanic ash preserved rather than razed the city. The gases of Vesuvius killed all life; through a plaster injection technique, their shapes have been preserved. Many victims were found in the huddled position, holding their nostrils -- evidently they died trying to keep from inhaling the fumes.

While no specific evidence of Christianity in Pompeii has survived, the town itself reveals much of the typical lifestyle of first Roman century world. It takes little imagination to envision the city's pre-destruction pleasures, theatres, places of worship, religions, market places, social customs, municipalities, and even their pets. Some of the artwork that survived is in good condition. It is possible Pompeii is the most important archaeological site for first century Roman culture since it was literally frozen in time (perhaps the wrong metaphor!) in the best overall condition of any site so far discovered. For one quality website on the vast information available on Pompeii, go to www.thecolefamily.com/italy/pompeii.

Friday, November 5th: Evening Introduction
As things opened up at customary introductory dinner and fellowship, Douglas prepared us to appreciate Rome, especially for those without a frame of reference. He handed out and spoke on orienting information. We also heard international missions reports, the first of a number of reports which were scattered throughout our days together.

Christians representing every segment of our fellowship of churches from France, Mexico, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, the Ukraine, Albania, Singapore, China, Kuwait, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States were in attendance. There was greater breadth of representation in this event than any other event in the last two years --