Transylvania Partner Church Committee
The Transylvania Partner Church Committee began in 2006 after a pilgrimage of First U members went to Transylvania to explore the idea of a partnership with the Szentegyháza Unitarian Church. Those pilgrims came back to Providence enthusiastic about this connection for our church, and in 2007 the congregation voted to establish the partnership. Besides organizing more trips, the committee provides ways to promote the partnership by providing activities to support our partner church. The committee members are those who have been on the different trips and other congregational members who value the partnership. The committee continues to provide awareness and information with these activities:
1. Communications between the Congregations
• Supported a visit of the minister and the lay leader of the Szentegyhaza congregation in 2008 and another visit planned for 2023.
• Organized additional trips to Szentegyháza in 2012, 2015 and 2019
• Promote greetings from the ministers of each congregation for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Partner Church Sunday, and Easter.
• Provide monthly Zoom meetings between the congregations on the third Thursday of the month.
2. Congregational Outreach
• Partner Church Sunday is celebrated usually on the last Sunday of January. The committee has sponsored after-service presentations and a light lunch following the service. In 2021 and 2022, we were able to Zoom a joint service with both congregations.
• Sponsored Parish House Social Suppers and programs presenting slide shows of the different trips made to our partner church.
• Provided a ReFresh weekend with the UUPCC and First Unitarian leadership to increase awareness and participation in Partner Church activities.
• Initiated Congregational Conversations concerning the Hungarian Unitarian Church’s position on same sex marriage. There was concern that we should not continue this partnership because of our congregation’s years of advocacy to endorse gay marriage. Because the Szentegyhaza congregation said “anyone from your congregation is welcome in our congregation” and our mantra of “Love Beyond Belief”, it was agreed to stay the course.
• Started a Facebook page between our Women’s Alliance and the Women’s Alliance of Szentegyhaza. One of the posts was sharing Christmas cookie recipes during the holidays.
3. Other Transylvania Partner Church-connected Activities
• Support UUA Balszac scholars including one who gave a presentation of Unitarian History.
• Organized a contingent of First Unitarians to see a Transylvanian Dance Troup performance in Concord, Massachusetts
• Provided a fund-raising dinner to support partner church activities. “Taste of Transylvania” included a cook book of the same name with each ticket sale. The cook Book will be available on line here and for sale at the church bookstore.
• Sold virtual bricks to support the construction of a proposed new church for the Szentegyhaza congregation.
• Sold traditional Transylvanian linens from the village shop to showcase our partner’s handicrafts.
• Provided some expenses to a Szentegyhaza ministerial candidate.
Partner Church News
Due to the continuing Ukrainian conflict, the Romanian Government announced that energy in the form of electricity and gas may only be available for 12-14 hours a day. Our partner church minister, Rev. Kelemen, and his congregation discussed with us ways in which we could assist. We found that we could help them to develop a food bank and school supplies. If people are given food, they will have more money available to pay for their energy bills. And families with children will benefit with school supplies. The Transylvania Partner Church Committee voted unanimously to dedicate all funds in the Partner Church account to assist during this crisis.
The food bank program began in April 2022. Many elderly families were provided food assistance. In May and June an additional 24 families with at least two children were provided food packages. This food assistance was provided by a joint fund of donations from their congregation along with funding provided by First Unitarian. Rev. Kelemen personally provided the food distribution to each family. He said people were very grateful for the assistance.
The school supplies program helped 12 families with school supplies for their children. In Szentegyhaza, parents are responsible for providing all necessary school supplies. Rev. Kelemen believes that “Children are our country’s future and need to be cared for in this stressful time”.
Initially their congregation hoped that, with our assistance, they could house Ukrainian refugees. However, this has not been possible since they are themselves struggling with inflated living expenses even with our assistance. Rev. Kelemen is very concerned about the impact of high energy costs and the availability of energy this winter.
If you have any further questions about our partner church, please contact Tom Getz or Janet Downing Taylor.
The Transylvania Partner Church is currently making arrangements for the minister and his wife, the Rev. Szabolcs and Eniko Antal, and their President, Zoltan Laszlo, to visit our congregation the fall of 2023 as we continue to celebrate our 300th Anniversary. The timing of the visit will depend on international travel restrictions because of the pandemic.
We are also exploring having Zoom buddies between members of the congregation. At the present time a three people from each congregation are forging a new friendship. Members of their congregation can speak some English, so there is no need to learn Hungarian to begin this relationship. If you are interested in becoming a buddy, contact Tom Getz or Janet Taylor.
Partner Church Pastoral Messages
Our ministers exchange greetings from and to each congregation during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Partner Church Sunday and Easter. These messages are used to share with our congregations the friendship we have with each other through this partnership.