The Transylvania Partner Church Committee, formed in 2006 after the first visit to Transylvania, has been actively promoting the partnership by providing outreach to our congregation with activities to engage awareness and support. The committee members are those who have been on the different trips and other congregational members who value the partnership. With support from our ministers and committee members, we have initiated the following activities:

  1. Communications between the Congregations
  • Supported the visit of the minister and the lay leader of the Szentegyhaza congregation in 2008 and plans for a visit in 2022.
  • 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.
  1. 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 Partner Church Sunday. In 2021 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 congregational participation in Partner Church activities.
  • Initiated Congregational Conversations concerning the Hungarian Unitarian Church vote in 2016 to only bless marriages between a man and a woman. There was concern that we should not continue this partnership because of our congregation’s successful efforts to endorse gay marriage. The feedback from the congregation was to continue the relationship because the Szentegyhaza congregation said “anyone from our congregation is welcome in their congregation” and that we should put into action our mantra of “Love Beyond Belief”.
  • 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.
  1. Other Transylvania Partner Church Connected Activities
  • The committee has supported UUA Balszac scholars and who gave a presentation of Unitarian History.
  • Organized a contingent of First Unitarians to see a Szekelyudvarhely Dance Troup perform in Concord, Massachusetts
  • Presented a fund-raising dinner in support Partner Church activities called “Taste of Transylvania” including a cook book of the same name 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.
  • Provides some expenses to a Szentegyhaza ministerial candidate.
Click here to learn more about Partner Church: HISTORY, CONGREGATION, CHURCH VISITS, PHOTO ALBUM, the COMMITTEE, and TRIP DETAILS.

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Partner Church News

The Transylvania Partner Church is currently making arrangements for the minister and his wife, Szabolcs and Eniko Kelemen, and their President, Zoltan Laszlo to come to our congregation in 2021 or 2022 to help us celebrate our 300th Anniversary. The timing of the visit will depend on International travel restrictions because of the pandemic.

The Partner Church Committee has begun a monthly Zoom with our partners. We meet on the third Thursday of the month at noon. If you are interested in joining us, contact Janet or Tom and we will add you to the Zoom Invitation.

As part of this new experience, we are also exploring having Zoom buddies between members of the congregation. At the present time one person form 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 Downing Taylor.

 

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Partner Church Thanksgiving Greetings

From Kelemen Szabolcs

Dear Friends,

Throughout the many changes in life, we often face our fellow human beings behaviors.  Suddenly we realize how much people have changed.  While yesterday was just born, today it has grown up and walks its course of life.  While yesterday was just an innocent child, today it uses everything it has so it’s life will be satisfactory, and it doesn’t matter if, because of it that, it makes continuous mistakes.  If yesterday was still at rough seas, desperately looking for the shore, today it has achieved a dream, a country, a state, a world.

What have people become?  Amongst all the changes, we often don’t notice that we lost something from our fast-paced lives.  Something has fallen out from our humanity’s basic emotions, something we received from the Indians* of the past.  Our world has become very stiff and cold, lacking the service of love, and the appreciation of God, which is the foundation of our human existence.  Today we’d rather judge.

The last two years have exacerbated the differences and the possibilities to judge even more.  Today we are choosing between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.  One makes judgement of the other.  What would the hosting Indians have done?  They heard that despite all hardships those who reached their lands give thanks to God.  They didn’t say that you can only enter if your skin is red, if you have a vaccine or not, rather they said that we need to dream about the future together, respecting each other.  God had a good gift with us.

Of course, my reference to the vaccine is just an example.  I believe that the alienation in the world due to the vaccine is just another weapon, that humans can be their own enemies.  Men have lost the light.  Shadow is cast on our souls.  The enemies didn’t only challenge us, they didn’t only want to destroy the person, but truly the community.  We have lost a lot.  Such concepts have come to light and become dominant as, does he have enough money for me to meet with him, is he vaccinated for me to let him close, does he have enough political power so it’s worth to me, what do I gain from being friends with him.

With God, there is no change.  The way he created those Indians who with loving hearts have given examples for goodness and the thankfulness felt for God, that’s how God has created us.  Let us be about living in gratitude to God because that’s why we have been created as people.  We have dignity in us to accept differences, even if we don’t agree with it.  We have humility in us to give up our own needs in front of the community and do everything to uplift the community.  We have respect in us to learn from the lives of our famous, exemplary people who have risen from our past to live more fully with love and to work in our present for the hope of the future.  We have gratitude in us, because there is a caressing hand, an embracing arm, people who love us, like light breaking from the soul, and divine blessing.

We wish our brothers and sisters that the Feast of Thanksgiving is truly sublime and gives everyone the fullness of the soul.

Lots of love,

The followers and community of the Unitarian Parish of Szentegyháza.

*According to our Hungarian translator, the word Indian is not a pejorative word in the Hungarian language.


Partner Church Thanksgiving Message from Rev. Liz

Dear Szabolcs and all our friends in Szentegyhaza:

Thanksgiving is around the corner, this time that reminds us to be thankful for the blessings we have received and to all who have shown their love to us.

This year has seemed full of fits and starts – some things that drag on, most especially this pandemic that we are all struggling with – and other things dash by – summer days that go too quickly, long awaited visits with family and friends that leave us hungry for more.  As we move now into fall, we are ready to reap a harvest from our labor, but some harvests remain elusive.  Which makes it all the more important for us to give thanks for those harvests that are possible, the necessities of life that we work for together and rely on always.

Today, we gather together as a church community. There are many lessons learned from our harvest activities. Many a time the seeds of an idea are planted and through care, nurturing and collective work, the idea becomes a reality. In the end we have created something precious. Here in Rhode Island, we await Afghan refugees, work to lessen the violence that thrives in times of trouble, to heal the prejudices that divide us and undermine our hopes for the future and the principles of our faith, to get people access to COVID tests and vaccines, to make sure that people have food and shelter for themselves and their families.

Last year, we started our church year realizing we could not meet in our beloved meeting house. As you know, we changed our worship service from having people come to church and developed the capability to livestream our service over the internet. The work yielded a rich harvest, including our joint service with your congregation during our Partner Church Sunday celebration in January and our monthly Zoom chats where people have been able to start new relationships with people they did not know.

So, even with the hardships, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Some relationships have been strengthened and new ones are forming. We pray that the coming year will bring relief from heavy burdens and the continuation of blessings, especially blessings like the care that moves so clearly and hopefully between our congregations.

We are sending you all our very best wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving.

Very warmly, on behalf of the First Unitarian Church in Providence,

Rev. Liz

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Partner Church History

In 2008, our congregation voted to establish a partnership with a Unitarian Church in Szentegyhaza, Transylvania which is in Romania today but was once a part of Hungary.  The church is in this small town nestled near the Carpathian Mountains. Members of our congregation have visited our sister church four times. We have crisscrossed Transylvania, learning about its history and the founding of the Unitarian Church there in 1568. Members of the Szentegyhaza church have hosted us in their homes and treated us with warm hospitality. We have participated in their worship services and heard their bell ring from the bell tower we helped to build. You can see gifts they have given us used in our services and on display in our memorial garden. This ongoing relationship has created a special feeling towards our sister congregation and a deep appreciation of our shared religious heritage. For more information about this our partnership, click here: Why We Have a Partner Church in Transylvania.

Timeline

  • 1921     First Congregational, now First Unitarian starts a partnership with a village in Transylvania.
  • 1945     WWII causes relationship to cease.
  • The fall of Romania to Communism further suspends the relationship.
  • 2004     First U meets with Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council to discuss reestablishing a partnership in Transylvania.
  • 2006     First Visit First U members travel to Transylvania to explore possibilities of a partnership.
  • 2007     First U congregation votes to establish a partnership with the Unitarian Church in Szentegyhaza.
  • 2008     Rev Kellerman and President Sandor Racz visit Providence, RI.
  • 2010     Messages between congregations initiated
  • 2012     Second Visit to the Village.
  • 2013     First Partner Church Sunday Service is celebrated
  • 2015     Third Visit to the Village.
  • 2019     Fourth Visit to the Village
  • 2020     Monthly Zoom meetings with our partners initiated
  • 2021     First Partner Church Sunday zoom service which had participation from both congregations. Click here to relive that Sunday celebration.

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Partner Church Visits

One of the keys to maintaining a strong relationship with our Partner Church is our visits with them. Everyone who travels to our sister church experiences a powerful friendship that seems to binds us together. The Szentegyhaza congregation always greets us with open hearted hospitality.  Their desire to show us their traditions, and their willingness to learn who we are and teach us who they are, is the hallmark of an open and enduring friendship.

This partnership is not about money or who can do what for whom.  It is about much more; once you are in it and experiencing the friendship, it becomes very personal. It is like swimming in a river.  You are immersed in it and must follow the current where it takes you. The partner church relationship gives us the opportunity to experience spirituality in the connections we make and the relationships we form with our Transylvanian Unitarian brothers and sisters.

Click on the  2006 Visit, 2012 Visit, 2015 Visit and 2019 visit to find out more information on these interesting trips.

Various members of our congregation have visited our partners in Szentegyhaza. We usually plan our trips 6-12 months in advance. The trip usually starts in Kolozsvár, the city where the Unitarian Church headquarters resides. Each trip itinerary is different in some way.

There is a lot of Unitarian history in Transylvania and each trip has explored a different part of the country. There are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Transylvania, many with Unitarian connections, and our trips include visits to some of these sites.  The trip usually last 10 days; the first 5 days consists of a tour through the countryside.  Then we spend Thursday afternoon through Monday morning at our partner church.

The Village Experience

Each traveler experiences the hospitality of a member of the congregation in Szentegyhaza. This is the best part of the trip, a time where we get to know a family from the congregation. We sleep at their home or apartment, eat meals with them, and usually make a bond for life. The partner church hosts a number of events that showcase the area around Szentegyhaza. Come Sunday, We attend service and then eat a communal meal prepared in kettles over a wood fire in the church yard. The last days of the trip return us to Kolozsvár, where we catch a plane home, returning to America with wonderful memories and a new understanding of our faith.

About Szentegyhaza

Szentegyhaza is located in Hargita County, Romania, an area that is predominately Hungarian speaking. It is the located near the Carpathian Mountains, at an elevation 2,800 feet.  There are a number of churches in the area, but this is the only Unitarian Church.  The church has about 300 members.

The Szentegyhaza congregation is a triple minority in Romania. First, they are Unitarians in a country that is predominantly Romanian Orthodox. Second, they are Hungarian speakers where the majority of the country speaks Romanian. And third, they identify themselves as Szeklers, a minority subset of Hungarians living in Romania.

The town is rural and does not have a lot of large businesses although it was home to a large steel factory, abandoned in the fall of communism. A number of the people in town farm for a living. Some herd their cows and are moved along village streets to nearby pastures in the morning and are brought back in the evening.  A number of people in the congregation are migrant workers, and spend long periods of time far from home. Consequently, the full congregation does not usually attend services on Sunday. However, church attendance is especially high during major holidays when the church is too small to accommodate everyone.

The congregation has been in existence for 25 years and was formed a few years after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that toppled the Communist regime.

Click on The People of Szentegyhaza to learn more about the friends we have made over the last ten years.

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Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council

The Unitarian Universalist Association developed a support system for congregations that are interested in developing Partner Church relationships. Since 1993, the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC) has been developing these relationships. The UUPCC assists congregations in selecting partner churches around the world and has a travel office that helps congregations organize travels to their partner churches. Click on UUPCC for more information on this topic. The UUPCC is not just involved with partnerships in Transylvania but has supported relationships elsewhere. For more information on partnerships throughout the world, click on newsletters.