Transylvania Partner Church
Our partnership with the Szentegyhaza Unitarian Church began two-fold. We were exploring a partnership and we wanted a pilgrimage to explore where Unitarianism began in the 17th century. What we found was a warm and engaging congregation that welcomed us enthusiastically and continues to share their friendship in many ways over all these years. Since the beginning of the partnership in 2006, we visited Szentegyhaza four times. We used the services of the UU Partner Church Council (UUPCC) who arranged for each pilgrimage and introduced us to the various sites of Unitarian history and other historic sites in Transylvania.
One year we arranged a visit from their minister, Rev. Szabolcs Kelemen and the president of the congregation so they could get to know us. At that trip, Rev. Kelemen took home a branch of our magnolia tree to plant in their church garden. It has thrived!
To involve our congregation in the partnership, one Sunday a year is dedicated to Partner Church Sunday with songs, stories and messages from each congregation. It is usually followed by traditional foods at coffee hour and a light lunch in the auditorium where video presentations of trips and other interesting topics are discussed. This year the Transylvania Partner Church Committee has been meeting with our partner church congregation via Zoom monthly. It’s feeling like we each have family halfway around the world.
The Kopjafa or memorial post in our memorial garden is a gift from our partner church acknowledging their gratitude for our friendship.
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.
Partner Church Sunday 2021
Partner Church Easter Greetings 2021
Today is especially important to celebrate Easter. Today, when every political and social stratum is ready for us not to have community, not have humanity left inside us, it’s especially important for the celebration of Easter to be life-giving, strengthening and to bring triumph.
I think that we use the period of advent before Christmas to prepare our souls for Christmas, in this same way we can consciously use the period before Easter to prepare for the triumph of life. Just like before Christmas, now, before Easter, I spent four Sundays and the time between them to prepare myself. Because Easter is not only the three days that we call Easter. Easter is a period that can change people’s lives.
If we want Easter to be a real celebration and to bring changes in our lives, we have to understand ourselves and the everyday life and what connects us as humans.
Therefore, the first obvious question is WHO IS GREATER?
If I think the way politicians and others who surround us do, then this question can cause misunderstanding or disturbances in us. Because it’s unavoidable for these kinds of questions and statements to come up:
- Why does this person bother me, when he is not as wealthy as I am?
- Why doesn’t this person understand that I’m more than him?
- I have more power, because I can pay for justice at the court, at the school, at the doctor and so on.
- I’m more important than society, since with power or money I can influence governments, communities.
- Because I have a big enough influence on society, people look up to me as a governing power.
Before God, there are no denominations, skin colors, social hierarchy, financial greatness, only people who trust him and live with him. God’s country, where we can happily be together.
The second question is also obvious. WHO GIVES TESTIMONY?
In the year 325, due to the ruling of Constantine the Great, the pagan emperor, they wrote in the Bible. That’s when they articulated and introduced the Holy Trinity to the religious world. Without that, there wouldn’t be a Holy Trinity. We call it the Nicene Creed. According to this, Jesus or one of the saints can give their testimony for us. Us, Unitarians are more honest than that. We say what the original words of the Bible say (1 John 5:7): For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. We are made of flesh and blood. In humans our body is made up of 60% water and we received our soul from God. All these three are inside us as one. Therefore, we have to give our own testimonies. We would be waiting in vain for someone else to do it for us. That won’t work. That would be passing our mistakes and human weakness on someone else. Before Easter we have to prepare to give testimony of ourselves.
When we have understood that before God, we are equal, and we cannot wait for someone else to give testimony for our mistakes and human weaknesses, then we also have to ask WHO IS THE TRUE STUDENT?
There is a great story in the Bible about the Last Supper. God calls everyone to share at his table, but a lot rejected it. Today we see, that similar to this story, a lot of people reject God’s invitation. They have other things to do. Either work, money, or social situation, or social judgment, or political view is the reason why they don’t dare or don’t want to accept the call to be students. Getting closer to Easter we shouldn’t forget that Jesus entered Jerusalem. Therefore, on every Palm Sunday Jesus’s teachings should also have the opportunity to enter our lives. That’s how that teaching can be a “path, truth and life” for us. Easter can only be a true spiritual celebration for those who accept themselves as students. For other people, it’s only tiredness, two-facedness, work and financial opportunity.
After all this, there is one last question. WHO IS THE BRAVE?
The rich young man wasn’t brave enough to follow Jesus and become a student. Jesus was brave enough to face his actions and the responsibilities of his dedication. A lot of people weren’t brave enough to face the owner’s invitation for supper. A lot of people are still not brave enough today to live with the opportunities they receive from God. The period of Easter is about this bravery. Am I brave enough to take up on the cleaning of the temple with Jesus (Palm Sunday)? Am I brave enough to spiritually be part of the last supper (Good Friday)? Am I brave enough to give my life a chance to have Jesus’s teachings resurrected in me (Easter)? Because those make me a different, more noble, more just person, who is not looking for the benefits of the financial, positional and human battles, but lives for God’s guidance, in who’s soul there is life, faith and strength. One who doesn’t complain, but lives life, who is not a modern slave of power, but is God’s coworker.
We believe that those who approach Easter with faith can give a proper answer to these questions with their lives. We believe that you also prepare for this Easter celebration with this honesty. This is a way for our souls to connect and we can be together during this celebration, even though seas and miles separate us, because love in God’s country has no boundaries, only love and agreement for the future and happiness. We wish you a beautiful Easter. We wish Easter’s flame to light up on us and we wish to be the workers of God’s country.
With faith and love:
Dear Szabolcs and all the Szentegyhaza congregation,
Easter greeting to everyone! Already here the days are longer, the sun is brighter, the air is warmer, the trees are budding – new life is coming, and the renewal of spirit that Spring brings and Easter celebrates is beginning to be felt among us. As well, vaccinations are beginning to be common among us, which brings a whole new, and unique, sense of renewal, unlike anything we have ever felt before and, we pray, unlike anything we may ever feel again.
We have spent this pandemic finding new ways to care for each other, new ways to connect with each other, and new opportunities to provide care and support far beyond our own congregation. it has been a time of growing and changing, of trying and failing and succeeding, of learning while doing, of risking and striving. Most of all, this has felt to me, and I think to many in our congregation, like a deeply faithful time, when living what we believe has been challenging, imperative, creative and compelling. I find myself often deeply tired at the same time that I feel urgent and clear about the possibilities and manifestations that are possible all around us, and I think a lot of people feel this way.
This week we celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, which is also a personal holiday for me since my family is half-Jewish. Next week is Easter and we will be exploring the deep mysteries of faith – using the opening of the Gospel of John – “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God….” in the light of ancient Christian Gnosticism and modern understandings of science and reality, to consider what we can know, what we don’t know, what we can’t know. What we believe and what we love and what we don’t believe. These questions are ancient and still meaningful across all faiths, and, I believe across the versions of Unitarianism that animate our two congregations.
How I look forward to our opportunity, finally, to gather again and consider such questions together, to learn from all that is different between us, and from all that we deeply share. Until that day, these messages of goodwill and awareness that move between our communities like doves, like hands across a chasm, continue to offer an important bond.
We are sending you all our very best wishes for a joyful Easter and a happy and healthy spring.
Very warmly, on behalf of the First Unitarian Church in Providence,
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.