First U’s Partner Church Committee actively maintains a strong relationship with the Unitarian Church in Szentegyhaza, Transylvania, a country that was once a part of Hungary but is now part of Romania.

Members of our congregation have visited our sister church four times, learning about its history and the founding of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania 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 to 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.

To join the Partner Church Committee or find out more, please contact Tom Getz or Janet Downing Taylor, or call the church office.

Partner Church Committee Activities

The Transylvania Partner Church Committee actively promotes the partnership by providing outreach to the congregation to engage awareness and support. The committee has initiated the following activities:

  • Set up monthly Zoom meetings between the congregations on the third Thursday of the month
  • Provided funds to help set up a food bank for Partner Church members who were struggling with inflated food prices during the invasion of nearby Ukraine
  • Arranged a joint Zoom worship service and coffee hour with our partner church
  • Started a Facebook page between our Women’s Alliance and the Women’s Alliance of Szentegyhaza
  • Celebrate Partner Church Sunday annually on the last Sunday of January
  • Promote greetings from the ministers of each congregation for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Partner Church Sunday, and Easter
  • Keep our congregation informed through the First U Times
  • Organized a contingent of First Unitarians to see a Szekelyudvarhely Dance Troup perform in Concord, Massachusetts
  • Presented a fundraising dinner to support Partner Church activities called “Taste of Transylvania” and sold a cookbook of the same name
  • Sold virtual bricks to support the construction of a proposed new church for the Szentegyhaza congregation
  • Provided funding for a Szentegyhaza ministerial candidate

Partner Church History

In 2008, our congregation voted to establish a partnership with a Unitarian Church in Szentegyhaza, Transylvania which is in Romania. The church is in this small town nestled near the Carpathian Mountains.

In visiting our sister church, we have crisscrossed Transylvania, learning about its history and the founding of the Unitarian Church there in 1568. Members of the Szentegyhaza church have 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.

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 bind 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. 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 about these interesting trips.

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. Our trips include visits to some of these sites.

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 that are moved along village streets to nearby pastures in the morning and 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. It 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 10 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.