In the last week of January 2017, the Unitarian Fellowship of London welcomed Rev. Zsuzsanna Bartha, the minister of our partner church in Kocsord, Hungary, and her friend Maria Roka.
What a wonderful experience! Since 1991, when our two congregations became partners, 4 members of the UFL have visited Kocsord but this was the first time members from Kocsord visited the UFL in London. Many among us feel the relationship between our two congregations has been rejuvenated and strengthened. We are all grateful to have had this opportunity.
We learned that some of our challenges are the same. Both congregations struggle to attract young families. In London this is a problem shared by most mainline churches, as, sadly, many people are moving away from organized religion in general. In Kocsord, the reality is that many young families in Hungary are moving to places like Berlin. In fact, the population of Hungary is decreasing. Only ten million people live there.
Other challenges are different. Whereas the UFL has a wide diversity of beliefs within a fairly cosmopolitan centre where participation in faith communities is declining, the Hungarian church is Christian Unitarian within a community of Trinitarians, mostly Presbyterian and Catholic people.
This is Unitarian Universalism. “We do not need to think alike to love alike”. (Francis David)
Rev. Zsuzsanna has a four-point charge with the church in Kocsord being the centre. She actually lives 35 kilometers away, in Romania, with her husband and three sons. She crosses the border and a time zone every day when she drives to Kocsord!
Rev. Zsuzsanna conducted the service on Sunday morning and spoke about the importance of our partnership and the meaning it has for both congregations. Maria led us in a responsive reading about the importance of knowledge in faith and stressing that the most important spiritual function is conscience. (#566 Living Tradition).
Our wonderful pianist Eric Charbonneau finished the service with a rousing rendition of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
After the service, as part of the UFL’s yearly fundraiser to assist the Kocsord church, we enjoyed a delicious Hungarian goulash lunch – the “real thing”- prepared by Rev. Zsuzsanna and Maria (with help from UFL members)! We raised $1,000 for our partner church!
Church members hosted Rev. Zsuzsanna and Maria for dinners during the week and there was a coffee and cake afternoon mid-week where people gathered to chat with our visitors.
It was a very successful visit and we are so pleased to have had this time together. From London Rev. Zsuzsanna and Maria will attend a women’s conference and a visit with another UU congregation in California. Our sincere thanks go to the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Alameda, California who provided their airfare.