Our Partner Church delegation of ten arrived ten days ago, on Friday the 9th, and were greeted at a pot luck supper at the church on Saturday night as they began their adjustment to the change of time zones – jet lag – and some dramatic changes in environment – culture shock!
They took it all in stride. Literally! They attended both Sunday services the following day, introducing themselves to the congregation and making presentations – a beautiful marble carving and a book presented by Vencel, the carver and author, and a large framed photograph of their 218-year old church.
Looking at the photograph we were reminded of the twenty-year partnership and were humbled by knowing that we helped in a significant way with their church’s renovations.
Over the years we contributed money that allowed them to repair the church organ; build a fence around the church and the parsonage; pave the driveway of the parsonage and the road leading to the church from the parsonage; dig a new well, insulate the parsonage and install central heating; convert the wood stove in the church to gas and repair the roof, siding and steeple of the church.
In the early years of our 20-year partnership we had regular correspondence between the ministers, with some exchanges of photographs, but the human contact changed everything! We became more real to them with our visits to Alsoboldogfalva, and they have become more real to us with visits from their minister, Mihaly and his wife Elizabeth a few years ago, and now with our ten guests who have blessed us with their warmth and enthusiasm.
I’ll never forget standing in their pulpit for the first time, ten years ago. It was as though I was standing in front of Channing and Emerson, who were so instrumental in the formation of Unitarianism in America in the 19th century – just as Francis David was so instrumental in the formation of Unitarianism in Transylvania in the 16th century. I was very moved to say the least.
This visit has had been a huge inspiration to us – each of them has had an impact on us. I’ve shared several meals with them, as well as a trip to New York City last week, where my new hip was put to the test with four hours of walking! It was their second trip into the City; then on Saturday three of them were taken on a round-trip Boston visit with Kinga, who has been here for a few years while attending college, and has developed a special affection for my home town.
I had to miss a few of their events – I had three weddings during their stay, and yesterday I participated in the installation of David Bryce at the Unitarian Church in Belmont, MA. David was an active youth here in the 60’s and was ordained into our ministry here in November of ‘92.
This afternoon we gave our guests a big send off with hugs and the double kiss of greeting and parting, and with smiles, laughter and tears appropriate to the depth of feelings on both sides.
I want to express my appreciation to everyone who helped make this dream-visit a reality, especially to Jo Shute and Allan Wieman who did a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and for the generous efforts of so many others. These have been ‘ten days that shook the world,’ to borrow John Reed’s famous book title. Now there’s talk of another Westport visit to Alsoboldogfalva, possibly next Summer. Stay tuned!