After months of anticipation, and years of dreaming, they arrived — 10 active members of our partner church in Alsoboldogfalva. The plane trip alone was a big “first”, and arriving in America after more than 24 hours of travel was a major event.
A full schedule was planned, with host families at the core and a mix of church-based and “tourist” activities. All were designed to create opportunities for mutual learning and personal connection.
In the process of visiting various church programs, our guests shared their stories, enthusiasm, and unique talents. They participated in worship services, toured our CSA, taught at Beardsley School, sat in on a staff meeting, and were part of RE workshops. They were initiated into the “wiffle ball ministry”, joined a nature walk, and enjoyed multiple potlucks, hosted meals, and a Cabaret.
Special symbols were exchanged — from them, a framed photo of the Alsoboldogfalva Unitarian Church and a marble “friendship” sculpture (made by Vencel), and from us, wooden plaques (made by Erik Paul) commemorating 20 years of partnership, and shawls knit by our Shawl Ministry.
In her sermon, Frances Sink traced the roots of Unitarian thought to 16th century Transylvania. Some of our guests shared that same history with the 7th grade Neighboring Faiths class.
There were many “firsts” — sailing, bowling, pumpkin carving, and wiffle ball were all big hits. And there were sentimental moments, like the Weston High School “Go Green” concert at which a traditional Hungarian song was performed by the girls choir (conducted by Erik Paul, with linguistic coaching by Kinga Krammer) just for our guests.
Two trips to New York City were filled with new sights. Highlights were Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Plaza, All Soul’s, and Ben’s Deli.
We relied on wonderful translators to provide dual-language for special announcements. For informal communications, gestures and pictures often substituted where English/Hungarian were limited. Imperfect, yes, but always good humored.
Perry commissioned our 2 visiting furniture makers to build an ark for the 5th-6th graders studying Noah’s story. It was amazingly built with no drawings in the Meeting House while the class made animals. (Perry has the debut planned for RE Sunday!) The ark will be a lasting reminder of the visit for years to come.
The Shawl Ministry’s card read:
“Like the threads in this shawl, our lives are now knit together. Our hopes, our challenges, fears, grief and joy are all one. With this shawl may you feel the warmth of our love for you. We are blessed to have your friendship.”
In opening the welcoming potluck, Frank said he hoped the partnership would continue for the next generation, when Trevor (Jane Sherman’s grandson, now 6) and Agnes (Gizike’s daughter, now 9) work together in friendship.
And so may it be.