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Monday, February 25, 2013

Partner Church Sunday

Many thanks to all of the members -- and former members -- of First Parish who helped to make today's service a very special celebration of our congregation's partnership with the Unitarian Church in Haranglab, Transylvania.

Thanks especially to Rev. Zsutya Kiss, who sent this greeting just before the service:

We send our best wishes from Harangláb, and we pray for our partnership. This Sunday will be a special day for us, too.

Our partnership began a decade ago, with the support of our interim minister at the time, Rev. Dick Fewkes. We maintained it for several years, and a large group of us visited our partner congregation in 2004. We maintained the relationship for several years, including a visit from the then-minister, his family, and members of his second congregation the following winter.

We tried a few years later to bring a subsequent minister for a visit, but the U.S Department of State did not honor our request for a visa. Eventually, we lost the connection, as ministers on both sides changed and as the barriers of language and logistics got in the way. Happily, the Haranglab congregation has a full-time minister again, and reached out to reconnect. That connection can take a number of forms, and we have already begun by encouraging our young people to write letters to the young people in Haranglab. The children and youth have very good questions for each other, about life in general, schools, and church.

We are very fortunate that Rev. Zsutya Kiss is fluent in English, and that our Director of Religious Education (Ellen Bordman, who is organizing these letters between younger members) has found a volunteer in the community who is fluent in Hungarian. As we learned in church, this is quite helpful, as Hungarian (Magyar) is one of the few languages that may be more difficult to learn than English (Angol).

During our service, some who had traveled in 2004 were present to share memories about what we enjoyed and what we learned. Two pilgrims who were not present shared their memories via a video, which is posted above for those who were not present or who had difficulty with the sound. (We are very close to wiring First Parish for sound from computers, as these are becoming increasingly common in our services and the volume of computer speakers cannot match the physical volume of our historic sanctuary.)

I shared a selection of my photographs from the pilgrimage. I also read from the report of two teenage women who had traveled from New York to Transylvania in 2007; it is one of the best things I have read about the pilgrimage experience. It is one of several sermons on partnership that is available from the UUPCC web site. I encourage fellow parishioners to explore this site for more information about the benefits of partnership, the many forms it can take, and the abundant resources available. Among the most important of these are other congregations in the greater Boston area that have partnerships in Transylvania. Through partnering with fellow partners, we can exchange news and insights, and often directly support partnership connections.