How do you pronounce Homoródújfalu?
Where is our Partner Church?
In a rural Transylvanian village in Romania, with whom we first had contact in the 1930's. The war years and the communist regime intervened. The partnership was revitalized in 1990 when Rev. Boeke and about 20 members of our choir stopped briefly in the village. It is the only church in the village and almost everyone is Unitarian.
Who are the people in this congregation?
These are ethnic Hungarians who are Romanian citizens, since this region was annexed to Romania after World War I. They are Unitarians by birth and tradition for over 400 years. There are approximately 100 families in this farming village. They raise sheep and cattle for milk and cheese and sustain gardens to feed their families. Some have jobs in neighboring cities, but most farm the land for their livelihood.
Who has been there?
After the brief visit in 1990, five of us (Anne Greenwood, John Tucker, Jim Burneo, Jay Hanks and Mary Pugh) went on the 1997 Project Harvest Hope tour, spending six days being hosted by village families. In 1998 our ministers co-led a second Project Harvest Hope pilgrimage and were accompanied by eight others who stayed with families. Bill and Barbara stayed in the minister's home, Rev Ilkei Arpad, his wife Judit and son, Szabolcs. We brought the Ilkeis here to visit us for 2+ weeks in April, 1999. That summer Karl Ruppenthal and David Barbour visited. In 2000 Donna Rolls, Karl Ruppenthal, Valerie and Eldon Wolf, Ken and Emily Duffy visited and attended the Rev. Kinga-Réka Zsigmond's wedding in nearby Homorodszentpeter. In 2001 Bill and Barbara Hamilton Holway led a delegation to celebrate the restoration of their church building in honor of it's 200th Anniversary. Anne Greenwood, John Tucker, Jim Burneo, Jay Hanks, Lois Atkinson, Roger and Marion Thompson, Craig Scott and Susan Toth joined them.
In July 2006, we organized a singing pilgrimage, which included four days in the village. Choir director Bryan Baker was joined by Stephanie Ann Blythe, Roger Dillahunty, Rev. Christopher Holton Jablonski, Michèle Voillequé, Jane and Bob Lundin, Ellen and Allen Fischer, Anne Greenwood, Jeanne Griffith, Susan Lankford and Jan Setchko from UUCB. From San Francisco came Mike McGirr and Rev. Julia Older and Susan Walker-OBrien joined us from Redwood City. They are partnered with Szekeleyjombor, a neighboring village served also by Rev. Arpád Ilkei. We sang at the 325th anniversary of this village congregation and enjoyed very warm hospitality from hosting families and the congregation.
In July 2010 Anne Greenwood, Stephanie Ann Blythe, Marion Anderson, Jay Hanks and Lynn Sullivan stayed in the village for nearly a week, seeing old friends and enjoying their warm hospitality.
This September, 2012, Anne will by joined by Rev. Yvonne Schumacher-Strejcek as we visit for 4 days preceding the International Convocation of Unitarian and Universalist Women in nearby Marosvarseley.
What have we done so far?
All ministers in this region must supplement their income by farming. We have instituted an annual fund-raising effort and have funded the purchase of a tractor, the building of a barn for the minister to enable him to have chickens, a cow, rabbits and sheep, sent donated computers, a VCR, a beautiful chalice and cloth. We have received cloths and weavings from them, and wooden carvings. We have had a craft sale selling commissioned items. We have helped them purchase a house to be renovated for a community center and we raised $22,400 to renovate their church building. We have assisted the minister's family with gifts for their son Csanad. Beyond material gifts, we have given them hope and lessened their feeling of abandonment and isolation. They have given us love, gratitude and a sense of rootedness and connection to our Unitarian heritage.
What can we do now?
At their request we have established a Village Education Project to help the youth and adults of the village go to high school, university or trade school. They have identified 17 students who can use support. People may pledge or donate in any amount. A gift of $400 per year per student will make a substantial difference.
Are there other Partner Churches?
Yes. We are one of 15 churches with partners in the Pacific Central District. Coincidentally, the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, California is partnered with Okland, Romania... the neighboring village to Homoródújfalu, less than a mile away. There are more than 170 congregations partnered continentally with congregations in Transylvania (Romania), Hungary, the Czech Republic, and now Poland, India and the Philippines. New partnership activity has begun in Aftrica. For more information visit the UU Partner Church Council website and the International Office of the UUA at www.uua.org.
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