So much of Unitarian Universalism is telling our story. It is the way that we name who we are, the way that we are heard and known, and the way that we make meaning of this thing called life. Our shared stories make up the whole of who we are. This year our ministers are inviting members to share their stories of our shared religious home so that we may know the fullness of our ministry, so that we may envision the larger story of who we are as a community.
In case you weren’t in church, I thought you might like to see my presentation. It was very well received–several people volunteered to contribute, participate and serve as hosts:
Good morning. My name is JC, and I am the chair of the Partner Church Committee, which in 2013 begins its 21st year of coordinating joint programs between our Summit congregation and our partner, the Unitarian Church in Barót, Transylvania (in Romania).
For those of you new to our congregation, you might ask, “Why are there Unitarians in Transylvania??”
The small Unitarian movement in Transylvania dates back to the Reformation, in 1568, when Calvinist minister Francis David (Dah-veed Ference) became skeptical about the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. (If you have more questions, ask me after the service).
Over the past 10 years, my husband and I have traveled to Barót four times with Summit groups, and each time we have gotten to know a bit more about this small former coal-mining town. Last summer, we were part of a multi-generational group of 12, including our Youth Minister Rev. Emilie Boggis. Six of our dozen were teens, and I have to say this was the most wonderful trip yet. These kids of ours were open, curious and engaging. Their friendliness and kindness was contagious—and made me proud.
When we were planning the trip, Rev. Alpar Kiss, Barót’s minister, proposed a startling idea: our youth would spend three days with a group of Barót teens at a retreat house in the forest, a half-hour drive from town.
Some of us on the Partner Church Committee were dubious. Three days in the forest? What would they do? How would they communicate? The Unitarians of Barót speak Hungarian, which everyone knows is a very difficult language to learn.
Well, it worked, in part because the teens in Barót spoke much better English than we expected, and in part because Jesse Klein and Daniel Cymbala took the time to learn some Hungarian in advance through language tapes and encouraged the rest of us (which I regret to say I had never done before). We also had instant translation from a couple of 20-something English teachers in the Barót schools.
At the end of our week, tears fell on both sides as we got on the bus and left town. And the kids bonded so well that we couldn’t help wanting to reciprocate.
So the exciting news is that we are planning a visit to Summit by the Barót teens and their adult advisors for the first 2 weeks of August. 17 people from Barót are on the list, 11 teens and 6 adults.
The schedule of events is not finalized, but there will be several days in the Summit area, including a visit to the office of Summit’s mayor; a retreat of several days that could include a service project on the Jersey Shore helping clean up hurricane damage; a weekend youth con and lock-in at our church involving teens from other UU churches in NJ; and perhaps an overnight in New York.
For the most part, the travelers will stay with host families from our congregation. When out of town, the Barót group—along with our participating youth—will stay in local UU churches (as theComing of Agers do on their trip to Boston).
The Youth Group has committed to planning the schedule of activities, signing up the host families, creating a budget and doing some fundraisers. The Partner Church Committee has offered to match Youth Group fundraising (within our capacity to do so).
A special committee of youth and adults is being formed to organize the trip. Contact Emilie or me if you are interested in participating at any level, from driving a van to helping plan activities.
We know this is a big undertaking. We invite any and all of you to be part of this partnership of shared friendship. We need all the help you can give us. If you get to know these kids, you’ll probably be one of the people with tears in your eyes next August as they board the plane to fly back home.
~ Jean Crichton