In the summer of 2019, members and friends of the Unitarian Church of Barót, Transylvania, got together at two separate occasions with members of Beacon UU Congregation in Summit, New Jersey, confirming the solid relationships formed since the congregations became partners in 1992.
On August 3, 11 young adults from Barót and Beacon began gathering in Madrid. Spain?? Yes, Spain. They rowed boats on the lake in El Retiro Park, took the Madrid Teleférico cable car, hiked in area national parks and visited the Prado museum. But most of all, they enjoyed eating, talking and being together.
On August 11, when those travelers were returning home, 19 other Barót folks were flying to New Jersey for their exchange. They stayed in Beacon members’ homes, toured Summit on foot, met Summit’s mayor and swam in its community pool. We also took day trips to New York City (twice), Grounds for Sculpture, 6 Flags amusement park and the Jersey Shore.
The Spanish reunion was cooked up by Attila Kádár and Klaudia “Dia” Buda, both Barót university students who had gotten to know the Beacon folks on a trip to Summit in 2013. They wanted people from the two youth groups to meet again, “since it had been more than five years for some of us,” said Russ Gomez, who led the planning with Alli Horowitz, both of whom lived in the Boston area and could meet easily.
“We wanted to go somewhere exciting in between the USA and Transylvania, so it would be an adventure for all of us,” Russ said. That meant Western Europe. A Facebook group was formed, and after surveys and voting, Spain was selected. “We decided that Madrid was the cheapest city to visit, and it would also allow us to take day trips to other parts of the country more easily.” They stayed at a youth-friendly hostel with cheap rates, free breakfast and free wifi.
“We often stayed at dinner for 3-4 hours just talking and enjoying our time with one another,” said Steve Lamaita, who was also on the trip. “A highlight came after we climbed the bulk of our longest hike: we enjoyed a picnic including the most delicious cheese board, found in the local supermarket.”
The group plans to meet again next summer—perhaps in Budapest—but no final decisions have been made as to destination, date or itinerary. This year’s participants included Hayley Lugg, Ian Hicks, Ellie Murphy, Alli Horowitz, Russ Gomez, Steve Lamaita, Attila Kádár, Klaudia Buda and a few other European friends.
For the August 11-21 Barót trip to Summit, more than 40 Beacon members volunteered to make the visit a success. Folks signed up to host a guest or two. Some of the hosts (and others) provided transportation in their own cars—or by driving a rented 12-passenger van.
“Over the course of ten days, we laughed, cried and ate—and ate!” recalled Rev. Robin Tanner, who chaired the planning team. Anita and Miguel Porto hosted a delicious Brazilian dinner and potluck in their backyard. Other memorable meals were the Italian dinner at Café Fiorello in NYC, hosted by John Russo, lunch at Cuban Pete’s in Montclair and the farewell barbecue dinner, provided by the Smokin’ Chicks Got Wood food truck, thanks to Michele Blanchard.
During the packed week of sightseeing and relationship building, we wanted the visitors to learn about Unitarian Universalism, a wholly different experience for Transylvanian Unitarians, Rev. Robin said. We visited the UU congregations in Montclair and Morristown and spent one night at Murray Grove Retreat Center, on the site where shipwrecked English minister John Murray came on shore and founded American Universalism.
We came to understand the Transylvanians’ Unitarian faith more deeply during Sunday services, at which Barót minister Rev. Imola Molnár preached and several youth led prayers and read poems. We especially loved the group’s singing of How Could Anyone Ever Tell You that You’re Anything Less Than Beautiful. They had practiced the English words for weeks before the trip.
It was a touching reminder of all the hours, gifts, intentions and efforts that have built our partnership across 27 years. The partnership challenges us across the chasms of culture, language and theologies to find a path to right relationship and deepening spirituality as well as friendship. Look for further information on a Summit youth trip to Barót next summer.