A Sign of Peace and Partnership

2018. július 10., kedd

A delegation from the Church of Lippe, made a partnership visit to Hungary at the end of June. During this visit, the group was introduced to the recent activities of the RCH and met with representatives of various ministries.

The Church of Lippe, Synod Committee for Ecumenism, World Mission and Development made a partnership visit to Budapest, Hungary. On 21-24 June 2018, the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) hosted the delegation with the common conviction to strengthen and expand the partnership. The aim of this partnership visit was to provide an opportunity for the delegation to learn about the current focus of the RCH, as well as to evaluate and plan new fields of cooperation. 

The Church of Lippe is a longstanding partner of the RCH and will celebrate the cooperation between our churches for 20 years in 2019, as well as the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the Church of Lippe and the Transylvanian Reformed Church District of the Reformed Church in Romania. The partnership is maintained through a series of personal visits to Hungary, including the attendance of Moderator Arends to the Reformed Jubilee celebration in January 2017 and of youth delegates to the Starpoint Youth Festival regularly. 

The delegation headed by Rev. Dietmar Arends, moderator of the Church of Lippe consisted of members of the Synod Committee for Ecumenism, World Mission and Development of the Church of Lippe, including Rev. Stefanie Rieke-Kochsiek, convener of the Committee, Rev. Dieter Bökemeier, pastor for Ecumenical Relations and Mission and Refugee and Migration, and Sabine Hartmann, consultant for Ecumenical Learning. 

Close encounters with the work areas and recent activities of the RCH in Budapest, as well as in Debrecen, provided momentum for meaningful conversations. On the first day, the delegation visited the Roma Mission project, Temegén, a Reformed community center dedicated to promoting a more active community of Roma and non-Roma children with programs and learning opportunities for the children in the neighborhood, and met with Rev. István Lakó, the local pastor and head of the community center. The delegation engaged in conversation with Presiding Bishop, Rev. Dr. István Szabó, where perspectives of future development in partnership between the Church of Lippe and the RCH were discussed. The group also visited Kalunba Social Services, the implementing partner of the RCH in Refugee integration, and met with Dóra Kanizsai, head of the Refugee Integration Unit, Balázs Acsai, CEO of Kalunba, and Agnes Székely, coordinator for HEKS-related refugee work of the RCH, where they learned of the hostility towards refugees and how the current state legislation is interfering in their ministry. Alongside other partner churches of the RCH, the Church of Lippe stands in solidarity with the work being done by Kalunba Social Services. 

Conversations continued the next day in the RCH Synod Office with Boglárka Szűcs, coordinator for the RCH Eco-Congregation movement, Edina Prikryl, coordinator of Starpoint Youth Festival of which the Church of Lippe regularly sends youth delegates encouraging networks among the youth of both churches. The delegation also met with Andrea Veres, coordinator of the RCH Kindergarten project, where she and her colleagues shared of the new state-financed project in establishing Reformed kindergartens in 70 locations throughout Hungary. 

The Kindergarten project is a 90 million euro-project funded through the EU, including construction of new schools, extension of existing church-run institutions, and buying schools from other stakeholders. The Reformed Church in Hungary hopes to build a network of kindergartens that share in Christian values and spirituality. In addition to education, the Reformed Pedagogical Institutes will focus efforts on offering personalized help of emotional and cognitive developments of the children, and ensure proper preparation for future schooling, irrespective of the children’s’ social and familial backgrounds, as well as their individual skills. This approach and principle of equal opportunities is a neglected issue in recent years in Hungary, causing the burden of educating children to increase. The institutions will also implement technology-aided assessments of sensory-motor functions in early infancy. 

The delegation also visited the Reformed Eco-Kindergarten in Rákoscsaba and met with Director Katalin Nagy-Szikszai and her colleagues, where the delegation learned of the first Reformed kindergarten in Budapest. The director of the kindergarten shared the aim of the institution which is to cooperate with families to encourage optimal development of the children, and introduced the various programs in promoting awareness. 

“The kindergarten accepts children of other denomination, since the Bible, the person and teachings of Jesus Christ are the same for all of us.” (Kindergarten of the Reformed Congregation in Rákoscsaba) 

The kindergarten is an eco-kindergarten, advocating environmental awareness in the education of the children. Furthermore, the kindergarten is open to accommodate children with special needs, including children who are physically disabled, visually impaired, or hard of hearing. Children with special needs are fully integrated into the classrooms, with the help of sensory-motor and speech therapists, as well as other staff members. The delegation was also greeted by Rev. Zoltán Füzesi, pastor of the congregation in Rákoscsaba in charge with running the kindergarten. 

“We do everything in our power to develop children with special needs according to their abilities, in order to lessen their excessive distress and discomfort, and to help them on the way of self-recognition.” (Kindergarten of the Reformed Congregation in Rákoscsaba) 

On the third day, the delegation visited Debrecen and met with representatives of the Transtibiscan Church District, Vice Bishop István Derencsányi, Dean of Debrecen Presbytery Zsigmond Vad, and Professor László Gonda, ecumenical officer of the District. They also visited the Reformed Collegium as well as engaged with Rev. Sándor Zán Fábián, Bishop of the Reformed Church in Transcarpathia in Ukraine, who illustrated the Reformed church in a larger context with Hungarian-speaking Reformed churches in six neighboring countries, highlighting the current issues and challenges that the Hungarian Reformed communities in Ukraine are facing. 

On Sunday, the delegation gathered at the German-speaking congregation of the RCH, where Moderator Dietmar Arends, in his sermon, spoke of the task of the churches in Europe in light of the present challenges as standing together as a sign of peace. After the service, Rev. Eszter Dani, pastor of the German-speaking congregation and head of the RCH Mission Office, greeted the delegation and introduced the life of the congregation and talked about the work of the national Roma Mission of RCH. 

As the 20th anniversary of the partnership between the Church of Lippe and the RCH approaches, there are plans for a conference to take place in celebration of the cooperation of the two churches. The churches are able to develop their partnership as they continue to assess and plan for the future, standing together in solidarity. 

 

Priscilla Yang

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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.