Approximately a dozen MLUC members will be embarking on a pilgrimage to Transylvania, Romania, August 12–20, 2013 to explore the roots of Unitarianism. Travelers will spend four days visiting with the members of our Partner Church in their homes in Várfalva and will join them in a traditional village celebration, led by the Unitarian bishop of Transylvania, of the 400th anniversary of the use of the word "Unitarian" on their church.
MLUC is proud to be partnered with the Várfalva Unitarian Church. Our partnership began in 1992 and continues to be renewed through visits and regular communication. In 2002, the members and friends of our church signed a covenant promising “to nurture a partnership based on friendship, respect, and mutual support.”
The MLUC Partner Church Committee works to maintain the ties between our two congregations. We also raise funds from our community on behalf of the Várfalva church. The financial support that we provide helps pay for Unitarian religious education; we currently give money for scholarships to the Unitarian high school in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) and for the church’s Sunday school program.
History of Várfalva
The Várfalva church was the first in Transylvania to take the name “Unitarian,” not long after King John II Sigismund of Hungary issued the Edict of Torda in 1568, the first known guarantee of religious freedom in Europe. Transylvania, once a separate principality and later a region of Hungary, was ceded to Romania after World War I. The congregation of our partner church speaks Hungarian and retains their Hungarian culture.
Unitarianism traces its roots to 16th-century Transylvania. There, a theologian named Francis David converted the king and much of the population to a radical theology that espoused the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus and held up reason and tolerance as the pillars of its faith. Our Unitarian brothers and sisters in Transylvania have suffered centuries of persecution that began after the death of King John II Sigismund, but they have kept their faith.
Today, some 60,000 Unitarians live in Transylvania. Many of their approximately 120 churches are paired with a UU partner church. Although their religious beliefs and church services are more traditional than ours, we all share some basic values and principles:
The use of reason in matters of faith
Belief in absolute freedom of conscience
Tolerance of differing opinions
The villages, towns, and cities of Transylvania, an area about the size of the state of Indiana, are set in a lovely hilly and forested landscape. The people open their hearts and homes to their partners in faith from across the ocean. Many Unitarian families farm land that has been passed down for generations. They still struggle to recover from the effects of more than 40 years of rule by Communists, who oppressed all religious groups but especially Unitarians because of their Hungarian ancestry and their devotion to freedom of thought.
Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council
Soon after the collapse of the Communist government of Romania in 1989, informal connections between Unitarian churches in Transylvania and Unitarian Universalist churches in other countries began to strengthen. Several Unitarian Universalist congregations formed relationships with particular churches in Transylvania. In 1993, the Partner Church Council grew out of the Unitarian Universalist Association to help coordinate resources and connections between North American churches and those overseas, which now include churches in other Eastern European countries, India, and the Philippines.
Congregations in long-term international partnerships enjoy close friendships and spiritual growth. For more than 15 years, Unitarian Universalists in Canada and the United States have made friends worldwide, helping to build the global community of Unitarian Universalists. Each partnership expresses the values and vision of the two churches that come together.
Here are some examples of what partners do:
Exchange visits and sermons in each other’s church
Work together on community projects, such as water systems for clean, reliable water
Share religious services, histories, and traditions
Work together to provide economic opportunities, such as a dairy operation
Build and repair churches and parsonages
Address community needs, such as a medical clinic
Develop communication systems and letter-writing partners