Annual Report 2013


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Reformed Church in Hungary

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Reformed Church in Hungary 2013


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Bishop’s Greeting Dear Friends, Photo by Richárd Kalocsai We celebrated the year 2013 in our Church as the “Year of Confessing.” For us, this year was more than a simple opportunity to commemorate the 450th anniversary of one of our founding documents, the Heidelberg Catechism. Instead, it was a time to recall our basic gift and task as Christians, to communicate the Gospel in fresh ways and prepare, as it says in 1 Peter 3, to give an answer to all those who question the hope we have. Looking back on the last year, I’m inclined to say that in a broader sense, we were challenged with communication in and outside the Reformed Church in Hungary. The Church Revision Committee began an expansive dialogue with congregations, confronting their ideas of mission and visions for the future. This then formed into a mission statement submitted to Synod that challenged the current identity of the Church, saying among other things that the organization of the Church “must be a tool and medium of the communication of the Gospel creating values, identity and community.” Indeed, in our partnerships around the world, in our paid and received visits, and even in our cooperation with ecumenical organizations, communication has played an important role. This is explained in more detail in the Annual Report, but let me just highlight one example. For the first time in our life, we were able to contribute to the German Church Days (Kirchentag) with our own booth. We were able to invite visitors to participate in (self-) critical discussions concerning the role of Churches in today’s Europe and destabilizing “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)


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social and political tensions we face together. This thought provoking message is one we tried to carry with us and share throughout Kirchentag. “It is our conviction that in an ever diverging Europe the responsibility of Churches, especially the communion of Protestant churches, in creating space for mutual, critical conversation and a promotion of exchange among equals is essential… Otherwise, the so often boasted ‘diversity’ coupled with the financial and economic crisis will turn into a ‘tension test’ for the old continent, and instead of solidarity, frustration and distrust will increase where unity in diversity should prevail – in Europe.” Our motive for re-energized dialogue and exchange is best captured in the motto we adopted as our own some years ago: Ambassadors for Christ. The fact is, we see ourselves, and hope to be seen by the world as well, as ambassadors for our Lord. That is, we place not ourselves but Him in the focus and wish to communicate to the world His message as faithfully as possible –– in words and deeds, through preaching and acting out of the liberating truth which God has shared with us in Christ. I’d like to close with the words of a well-known Hungarian author, Peter Esterhazy, “it is bloody difficult to even lie without knowing the truth…” to which Eberhard Jüngel, my master for life, added that “to accuse another with inaccuracy, failure or even lies, is easier the less we now of truth.” Over the years I have learned that we cannot possess the entirety of truth, but let this serve as a moment of truth in the communication of cultures. I invite you, as a first step, to take a journey with us through the life of the Reformed Church in And as I conclude, allow me a personal note. This is the last report in which I will have the opportunity to offer my words of greeting. In my 18 years of service as bishop and head of the RCH, I have learned that without this mutual, sometimes sobering, sometimes encouraging, but nevertheless challenging and directing communication with you, I would not have been able to fulfill my God given ministry as I have. Trusting that in the future too our common pilgrimage for truth and freedom will continue, Gusztáv Bölcskei Presiding Bishop of the RCH 3 Bishop’s Greeting Hungary, highlighting some moments of our mission and service in 2013. Read our Annual Report as a look into our life that might inspire you to visit, again and again, our English website, developed to serve as our continuous communication with you.


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A Look Into Our Life


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Photo by András Hajdu Through this annual report we hope to give a glimpse into our past year and an honest depiction of the ways in which the reformed people in Hungary strive to live out their faith. 5 A Look Into Our Life


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ROMA MINISTRY: A Step Toward Reconciliation The Synod of the RCH declared Roma ministry a church-wide priority for the years 20092014. From this decision, the Roma Council was founded in 2009 and functioned as the most important coordinating body of the RCH Roma ministry. It consisted of 12 members, three delegates from the four church districts, and was led by a national coordinator. The main focus of the Council was to create a Roma concept and action plan for the Church. This was accomplished in 2013, when the Synod accepted its Roma Strategy at the April session and the finalized Roma Action Plan during the Synod’s November meeting.


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Photo by András Hajdu 7 A Look Into Our Life


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“Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Reformed Church in Hungary as a sign and agent of God’s Kingdom will be a church of personal and social transformation, a community where irrespectively of origin or race, people can experience the welcoming, reconciling and healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” 8 Mission Statement of the RCH Roma Concept The Mission Statement of the RCH’s Roma Concept highlights the Church’s work among Roma as a sign of God’s Kingdom and an important step toward reconciliation. The action plan outlines concrete examples for implementing the theological statements and strategic objectives presented in the Roma Concept. The Council created three action plans, each working toward a different goal. The guidelines discussed in the plan were formed around sociological data in addition to information drawn from local RCH congregations. A nationwide survey was conducted from December 2012 to February 2013 to collect this congregational data. Seven hundred congregations responded to the survey describing their current practices in regards to Roma within their church communities. The three main goals laid out in the Roma Action Plan serve as signposts to strive for when working to become “a church of personal and social transformation” as described in the Concept’s Mission Statement: 1. For congregations of the RHC to preach the Gospel’s life-shaping message to those living on the edge of society, including the large number of Roma. 2. By the service of the Church, Roma will experience God’s restorative and healing love in all dimensions of their life. 3. RCH congregational work serves for mutual reconciliation and repentance between Roma and the majority society. Now that the Synod has accepted the Roma Concept and Roma Action Plan, the work of the Roma Mission Council has been completed and the Council disbanded. Another step in the Church’s priority on Roma ministry comes in the form of a new project, known as the Country Program, which is mutually coordinated with the RCH and Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS). The project is scheduled to run from 2013-2016 and will place a main focus on the


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Photos by András Hajdu Working Together For A Brighter Future It is an exciting time for the RCH and the Swiss Interchurch Aid (HEKS). On 5 September, the two organizations took another step together to strengthen their partnership with an agreement that focuses on Roma ministry in Hungary. The longstanding relationship between Swiss and Hungarian churches built the foundation for the current RCH and HEKS cooperation, and provides a stronghold for the roots of this new agreement to flourish. This next step in cooperation comes in the form of a new, mutually coordinated project known as the Country Program. The main objectives and priorities during this time, which is planned to run from 2013 to 2016, will be placed on the education and life skill development of Roma youth through training, improving the relationship between Roma and Hungarians as well as developing accessibility throughout the RCH. A Look Into Our Life 9 education and life skill development of Roma youth. (See more about HEKS in the adjacent article.) The heart and soul of Roma Ministry, however, lies in those whose day-to-day work and service in different projects, congregational initiatives or programs make the ministry possible. This year, Anikó Uhrin, Director of the István Wáli Reformed Roma Collegium in Debrecen, was publically recognized among the recipients of the annual Wallenberg Award, which is presented to individuals whose life and work is dedicated to helping those living in discrimination. The award ceremony was held in January at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest. The Raoul Wallenberg Association, the Embassy of Sweden and the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources worked together to organize the ceremony. Photo by Krisztian Sereg The program will be coordinated through the collaborative work of the Mission Office of the RCH and HEKS, but will also involve the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid in the area of accessibility.


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We All Sit At One Table Each year, taxpayers in Hungary have the ability to direct one percent of their income taxes to a Church of their choice. During this time the Church creates a campaign that communicates the identity of the RCH. This year’s campaign for support showed a social montage of real people with real stories, because the RCH operates on the principle that “the church exists in its congregations” –– it is a social network between lots of different people. Indeed, the church gains strength from the uniqueness of its members, a message that was reflected in the 1% campaign entitled, “We all sit at one table.” the idea transformed into a bold visual message accompanied by an in-depth website that boasts behind-the-scene information about the theological messages found in the film, interviews with the cast and controls to explore the film’s world. These features allow the message to go beyond the video and show the parallels between modern society and historical times. Caring for God’s Creation The Eco-Congregation project, which originally started in 2010 with support from the Church of Scotland, continues to grow, adding more “eco-congregations” to the program. Now, the initiative is completely self-sufficient and boasts eight congregations within the RCH committed to saving the created world. In April, the EcoCongregation Committee organized a conference that posed the question: How natural are we? The special guest lecturer for the event was Professor Alan Werritty from Dundee University in Scotland. Also, in July winners of the first National Creation Care Competition participated in a six-day study visit to Scotland. During the eventful trip, students of the Fasor Lutheran Secondary School had the opportunity to see the Scottish eco-congregation program in action. 10 A Real Christmas How do you retell the Nativity Story, which has been told millions of times? What is the best way to take a story steeped in so much meaning and share it with today’s modern society? For the RCH communication team, the concept for “The Boy” started as a small idea of showing a modern and unique view of the Savior’s birth and grew into a comprehensive campaign –– a modern depiction for a modern, relevant message. As the campaign took shape, There are four groups representing four of the RCH’s ministries: (from left to right) drug and alcohol rehabilitation, handicapped mission, family counseling and service to the elderly. Photo by András Hajdu Photos by András Hajdu


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Photos by András Hajdu “…our work can be a good example of an extended hand for the new arrivals. Our mission is to give a home for them, to help them rebuild their lives in humanity, and give them Christ’s love.” Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy, Director of the Refugee Ministry Photo by Zita Merényi A Home Away From Home On World Refugee Day, 20 June, refugees, program directors, social workers and volunteers of the RCH Refugee Ministry celebrated the opening of a brand new refugee community center in the heart of Budapest. The community center serves as a place for recognized refugees to meet for language lessons, tutoring, or simply a relaxed space to hangout and watch movies together. It also houses the main offices for the Ministry’s social workers, who work with refugees to help them navigate Hungarian bureaucratic channels. In addition, the building provides a home for an afterschool program, a library with refugee and migration related material (mostly used by university students working on migration topics), and a library specifically for refugees, which is filled with Hungarian textbooks and reading materials in different languages. This year the hard work and dedication evidenced in the Community Center was celebrated when the Eurodiaconia recognized the Refugee Ministry in Brussels for its excellent work in the refugee integration program. Likewise in Hungary, director of the Refugee Ministry, Dóra Kanizsai-Nagy, was commended for her work in this field. She was awarded the Equality Prize from Hungary’s Ministry of Human Resources for her outstanding work promoting equality in Hungary. During the ceremony, Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balogh described it in this way, “The job of social workers is to shake up the world from indifference, changing the belief that ‘there is no way out of difficult situations.’” Crossing the Threshold The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid organized an accessibility conference in March that served as a forum to examine the current accessibility of Reformed congregations and to consider new ways of facilitating handicap integration into church communities. Representatives from different congregations, individuals living with disabilities and those who work with the handicapped attended the conference. Aside from lectures and panel discussions, participants were also able to break into small workshops that each highlighted a different topic, for instance deaf, blind, mentally disabled or autistic. These conversations were designed to examine different churches’ best practices and determine actual issues concerning accessibility, including ideas to combat them. 11 A Look Into Our Life


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The Church Revision Committee (CRC) was created to examine the lives of local congregations and through dialogue determine a national strategy. After its approval in November 2012, the Revision Committee set about examining the best way to create meaningful discussion among the RCH’s 1,249 congregations. A Look Into Our Life Photo by András Hajdu 13


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Photo by András Hajdu While considering how to collect information on the life of the church, the committee, which is made up of 13 people, decided upon a program with a series of questions created to develop a forum for frank discussion concerning each congregation’s life, mission and vision for the future. A packet with discussion material and a short questionnaire was sent to every congregation in the RCH and outlined how best to conduct the meetings and complete the process. The committee suggested the material in the packet, entitled “Touch,” be covered in three separate meetings. This format created a dialogue between the national church and local congregations instead of relying on information from third-party experts attempting to observe congregational life and structure from an outside perspective. Considering the areas of concern outlined in the Committee’s second submission to the Synod, which was accepted in November, the CRC joined forces with the Synod Mission Committee. Together they re-launched the operation of the Mission Committee’s eight working groups, which were originally formed in September 2013 to develop a mission strategy for the Church at the first so-called “Mission Day.” The CRC determined that the groups’ strategic objectives for strategic planning were so closely related to the themes and issues dealt with in the revision process that it would serve both committees best to combine efforts. The CRC invited the Mission Committee’s eight working groups to examine three crucial areas identified from the evaluation of responses:


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“The Gospel is the church’s treasure, the church and its future is born from it. Practically speaking, Christ is our future. There are no models for building congregations that we can just unpack at home and have the congregation already developed. They are born from discipleship and from being followers of Jesus. People spread it among themselves. The community can represent, confirm or discredit the preaching. This is the work of the Word, the Holy Spirit and the reformed renewal process.The possibility for renewal is not above us or among us, but in us. If we do not dare look each other in the eye, then the Church cannot be reformed –– not even if we preach. If we change inside, then the Word coming from us will sound different and our congregations will look different as well. This means a breakdown, a struggle, and in the end conversion. That is why this committee’s task is not putting a nice package of programs on the table, but striving to achieve this inner-renewal.” missionary identity of congregations, mission oriented operation of church-run institutions and structural revision. These working groups were charged with drafting proposals for the next step of the revision process. In their workshops, the working groups focus on deepening congregations’ mission identity, establishing stronger youth and child participation, as well as the topics of church-run institutions, church structure, the payment scheme of pastors and creating a better atmosphere of trust and solidarity. The groups are not only made up of pastors but professionals and experts from different fields as well. András Harmathy, Convener of the Church Revision Committee Photo by Krisztián Sereg 15 A Look Into Our Life



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