The mission of UUCF’s Partner Church program is to develop long-term, mutually supportive relationships with Unitarians in Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania, and the Khasi Hills of India.
The Partner Church Circle administers UUCF’s Partner Church program with the following focus:
- Strengthening the bonds of friendship between members of UUCF and the people of Szentgerice and Puriang.
- Promoting the exchange of people and ideas.
- Deepening our understanding of our faith and its roots.
- Fostering mutual tolerance and respect among ethnic and religious groups in Transylvania and the Khasi Hills.
- Strengthening human rights and religious freedom for religious and ethnic minorities in Romania and India.
- Providing funding and other forms of assistance to directly help the Unitarian churches of Szentgerice and Puriang and to improve the quality of life of all inhabitants and foster economic development in both village communities.
Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania
UUCF has been a partner with the Unitarian church in Szentgerice, Transylvania, Romania, since October 1990. Szentgerice is a farming village of about 800 people (the Romanian name for the village is Galaţeni). It is an ethnic Hungarian community and Hungarian rather than Romanian is the primary language spoken there. A small resident Roma population lives on the outskirts of the village.
Almost 200 UUCF members have visited and stayed in the village, usually as part of summer trips. The UUCF Community Chorale has made two concert tours in Transylvania. About 20 members of the Szentgerice congregation have visited UUCF including a 2018 visit of 14 people during which they presented a festival demonstrating village traditions. That happens about every 3 years.
About half the people of Szentgerice are Unitarian; the others are members of the Reformed (Calvinist) Church. The two congregations work together as demonstrated by the Medical Clinic opened in 1999 that was sponsored financially by the partners of each congregation (UUCF and a Dutch Reformed congregation in the Netherlands) and built by village volunteers. The clinic is staffed by a government paid doctor and visiting dentist and has operated on a self-sufficient basis for nearly 20 years.
The Unitarian Church was built in the 1300s as a Catholic church. The congregation voted to become Unitarian soon after the Edict of Religious Toleration in Transylvania in 1568. Extensive restoration work is now underway with support from the Hungarian government.
Since 2001, UUCF has provided scholarships to Szentgerice high school, technical school and university students, helping to cover tuition, living costs and education expenses. Because the schools are located in cities, most Szentgerice students cannot live at home while pursuing their education. The recipients are selected and amounts determined by a committee of Szentgerice residents. Click here to learn more about our Partner Church scholarship program.
UUCF’s partner church in India is in Puriang, a farming village of about 9,000, located in the remote Khasi Hill of northeastern India, in the state of Meghalaya – directly north of Bangladesh and south of Bhutan. The villagers speak Khasi, and some also speak English.
The Puriang Unitarian Church is one of several churches in the village. On Sundays, there are three services: one at 10 a.m. for children and their families, another at 1 p.m. for adults, and a home-based service in the evening. An associate minister or lay members of the church conduct services on most Sundays. One of the circuit-riding professional Unitarian ministers conducts services on special occasions. Unitarians in Meghalaya do not observe Christmas. Jesus is considered an important teacher, but not divine. They do celebrate Founder’s Day on Sep. 18 each year, commemorating the founding of the first Unitarian church in Meghalaya in 1887 by Hajom Kissor Singh. Founder’s Day has been designated as a state holiday.
Puriang is a farming community. It has electricity and internet service. Since 2009, due to community action following a participatory community planning workshop sponsored by UUCF, Puriang has been served by a gravity-powered water system drawing water from an uphill source 8 kilometers away.
Our partner church is a simple concrete building marked by a flaming chalice on the top.
About 2 dozen UUCF members have visited Puriang, and the circuit minister assigned to Puriang, Rev. Helpme Mohrmen, visited UUCF and attended General Assembly in 2009.
Next to the church is a Unitarian school that serves nearly 500 students of all faiths from nursery to 12th grade. It includes a lab with computers donated by the state government and has been rated as the 7th best school in the state based on student performance on standardized exams.
Since 2005, UUCF has provided sponsorship funds to school that are used to supplement teacher salaries and provide supplies and support for the school and its students. The use of the funds is determined by the School Management Committee.