Our Partner Church
The UUCS Partner Church Team upholds and promotes the Unitarian Universalist traditions of freedom, reason, tolerance and love by interacting with our partner congregation in Felsőrákos, Romania. Our mission is to foster a relationship through support, communication and education.
Contact our Partner Church Team to learn how you can be part of this exciting, global outreach.
Partner Church at UUCS
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UUCS Partner Church History
The Arc of Our Partnership
How DID we get into a relationship with another Unitarian congregation in a remote farming village in Transylvania, Romania?
Back in 1990 when the Berlin Wall and central European communist governments fell, our UU leaders re-established contact with the Unitarian headquarters in Kolozsvár, where Unitarianism formed during the Reformation. During WWII and the subsequent communist years the communications between them had been limited to formalities. We didn’t really know the status of the churches there except that they were repressed. Top leaders from the UUA visited Romania immediately after the change in government to assess the situation, asking how we could help. The response was a request to reinstate a sister church program that had existed between WWI and WWII.
So under the leadership of Judit Gellérd a Transylvanian who lives in America, a movement began to match N. American churches with Transylvanian ones with the urgency of “saving Transylvanian Unitarians”. And there was urgency.
Many villages were slated for demolition to make way for factory towns. The majority of ministers were way past retirement age because the government only permitted half a dozen students to study theology per year. Teaching religious education in churches was prohibited. Hearing these stories, our minister at the time, the Rev. Linda Whittenberg, responded to the call and asked for a sister church.
Sometime later she received a paper with the foreign words Felsőrákos and Racosul de Sus, Romania and the name of the minister, the Rev. József Kotecz. She wrote a letter describing our church and city and asking if he and his congregation would like to be sister churches with us.
Near the end of 1990 came the reply. I quote in part “We feel too that there is a great deal that can be gained by greater cooperation between the Unitarians in the USA and those in Transylvania. We accept and we are happy to be in a Sister-connection with Unitarian Church from Spokane.” (Back to Top)
Building Relationship in the 21st Century
A Patient Process
So how DO you build a relationship when you don’t speak the same language, have the same culture, can’t see each other, the mail and phone are unreliable and there’s no email? Slowly and Patiently. At least we shared religious roots and the principle of free inquiry.
At first sending money seemed like the important thing to do. It still plays a role, but we strive to find out what the needs are in the village and lend our support to specific projects. They treasure their historic church building – our dollars have helped restore it inside and out over several years. The farm equipment from the communist cooperative was sold off by the government – our first project was to raise money so they could buy a tractor and implements. It showed them that we were serious about the partnership. The present guesthouse project and our scholarship program are other examples. The community assessment process we sponsored in 2005 provided organizational tools, which can be used repeatedly to prioritize, build consensus and solve problems. (Back to Top)
UUCS Trips to Felsőrákos
Making the Relationship Bloom
But visits really make the relationship bloom. Jerry and I were the first to meet them in 1991. After the church service there were tears in everyone’s eyes as we shook hands. József said that it was a holy day because we had come. Isn’t that exactly what Martin Luther King meant by seeing the divine in another person? Let me tell you, it really hit home. Several groups of us have visited since and returned with a deeper and broader sense of what it means to be Unitarian. The courage and faithfulness of our partners through generations of religious persecution is much better understood while sharing the warm hospitality of their homes. The opportunity is open to anyone in this church. When József visited here in 1995 he got a sense of the larger denomination by attending General Assembly and was especially impressed with all the volunteering we do for our church. (Back to Top)