Twenty Years of Fellowship (and counting)
This story by Anna Damato has been reposted from nj.com/independentpress. – Ed.
Six adults and six youth from the Unitarian Church in Summit traveled to Transylvania (Romania) in July to celebrate 20 years of partnership with the Unitarian Church of Barót. This partnership, made possible by the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC), has served to offer financial support to the church in Barót and also to build friendships between members of the two congregations.
The Unitarians of Barót welcomed the visitors from Summit into their homes, their lives and their church. Host families were matched with Summit visitors based on age, interests and space available. Adults stayed with their host families all week, taking short trips to the local market and wood carvers.
Youth minister Rev. Emilie Boggis led the trip. Other adults included Jean Crichton and Bob Gunhouse of Summit, Andy Damato of Berkeley Heights, Daniel Cymbala of Westfield and Carol Ulmer of Chatham. Youth were Benjamin Cymbala and Jaime Lara, both of Westfield; Anna Damato of Berkeley Heights, Jesse Klein of Madison, Hayley Lugg of Millington and Mac Russell of Murray Hill.
On Sunday, July 1, Rev. Boggis preached about the meaning of partnership and how it differs across culture. She spoke of how partnership through thick and thin has the potential to change your life, to draw out more love than you knew you had within you. Summit members gave the Barót congregation a chalice, a symbol of the American Unitarian Universalist movement, and friendship bracelets were given out, providing a physical reminder of the long-distance partnership.
Travelers spent the week in Barót visiting local churches, hiking through caves in the Vargyas Gorge Natural Reservation, walking through nearby towns and cities, and visiting the museum, city hall and orphanage of Barót. All of these activities were further enriched by the beautiful scenery of the Carpathian Mountains, with sunsets at 10 p.m., castles, stork nests on roof-tops, horse-drawn wagons and cows grazing on grass in hilly pastures.
After the first few days in Barót, the six Summit youth headed off with 11 youth from Barót to a retreat house in the forest about 40 minutes away from town. In the three days spent there, the language barriers were broken down as Summit youth learned Hungarian and Barót youth learned English. Games, food, music and a bonfire on the final night united the youth, bridging cultural gaps and creating friendships that continue to exist with the help of Facebook and Skype.
The last night in Barót was spent at a long dinner table with youth and adults from Summit and Barót. We thanked host families for their generosity and hospitality, and the youth passed around white t-shirts for everyone to sign.
“All of us were excited to come to Barót, but we weren’t expecting how close we would become in spite of language and cultural barriers,” said Rev. Boggis. “We weren’t expecting to fall in love with the beauty of the land and the people we met. We have formed lasting friendships. We can’t wait to go back.”
In September, the Summit Unitarians will welcome Barót’s minister, Reverend Alpar Kiss, and board president Laszlo Fazakas for a New Jersey celebration of the two churches’ 20 years of partnership. Rev. Kiss will preach at the 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. services on Sunday, Sept. 16. Next summer, we hope to organize a larger group visit from Barót, including youth.
The Unitarian Church in Summit is located at 4 Waldron Ave. For more information, call 908-273-3245 or visit ucsummit.org.