Two Transylvanias

Back from a month of travel and books!

My last blogs placed me in Brevard and Asheville, NC, visiting friends. Beautiful people, beautiful forests, waterfalls, and cool air. On Sunday morning of our visit, Jon and I walked about 4 blocks to the Unitarian Universalist church in Brevard. It’s called Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, a very descriptive name (trans + sylvania = through a wooded land).

In May of 1999 Jon and I made a more distant journey to Transylvania, formerly part of Hungary and now part of Romania.  Many of the people are historically Unitarian. They experienced a great deal of persecution for their religion and language. The irony is that the Unitarian King John Sigismund issued an Edict of Religious Toleration in 1568 – “The Edict of Torda (or Turda), also known as the Patent of Toleration (Act of Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience), was an attempt by King John II Sigismund of Hungary to guarantee religious freedom in his realm. Specifically, it broadened previous grants (to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists) to include the Unitarian Church, and allowed toleration (not legal guarantees) for other faiths” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Toleration)

Public schools do not teach Hungarian and no Hungarian is allowed in the public square on signs or in speech. Therefore the Unitarian churches keep Hungarian culture and language alive. Their motto, counter to Trinitarianism, is very simple: “God Is One.” In Hungarian it’s spelled Egy Az Isten and pronounced Edge Oz Eeshten. That simple yet profound declaration is posted over every church gate and in the sanctuary.

Our host in the city of Brassó (“Brasov” in Romanian) was the Rev. Sándor Máthé and his wife Sindike. They live next door to the magnificent church in a parsonage from which we could go directly down to the church in a driving rainstorm. Twelve children participated in catechism and Confirmation that day (11 boys and 1 girl!) and received as adult members in the faith. [Fun fact: they used Jon’s pen to sign the Membership Book.] The Unitarian Church in Eastern Europe is far different from this country’s. Its depths of history and tradition are inspirational.

A memory trip indeed! I’ll get back to my intended topic by and by . . . Happy Independence Day, wherever you live!

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