September 2023 – News and Changes with Our Partnership
Rev. Julie and Peggy Stokes met with Rev. Tamas Tofalvi and his wife Kinga for an introductory Zoom meeting in September 2023. We got a quick peek at their daughters Fanni and Heidi, who will turn 8 and 6 years old in October.
In recent years, after much reflection, the UUA has decided that the partnerships are too patriarchal, with overtones of colonialism. Even prior to that, Rev. Tamas had asked us to stop any financial aid or scholarships and let the partnership focus on Friendship and Travel. They are always eager to host any visitors. Just a week or two before our call, they had had some people traveling through from Germany and the UK. When touring the inside of the church, their guests were surprised to see an American flag hanging there — one of the items that Rev. Tamas requested during their 2016 visit to Milford. He explained the connection to Milford to their guests and said that they hung the flag at their church because they are proud to have American friends.
During the 2016 pilgrimage to Transylvania, we learned that many local churches own land that is a tremendous source of income for them. Szekelyszentmihaly owns 400 hectares (~1,000 acres) of forest and field. They
took us there for a picnic one day. Traditionally, they have made money by leasing the land for sheep herding and timber. They were approached by a company that has proposed turning 2/3 of their 100-hectare pasture land into a “solar park”. They are currently weighing offers from two different companies. So much for the colonialism! Clearly, we have a lot to learn from them!
Read more about our Partner Church History
April 2022 – A Note from Rev. Tamas Tofalvi
“As a European, I thought that we have learnt the lesson during the two world wars, but it seems we still haven’t. A cruel destruction is happening in our neighbourhood, but if I may say so, thank goodness it hasn’t reached us yet. And we really hope it never will. Here, where we live, in the inside areas of Romania, there are no refugees (we saw only some cars with Ukrainian license plates, probably passing through), but there are many refugees in the regions next to the border. It’s really difficult to accept the situation because it’s happening so close to us. And there is a natural fear in people. The biggest fear is mostly because of the livelihood. The prices went up because of the war, because of the price of the fuel (1 Liter is almost 2 dollars). We hope that not only we won’t get involved in it, but also the whole conflict will soon end in the near future.”
Romania shares a 380 mile border with Ukraine, so naturally as attacks on Ukraine unfolded and citizens were fleeing, there were concerns in Milford about if there might be any impact on our friends. Fortunately, they are inland, far away from borders and fighting. For reference, they are 600 miles from Kyiv and 950 miles from Mariupol.
November 2019 – Sad News from our Partner Church
We often find that there are interesting parallels between UUCM and our partner church in Szekelyszentmihaly, Transylvania, Romania. One terribly unfortunate one this year has to do with the congregation’s president and cancer. We learned of the recent death of Varga Denes (Denko) and Rev. Tamas recently relayed more information and explained the impact of his friend’s death.
“We have been going through a very difficult year and it’s not over yet… Unfortunately, this year every plan or activity has been overshadowed by the illness of our beloved Denko. He got ill in April and from then until September we went from one doctor to the other, from one hospital to the other. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he had no chance. His illness and his death has affected us deeply in every aspect. We have lost a very good man, friend and companion … it broke our hearts. Moreover, the man worked so much for this congregation, and now 90% of his work has fallen on my back, thus unfortunately i don’t have time for anything. I am sorry that our partnership/friendship got so neglected, I really hope we can breathe new life into it from now on. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…”
Another interesting coincidence is that their building was build in 1870.
“This year’s most outstanding event was the celebration of our church’s 150 years of existence. This was the last congregational event in which Denko took part, even if only for a short while. It was a blessed and moving celebration.”
After our meetings and trips in 2016, Rev. Tamas asked that we change our focus to “friendship and travel” vs scholarships and capital projects as we’d undertaken previously. I try and respect that wish, but also often probe into any ways that we can support their community. In the spring/summer of 2018, they’d hoped to build a playground near the school. Since it is a public building, they need the co-operation of local government (mayor of 13 nearby villages).
“And about the playground: unfortunately our mayor did not keep his promise and he wasn’t able to make a fence around the area. So, for now we are left with our plans, because until the area is fenced in, it is impossible to make the playground, since it is near the main road. We are waiting for the mayor to do his part… but knowing him, we don’t expect too much from him. So the area is prepared, our ideas are ready in our heads, but only God knows how much time will take to accomplish them, it depends on the fence…”
“We would like to set our relationship on the old footing, moreover to add a lot more to it. I’m hoping that soon we will recover from this emotional state, since the whole congregation had been shaken by the loss of our right hand Denko. We need to reorganise the whole functioning of the congregation. We are sending our greetings to the whole congregation, wishing you all the best in the world.
Love, Kinga and Tamas”
January 2018 – New Gate Marks 450th Anniversary
Inspired by the anniversary, our partner church in Szekelyzentmihaly completed a beautiful new gate welcoming people visiting the church. This style of gate is seen everywhere in the Szekely region of Transylvania and is a beautiful art form. There are dozens of gates at residences in our village, each with unique carvings.
This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda, which allowed local communities to freely elect their preachers rather than following the state church.
January 2017 – An Update from Tamás & Kinga
Tamás & Kinga sent a long letter about events in Szekelyszentmihaly. Highlights include:
- Tamás and Kinga will welcome a new baby in September.
- In November, the bishop will visit; an event that only happens every 35-40 years. This is a huge event!
- There will be a ceremonial inauguration for Tamás.
- One-quarter of the
May 2016 – UUCM Welcomes Partner Church Minister and Family
Reverend Tamás Tófalvi visited UUCM from our Partner Church in Szekelyszentmihaly, Transylvania. He was accompanied by his wife Kinga, who is an English teacher, and their 8-month old daughter. Read more about Rev. Tamás Tófalvi and his family.
During their 3-week stay in Milford, NH, the Tófalvis attended numerous church and local activities and visiting Boston, New York City, and the Maine coast. See photos from their visit.
August 2014 – Partner Church’s New Minister
The enthusiastic new English-speaking minister, Tamás Tófalvi, is bringing new energy into Székelyszentmihály parish. His many diverse projects are increasing the involvement of people in church and parish activities. Read Rev. Tófalvi’s letter.