Immersion–part one

“Say yes to everything.” As an operating principle, this approach has worked out well for me.

I said “yes” to helping an MA student in art history practice her English—and as a result was shown details on a tour of the old, walled city that I would have otherwise missed.


Here, in the oft visited St. Michael’s

my guide pointed out the angel holding the blazon (coat of arms) of Sigismund of Luxemburg, markings that indicate which mason cut the stone, and the symbols that enable the faithful to identify saints, in this case female saints, by name. In this case, Mary, of course, holds an infant Jesus. To her left is Saint Barbara holding a tower and on the right is Saint Catherine of Antiochia, holding a wheel.

I said “yes” to going on a bus trip with the seminarians on their spring break—and enjoyed an intense, eight-day  excursion that took in Belgrade, Ljubljana, Trieste, Padua, Verona, and Venice.

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The six-day road trip I undertook last week was filled with similar opportunities—all of them embraced. As a result, I feel I have had a deeper look into my subject matter, Unitarianism in Transylvania in the 21st century.

This cultural immersion began with no less than a baptism. I picked up my low-budget rental car, something of a five-speed, four-door golf cart, and set off early on Sunday morning for the two-hour drive to Marosvásárhely. A miscalculation on a roundabout in Torda put me on an tour of the industrial area and made me late for the first hymn at the Bolyai Street Church, a church I had been to once before, for Easter and the celebration of The Lord’s Supper.

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This Sunday, I arrived in plenty of time to hear the sermon by the seminarian, Csongor Benedek, whose family home in Segesvár was my target destination for later that afternoon. I was also there for the Mother’s Day poetry recitations by a group of small children and for the baptismal sermon delivered by the minister. Multiple sermons are common on special occasions, and something I would experience several times over the coming days.

The baptism itself was a simple ceremony conducted with water from a carafe. I had misunderstood the Mother’s Day celebration to be part of the baptism, but Csongor set me straight in the minister’s office where we went for him to hang the robe he had worn for the service. We were still in the office when the celebrating family came in to sign the church register, a nice reminder for me that a baptism is not just ceremonial, but also an administrative matter.

We made a quick stop at the recently built Stony Hill Church so Csongor collect his things from the guesthouse for the trip to his parent’s parish.

Csongor and I were keen to get on the road quickly as I had said “yes” to an invitation to attend a community lunch. The lunch was a sending-off celebration for the assistant minister at the Reformed Church in Segesvár, who been called to minister to a church in Edmonton, Alberta. Csongor’s parents had been gracious and invited me, a visiting Canadian, to join them.


We arrived a little late for the soup lunch (my messy plate speaks to my serving skills), but having not had much for breakfast, I was happy that the serving bowl brought out for Csongor and me had enough for us each to have two bowls.

I was feeling settled by my bowl of soup and the glass of traditional brandy called pálinka that is part of any celebration, and the medicinal start to many Hungarian mornings, when I tuned into the fact that “lunch” was not over. Hungarian hospitality meant more food was on the way—this time in the form of a plate with both a pork chop and a chicken breast, along with potatoes and salad.

The music and dancing that had been underway continued throughout the meal. Well, people did stop dancing to eat, but the singing did not stop. Rather, people would put down their forks to join in if the musician started a favourite number. Fuelled by pálinka and wine, the songs could go on for some time with people adding verses to suit the occasion. In the video below, the musician announces a performance by “Two Reverends and a Cantor” that goes on for more than 10 minutes!

IMG_4502Csongor and I sat at a table with his mother, Enikő, who I knew from the trip to Venice, and his father Jakab, who was the Unitarian minister for Segesvàr and the small village of Fehéregyháza, just outside of the city.

Although the party went on into the early evening, we set out around four o’clock, so Csongor could give me a tour of the two churches. Next post, I’ll take you on a tour of these and some of the highlights of my days deeper in Székely Land.


Happy at home at the end of the day.


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2 thoughts on “Immersion–part one

  1. I love it! What a fantastic post. This must have taken HOURS to write, to select & crop photos, create slide shows, and put the video clips into postable form. You have such an eye for composition & detail. So many great photos; ‘Saying yes to Charlie in Padua’ is definitely one of my favourites. What an INTERSETING trip you are having! The ‘saying yes’ principle is really paying off. What great insights into the lives of Transylvanian Unitarians. How interesting that the Hungarian flag and same-coloured flowers are such a prominent part of their church. Their religion is part of their identity as a people. Hungarian people preserving their Hungarian-ness even after the borders were redrawn and their traditional land is now part of Romania. Thank you for sharing your trip, your work, and your art.

    Liked by 1 person


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