Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Transylvania Resources from UUWorld

UUWorld has just published some great coverage about Transylvania and partner churches:
- Photos, complete with great captions.
- An overview article about Transylvania and UUs
- Celebrating 20 years of the partner church movement

Finally, condolences to the Transylvanian Unitarian community on the passing of the Bishop Emeritus, Arpad Szabo. (more info here)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reportback Photos and Recording

I finally put together the slideshow and audio from the reportback I gave at church on my trip.

I haven't figured out imovie yet, so you'll have to manually sync the slideshow photos with the audio (don't worry, I've given you an audible "ding" each time you're supposed move to the next photo).

Here's the audio
(you'll have to download it and open it with itunes or something - there must be a better way but I haven't figured it out)

And here's the slideshow:

You can also click here to see the photos in a bigger window.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home again - more to come

I've landed safely in San Francisco after a wonderful and hectic couple weeks. I hope to post further reflections and photos on the last two weeks as well as my trip overall - stay tuned!

For those of you who are in the Bay, I'll be sharing photos and reflections at my church, First Unitarian of Oakland, after worship Sunday May 30 (starting around 11:45am).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Travelling by the Numbers

Numbers obviously can't begin to tell the story of my time here, but I had fun compiling this list:
  • Hours on Trains, Planes, and Automobiles: over 100
  • Chocolate eaten: 1 lb American, 1/2 kg European (so far)
  • Beds slept in: 11 (so far)
  • Pulpits I've tried out: 13+ (Unitarian ones, that is)
  • Balazs scholars met with: 8 (I think)
  • Ministers met: approx 30
  • Women ministers met: 4
  • Students met: approx 100 (including middle school, high school, and seminary)
  • Americans met: 4 (2 Peace Corps, 2 Unitarians also visiting)
  • Out queers met: 0
  • Interviews given: 2
  • Hours spent washing clothes in the sink: 12+
  • Shots of palinka (home-made brandy): approx 25-30
  • Plastic water bottles used: more than I'd like (20?)
  • Contacts added to my Romanian cell phone: 16
  • Gods found: up to one

  • Viszontlatasra - Goodbye for now

    I leave Transylvania tomorrow for Taize, an ecumenical (inter-Christian)chanting, peace-promoting, youth-focused monastic community. Then I'll have a few days in Barcelona before I come home. I doubt that I'll be blogging, but check back and see!

    I'll sign off with this song that I've come to like here (don't read into the title though). It's a poem by the famous Hungarian poet Jozsef Attila called
    "Tudod, hogy nincs bocsánat,
    or "You say there's no forgiveness." Thanks to Gyero Attila, a student here, for sending me the link and to Nagy Endre (Balazs 08-09) for introducing me to the song.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Where I've been

    This map has icons for each of the places I've stayed, as well as markers for many of the places I've visited. Be sure to zoom out to get the full picture, and click on the blue and green icons to see more info about my time there.

    View Cathy's travels in Erdely (Transylvania) in a larger map

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Finally I have uploaded photos for you!


    Kinga-Reka's kids showing their temporary tatoos


    Traditonal painted Easter eggs in Arcos- a huge collection a man has built in the church there.

    On the hillside of Brasso (a bigger city near Szentgyorgy) with Erika and Feri, the minister there, with an encyclopedic knowledge of history.

    Musings on Travel, Theological Education, Worship, and Music

    I'm "skipping" class to catch up on the blog. (It doesn't actually make much sense to go to class when my Hungarian vocabulary is too limited to understand!)

    I’m full of so many things to share that I don’t know where to start. I keep reminding myself that the purpose of this blog is not to catalog everything I do or think or learn here! Perzse (of course), that’s impossible.

    Shout Outs

    Here's a shout out to Starr King from Orban Erika, Balazs scholar 3 years ago. This is in her kitchen in Sepsiszentgyorgy ("St. George").
    [Oh, this may have to wait until later - uploading is quite slow]

    And one from Nagy Endre, Balazs scholar last year. This is in the foothills near Gyergyoszentmiklos (St. Nicholas), where we ate an incredible meal cooked over this fire. This is a cabin of friends of friends.
    [Oh, this, too, may have to wait until later - uploading is quite slow]

    And one from me to both sides of the Atlantic:
    I know that folks here are reading this blog--I'm so glad that you are and I hope you'll tell me what you think! (In case you don't know, a "shout out" is a way of sending greetings and recognizing a person or group of people.)* And to those of you back home, I know you're out there too, and I'd love to hear what you think as well! Thanks for your emails - keep'em coming.

    Balazs Scholars

    My experience is that travelling - throughout the states or internationally - changes me. It opens me to new and different perspectives, traditions, ideas, and ways of life that inevitably impact my own. This is one of the reasons I was excited to have the opportunity to come here. I'm still so immersed in this experience that it's difficult to know what impact it will have.

    Just as travelling changes me, so too with the Balazs scholars. I've enjoyed learning how their time at Starr King and in the U.S. has impacted them. They have talked about how they are more open after their time in the US, and at the same time more appreciative of their home here. Endre and Eva became much more appreciative of the local and fresh meat, cheese, and produce that is easily accessible here after being inundated by packaging, processed, and even "hip" organic food in the U.S. They now get all of their dairy products from local farmers and not from the grocery store. Zsolt and Boti are some of the first (or only?) ministers here who are willing to perform queer/"same-sex" weddings, after which people assumed they were gay, which they're not (I am the first openly queer/gay* person that many of the students here have met). Each of the scholars has an openness to change and different perspectives from their travels to the U.S. Does openness create the urge to travel and see new things or does the travel create the openness? True to Starr King culture, I'd have to say it's a "both/and."

    One of the young ministers I spoke to is not interested in applying for the Balazs scholarship in part because the experience at Starr King and in the U.S. is difficult to apply to ministry here. Indeed!

    Theological Education

    Seminary here, as in much of Europe, comes directly after high school. Most of the curriculum is prescribed (now they have a few electives, but even that is relatively new). Starr King, on the other hand, has students from 22-82 years old and only one required course. Obviously SKSM is on the fringes of theological education in the U.S., which makes the difference between SKSM and the Theological Institute in Kolozsvar even bigger!

    The pedagogy here is mostly quite traditional lecture with minimal participation, though the students and professors have a good raport. There are 3 professors plus the dean for just under 20 students total. The first couple years some of the curriculum is shared with the reform (ie, Calvinist/Protestant) students.

    After four (or maybe five?) years of classes, students do 2 years of Assistant Ministry during which they report back to the seminary quarterly. At the end of those 2 years, they do an exam with a committee of professors (and I believe a lay person and minister too?). In some ways, this is quite similar to our 3-4 years of classes, 1 year of internship, and seeing the MFC (Ministerial Fellowship Committee).


    The liturgy here is incredibly standard - Sunday morning, funeral, morning chapel, and other gatherings that I've been to have been pretty much the same: One hymn standing, one hymn sitting, prayer from the minister, bible verse, sermon, hymn, and benediction. (I might not have this exactly right - please correct me if I'm wrong!) The minister is the only one who speaks. Hymns are sung with organ or a capella if it's a less formal occasion. In a Q&A after church this Sunday with Endre's congregation, I asked, "Why do you come to church?" I sensed their deep faith as a couple women talked about how worship connects them to their faith and God, that they need to come for this weekly service and it helps them in the rest of their week -- pretty similar to how I would answer this question! However, this liturgy doesn't move me and I find it rather stiff (not to mention that I don't understand the words!).

    Many folks have a desire to change the liturgy and music, but tradition is really strong. I have seen only a couple variations: during the ministers' retreat in Budapest, we had a service in a local congregation that was led by 4 ministers and three of them did not climb into the high pulpit to preach, but instead spoke among the people (this was quite unusual). This week I also attended the student-led devotion. When I walked into the classroom with chairs arranged in a circle and candles lit in the middle, I immediately felt a different energy - like I had walked into a YRUU (the UU youth group) worship. It began with rousing singing with guitar accompaniament and continued with brief reflections (spoken, then literally - passing around a box with a mirror inside!), then more singing, prayer, and finally a pile-on group hug. Sound familiar, YRUUers? There is a vast chasm between this type of worship and the traditional services -- it's a generational difference that will take a very long time to shift.


    Hymns are sung at every worship, as well as other gatherings - Bible Study (an exegetical presentation by the Dean) opened with a hymn, and in preaching class this morning each student began with a hymn before preaching. Seminarians must learn piano and memorize many hymns. Folks always sing loud and proud! The hymns themselves have a different tonality than "traditional" Protestant U.S. hymns - I don't know how to describe it musically except that it's a different modality than we're used to in Euro-American culture in the U.S. A song will sound almost like a hymn that's familiar, then it will take an unexpected twist (often in a minor direction). All of the hymns are slow, and folks don't tend to harmonize (though the tunes could have some incredible harmony!). Most people (clergy & lay) don't use the hymnal but sing from memory.

    Outside of worship, guitars and folk songs abound. I also got to sit in on the award-winning choir at the middle/high school here. A hundred 7-12th graders with a wonderful tone - it was delightful to get to sing 3 and 4-part harmony with them in Latin, Hungarian, and English. Last year or the year before they won the international choir competition in Budapest.


    I am so glad for the opportunity to be here and grateful for all the folks here and in the U.S. who made this possible. My hosts have been incredibly hospitable and kind - partly because they want to return the hospitality they received while in Berkeley, and partly because hospitality is the name of the game here! I am learning so much in meeting many, many amazing people and seeing so many different places. Sure, it's sometimes hard, lonely, and frustrating - this is the nature of cross-cultural immersion. It's also beautiful, energizing, and wonderful.

    Hopefully I'll be able to upload some photos soon!

    *Because I know that there are folks here reading this, I'm doing a bit of "translation" to make it more accessible to those not quite fluent in English. In the U.S., I rarely identify as gay since I much prefer queer, but of course there are many contexts where queer is not a known category.