In many countries of Central and Southern Europe, the United Methodist congregations try, in an amazing variety of ministries, to be «Church for others» and to impact the respective society in a beneficial way. Sometimes, this also means to take a risk.
On September 1, 2013, the UMC in Hungary took over the leadership of the Forrai Arts Secondary School in Budapest. This important milestone in the history of both the school and the church had been preceded by many conversations, clarifications, and prayers. Although the finances that are needed to run this school mainly come from the Hungarian State, it is a considerable responsibility for more than 400 students and teachers that now lies with the Church.
The past five years have proved that it was worth taking this risk. There have been many valuable encounters and experiences, and a number of relationships have grown that are trustful, reliable, and sustainable. Three members of the UMC work at the school and do not only contribute towards the education of the students but also invest their time in the relationships to the other teachers. They also offer, for instance, a spiritual retreat for teachers and a Bible study and discussion group. Pastor Zsófi Pásztor, one of these three United Methodists, has a part-time appointment to the Forrai School and is also available for pastoral care.
The presence of the Church in the everyday life of the school is highly appreciated – and in reverse, a number of students participate in the camps of the Church. A special highlight of this year was once again the English Camp with United Methodist teachers from Texas (USA). And since the students are allowed to do their social service in the Church, as well, it regularly happens that they make, for instance, great contributions towards events of the Church or that they actively participate in the ministry with Roma-children in Kürtöspuszta.
The positive experiences had an effect beyond the Church and the Forrai School. In 2017, another high school in Budapest, the «Schola Europa», got in touch with the UMC and asked whether they might become a United Methodist school, as well.
There were again months of deliberations, consideration, and prayers. And as positive the experiences with the Forrai School might had been so far – it was again a considerable risk the UMC, which in Hungary has less than 500 professing members, was faced with. But the members of the Annual Conference finally approved this important step in spring 2018, which gave way for the detailed preparations of taking over the responsibility for this school.
Since September 1, 2018, the «Schola Europa» is a Methodist school, as well - and the UMC in Hungary has a new opportunity to serve the world, to be a learning church and to find expressions of a credible and relevant Christian faith that can even be understood by people without a church background.
Source: Superintendent László Khaled, Budapest (Hungary) / Fund for Mission in Europe
Photo: Superintendent László Khaled, UMC Hungary (left) / Schola Europa Director Erzsébet Kazarján