Attracting attention by being a credible community

«If we walk in the light (…) we have fellowship with one another.» This verse from 1 John 1 is the motto of the UMC in Hungary in 2014, and it was also the motto of the Annual Conference, which took place from April 10-13, 2014, in Nyíregyháza in the northeast of the country, close to the Ukrainian border.

In his report to the 50 Conference members and guests, Superintendent István Csernák focused on community. He underlined that the word «koinonia» in the quoted verse from the New Testament is not about the relations of a random gathering of men and women. It describes a group of people who live in a tight brotherly community, shaped by intimacy, a selfless devotion, and a willingness to help each other. If the Methodist congregations are such communities, they will make an impact on the people in their neighborhood.

This was, in a way, the undertone of all discussions: How can Hungarian Methodists – individually and as part of local churches and of the UMC as a whole – make an impact on today’s society? How can they credibly reach out to people in their neighborhood and let them experience love, appreciation, and encouragement? And against the background of the available personal and financial resources: which are the appropriate ministries and helpful structures serving best the aim to «make disciples of Jesus Christ»?

Reports from the Annual Conference committees and from the various local churches mirrored the commitment in regard to this aim. In addition to the worship services there is an astonishing variety of ministries with people of all generations – and also with people of all social situations. A special focus was once again on the ministries with Roma, which were intensified by the appointment of a pastor in Alsózsolca. It was also an encouraging experience to recognize the impressive number of volunteers being involved in the various ministries – and to become aware of the increasing number of lay speakers and lay preachers.

The past year proved that structures are not always easy to deal with, and that the forms of cooperation are not always conflict-free. In each charge conference the leadership was elected. Two quotes from the Superintendent regarding these processes: «Democracy causes difficulties sometimes» And: «The future requires the work of the church leadership; it is impossible to follow a one-person pastoral leading style.»

On the Annual Conference level there was a proposal for a more efficient cooperation of the various bodies. The voting members approved the new organizational chart with a vast majority.

According to a new education act of the Hungarian government, children from the 1st to the 8th grade are obliged to attend either ethics or religion class. These lessons are part of the official class schedule – and they require the contribution of the churches. This opens up an opportunity for Methodist pastors and properly trained lay people to teach religion classes at public schools. There are already 17 schools where Methodist men and women are providing this education. The Annual Conference also discussed how teaching material with some basic elements of the UMC could be prepared in order to support those involved in this important ministry.

Source: Yvonne Guizan, Lyss/Switzerland
Date: April 23, 2014