The dedication of the new church building of the United Methodist congregation in Alsozsolca was planned to take place on October 11, 2014, long way before it was announced that on the same weekend local elections would take place. The public debate on the Roma in Hungary thus became even more current. Radio and television stations were present at the dedication ceremony.
Alsozsolca is a major village near Miskolc, a city in northeastern Hungary, mainly with heavy industrial background. The village has a mixed population of Roma and white Hungarians. The Methodist ministry with Roma at this place is one of the oldest in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe – it was started shortly after World War II, and in the meantime there is already the fourth generation of Roma in this United Methodist congregation. In terms of members, it is the biggest Roma congregation of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe. A local pastor, who is Roma himself and who comes from Alsozsolca, is the leader of the congregation. In the past, the worship services had been celebrated in rooms, which were often bursting at the seams.
A collection of the UMC in Germany, in which many children were involved, laid the foundation to this new church building. The local government subsequently donated a large developable plot to the UMC in Hungary – right at the border between the Roma settlements with modest houses and the part of the village with a mixed population and nice buildings. Many other financial contributions – both from Hungary and from abroad – finally made the completion of this church building possible.
More than 400 people participated in the dedication ceremony, among them the Reformed Bishop and a local priest as representative of the Bishop of the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church. Political representatives of the Ministry of Human Resources and the mayor of the village were also present. In his sermon on 1 Peter 2:4-5, Bishop Patrick Streiff emphasized how crucial the people are, who are transformed by Jesus Christ and who are willing to be «built like living stones into a spiritual temple». A visitor, who is not affiliated with Alsozsolca UMC, thanked the Bishop for the ministry of the Methodists and said that it would be well noticeable which Gypsies (this is their self-designation in Hungary) would belong to the church and which would not.
Very soon the construction machines will continue their work as – according to the original plans – a community center shall be added to the church building. This community center will also accommodate diaconal ministries as they exist, financially supported by the Fund for Mission in Europe, in other Roma congregations in Hungary, as well. This extension building will be possible thanks to State funding by means of EU loans. The support of the local government was essential in this regard – and it was a sign of appreciation of the ministry in Alsozsolca, which the UMC in Hungary has been involved with for decades already.
Source: Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland
Date: October 15, 2014