From April 7 to 10, 2022, the Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Hungary took place in Budapest.
The joy was great that the 90th meeting of the Annual Conference of the UMC could again be held as an in-person gathering. And not only the chosen motto from Joshua 24:15 ("But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.") made it clear: After the two years of the pandemic, the work does not simply continue automatically. Ways are also being sought to promote renewal of the church's work.
In an opening worship service of the conference, the new probationary pastor Kristof Sztupkai pointed out the tasks of the church in challenging times: to faithfully keep all that God asks, not to abandon God's way, and to remain in continuous renewal.
Then, on Thursday afternoon, conference proceedings began under the leadership of Bishop Patrick Streiff. A colorful variety of working groups presented their reports.
In the course of the meeting, various new staff members were also elected and introduced: the conference lay leader, for example, or the director of the Marta Maria retirement homes, the director of the Forrai High School in Budapest and the new director of the central church office.
The work of the two high schools in Budapest, which are run by the UMC in Hungary, is certainly worth mentioning. The Hungarian state gives the churches the opportunity to exercise leadership over public educational institutions. The UMC in Hungary took over the responsibility for two high schools with a total of 900 students and 110 teachers. The administrative duties are carried out by the office of the superintendent, Laszlo Khaled, while the spiritual duties are covered by pastors and teachers. The local churches in Budapest try to build close relationships with both teachers and students by organizing camps, retreats and joint worship services. This is a special opportunity, but also a challenge for the church. "We would like to see congregations open up further to proclaiming the Gospel in these places and learning to bear witness to Jesus Christ in their collaboration with schools," Dr. Barta Katalin, the church's education and legal officer, put it in her report.
Other aspects of the work with youth and young adults were also addressed. For example, a family camp for all ages, with intergenerational fellowship, is again being planned – as in the time before Corona. In addition, a missionary focus will be directed to those who at some point had contact with the parishes, schools or youth groups and have lost it. The newly formed Religious Education Commission will support these efforts. At the same time, it is also very gratifying to see that young people are coming forward because they want to consciously put themselves at the service of the church.
In a thematic focus part on Saturday, there were very enriching presentations on successful evangelization in Hungary.
During the closing service of the conference, two new persons, Györgyi Valyi and Laszlo Györi, were commissioned as local pastor and Kristof Sztupkai as new probationary pastor.
The UMC in Hungary is a church facing many challenges, but looking forward courageously and joyfully, building the Kingdom of God.
Source: Rev. Bernfried Schnell, Bregenz (Austria) / Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich (Switzerland)