Support shown to Reformed church in Ukraine

A WCRC Europe delegation on a solidarity visit to the Reformed Church in Transcarpathia were deeply impressed by the work of the church in the face of immense challenges.

“We met a living church,” said Jan-Gerd Heetderks, president of WCRC Europe. “They have an an eye for Biblical traditions and beliefs but also for the circumstances of the society.”

The delegation visited Beregszász and Dercen, Ukraine, 9-11 January, traveling in from Hungary. The church in Transcarpathia is a part of the Hungarian Reformed Church, an international expression of church communion between ethnic Hungarian churches in the Carpathian Basin.

The delegation was hosted by Bishop Sándor Zán Fábián and Lay President Béla Nagy, the latter of whom is also director of the church’s diaconal centre.

The diaconal centre coordinates a multitude of programmes, including donated goods distribution, a bakery, a community kitchen, a home for the elderly, schools and a volunteer fire department. 

“I was very impressed by their work. They are living testimony to the love of Christ,” said Heetderks.

“What’s most impressive is their faithfulness in the circumstances in which they live,” said Susan Brown, from the Church of Scotland. “It puts things in a slightly different perspective for your own church life. We have the luxury of choosing what to do and what not to do. They don’t have that. If they don’t do, it won’t get done.”

“Though it is a vulnerable community facing immense difficulties and uncertainties, it has a vision and practice of a serving faith community,” said Balázs Ódor, a vice president of WCRC Europe. 

The delegation learned about the challenges of being an ethnic and religious minority, both historically and currently. They formally remembered the dozens of Reformed Hungarian pastors who were exiled, jailed or killed during the Soviet era. And they saw how the church is now working with local governments to plug the many gaps in the social support framework.

“WCRC Europe has a special responsibility towards member churches or Reformed communities in the eastern part of the continent,” said Ódor, “especially those which are in a difficult, minority situation and are challenged by majority religions or the state.”

“The visit of a high level delegation is very important. It shows that there is international support for the Hungarian minority–both as a people and a religion,” agreed Zán Fábián. “I am very happy that we have brothers and sisters abroad.” 

The delegation also included Phil Tanis, executive secretary for communications of the WCRC; Seon Koo Kim, a missionary to Hungary from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea; Miroslav Pfann, a Czech Reformed minister who will soon be serving churches in Ukraine; and Diána Erdélyi, ecumenical secretary for the Reformed Church in Hungary.

Read more about the needs in Subcarpathia
An article with more about the work of the Reformed Church in Transcarpathia will be forthcoming. 

Phil Tannis

Article WCRC

Website of the European Area of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
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