Additional "From Further Afield" Articles


Published: 9/4/2012 1:45:11 PM


Living in Hungary has meant giving up some traditions, modifying others, and also gaining new ones. Around the time that the leaves begin to change, I always think about the traditions that come with autumn. You’ve got Halloween and costumes and pumpkins and trick-or-treating and fall carnivals followed closely by Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie and turkey and maybe even sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top or green bean casserole complete with fried onions. Young children are collecting brightly colored leaves for art projects and jumping in the big piles of them that mom or dad has raked up. The air is crisp and cool and fresh, and the cinnamon-scented spirit of autumn beckons.

And it is in this season that the Lutheran church (and other reformist church bodies) celebrate something fairly important: Reformation. Despite the relative hilarity/irony at having the importance of being able to obtain the Bible in one’s own language explained to me in a language that is not my first, I quite enjoyed the festivities. I sang a variety of Luther’s hymns in church, listened to two great sermons, and even had a chance to join the choir. But the most interesting thing happened not on Reformation Day, but a few days before.

Every year, the students in my school have "silent days” which means that instead of normal classes, they participate in Bible-based activities. Usually, these days correspond with important parts of the church year, like Advent and Lent. This year, the day was built around the remembrance of Reformation Day and the era in which it occurred. The younger classes watched the Luther film while the older classes were divided into groups and given a task dealing with the Renaissance/Luther period. One group painted a piece of wood to look like a representation of the church door in Wittenberg, another learned two Renaissance circle dances, while another performed four Renaissance-era songs. One group reconstructed hair styles of the time period, another created drawings and posters about the Reformation, and still another played classical music composed during this time period. All the groups presented what they’d done during the day, and then one of the bishops of the Lutheran Church in Hungary and one pastor read something else: "reforms” to the church that had been written by the students. After they were read, they were nailed to the painted "church door.”

You see, even while celebrating the Reformation which occurred in the church almost 500 years ago, we also discussed that reformation is still needed in the church today, albeit a different kind. While Luther, and others, reformed the church theologically and practically, the students’ reforms were focused on other areas. They advocated using guitars and drums in worship instead of just organ music. They also thought that church buildings should be better heated and more comfortable and that perhaps there should be more color on the walls.

Now to those of us in the States, these may not seem like outrageous ideas, but let me throw another piece of the puzzle at you: I was sitting next to an older woman at one of the Reformation services, who surveyed the congregation and upon noticing no children or students there, said to me (in Hungarian but translated here), "Look at this. There aren’t any students here. Why does the church even have a school if no students are in church?” So, we’ve got an older generation who seems a bit slanted against students who don’t come to church, and we’ve got students who say that they think if some things would change in the church, they might want to come. Which side is right?

Perhaps they’ve both lost sight of the most important thing, the Key (as one Pastor preached about on Reformation), which always has been and always will be Jesus. Start there and the rest will come. Do differences among people cause problems in churches all over the world? Sadly, yes. But they aren’t insurmountable problems. I think it takes a lot to first listen, to give both sides a chance to say what they think candidly, without fear of being disregarded. After that, it’s a matter of searching the Scriptures, prayer, and meeting people where they are at. Students too, need to know that their needs and ideas matter, especially in a church setting. I see so many students here who have written off the church at an early age because they feel that there’s nothing there for them, when really there is so much for them. I only pray that they haven’t written off their actual need, the Key to it all; Jesus.

Eros vár a mi Istenünk,

Sarah Berta-Somogyi

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