Monday, 17 October 2011

Transylvania and the Serenity Prayer: Lessons in love

Once again I have learnt how vital being able to communicate is. I have been reminded that this takes time and effort and a little acceptance. To speak the language of the heart you must first of all listen with the ears of the heart. I know that fear and a sense of vulnerability often block me from this. When I am in fear of vulnerability I do not have ears to hear: my ears are blocked, my heart is blocked, my soul is blocked and I feel alone once again. In such a state I cannot hear the language of the heart as it speaks to me...less than a whisper, but more than silence...

I have just returned from a wonderful and wonder filled trip to Transylvania, spending time with Unitarian brothers and sisters there. I had been invited to participate in the 16th anniversary celebration of the Unitarian church of Maros St George which is the sister church to one of the two congregations I serve, Dunham Road Altrincham. This first reflection will not go into detail about the trip, I will instead talk about three moments that opened my heart.

The first moment came towards the end of the day visiting several Unitarian communities in the region. It was in a small village called Icland - there is no other settlement in the region whose name ends in land, the story goes that it was originally settled by people from Ireland or England – I walked up the hill towards the parish house and settled into a little schoolroom with a few adults and two teenage girls. For some reason I had images of Thomas Hardy or even Dickens in my mind as I walked up to house and looked at the village, none of the houses had running water, every one had a well. The minister lead a short religious education class and I was deeply moved by the conversation which she translated for me. It was a conversation about struggles with the current economic climate and the importance of letting go of control and not becoming blocked off from God. The words of the serenity prayer came to my mind “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference” – if only we could all find that wisdom to know the difference.  I was able to participate in the conversation, we spoke deep into one another's hearts. I left these people knowing I will probably never see them again, but also knowing that this conversation would be etched on my soul for a long time to come. During the conversation I had felt the presence of the spirit that I call God powerfully. I can picture the woman Elizabeth in my mind’s eye as she talked openly and eloquently of her struggles with life and faith...I had ears that could hear the language that she spoke, the language of the heart.

The next day we visited some local sites and spent some time in the Cultural Palace. I had noticed that I had struggled a little due to lack of space as I was staying with my host family. I am someone who is use to a lot of time and space alone. I live a very busy life but do connect and reconnect alone, throughout the day. I could feel that I was missing this. I was able to sit quietly in the cultural palace, in the main auditorium. I looked up at the ceiling which was incredible and the space below in silence. After a while I began to hear the sounds of an orchestra and choir practising. I began to feel the beauty of the place and in the space and quietness I felt some barriers opened my heart and I was then able to connect to the heart of the place throughout the rest of the day...I can feel the gentle music now, it was barely a sound but a little more than silence.

On the Saturday I was invited to preach and participate in Maros St George's anniversary service. Press had been invited. There was apparently a great deal of talk about mine and Caroline’s visits. By now I was feeling a part of everything. I had got a real feel for the spirit of the place. It was beginning to speak to me and I was able to hear what it was saying. I had learnt an important phrase for the Translvanian’s this is Ishtan Adjah (not spelt correctly), which means God bless. It is both a greeting and a farewell. I decided as people arrived I would greet them at the door, with these words. I was told afterwards that they thought that they had been greeted by a Hungarian and not an Englishman, as I spoke like a Hungarian. This meant a lot to me as I felt that I had now truly got into the spirit of the place. It was wonderful to participate in the service, to sing hymns in Hungarian and to be invited to preach, along with Tamas, the minister, translating. I opened up my heart and I felt their love too. I also felt and witnessed the spirit that I know as God, flowing through all of this.

This has been a wonderful trip and no doubt I will reflect on it a lot over the next few weeks. The language of the heart is a universal language that can break through any barrier, even fear and self protection. All that it requires is a little bit of faith and a whole lotta love; all that is required are ears that can listen and that wisdom to know the difference...I’ve had a wonderful reminder these past few days. 


  1. Thank you kindly for this post, it is so good to read about our fellow Unitarians in Transylvania, and to see bonds of fellowship created between our two communities.

  2. Thank you Joseph...beautiful people it was a real gift to spend time with them