Martin Johnstone, newly appointed Secretary of the Church & Society Council of the Church of Scotland visited the Reformed Church in Hungary for a seven day official visit on the 17th April to the 23rd of April.
Johnstone spent the first three days of his visit getting acquainted with the Roma Ministry of the RCH. On the 17th of April, together with RCH Mission Office staff, he visited a church in the Budapest’s District VIII, which is famously known for poverty as well as its high Roma population. The 18th of April saw the Scottish minster attending a National Roma Mission Gathering and Prayer Day in Igal, in Somogy County which is at the South West of Hungary. On Sunday 19th of April, he took part in a field trip where he visited a Pastor and church community in Büssü Village, in Somogy which has a high Roma population.
Monday 20th April was the start of a busy week that began with meetings with the colleagues of the Ecumenical office and those of the Eco-congregation Program. In the afternoon, Rev. Johnstone took part in a Round-Table meeting hosted by the Ecumenical Office. The meeting between both churches was with various colleagues from the Mission Department, Refugee Ministry, Eco-congregation Program Council, Youth Department, Károli Gáspár University, Doctors’ College, and the communication department.
The meeting was moderated by Balázs Ódor, Head of the Ecumenical Office. In his introduction, he gave a brief summary of the Church revision process of the RCH as well as the report of the Church Revision Committee. In his summary Ódor highlighted strategic objectives which included Christian responses to challenges from society – “what does church and society mean in Hungary?” Ódor expounded by saying that the RCH looks up to the Church of Scotland model, but pointed out that all members of the church are called to bare public witness. This he said would be through the theological aspects of the RCH’s teaching that have to be connected to the gospel and closing gaps between church and society as well.
The round table discussion was presented with a Church Sociological research report of 2013 presented by Dr. Márton Csanády, Director of Research and Development and University Professor at Károli Gáspár University and Mr. Ádám Hámori, sociologist, PhD-student, and assistant lecturer at Károli Gáspár University who highlighted the objectives of the report as being the social economic backgrounds of church members, socio-cultural environment of church activity and the main social trends. They also highlighted that 12% of Hungarian population consider themselves as Reformed, but only 30% of these attend church regularly, with reported church growth in the capital city, Budapest.
After the Church and sociology report Rev. Johnstone shared with the RCH colleagues on the Church & Society Council of the CoS. Though he has only recently taken up the work as Secretary of the Council, he has vast experience having previously been the Church’ Priority Areas Secretary, whose work was to coordinate support for the 70 poorest communities in Scotland on behalf of the church.
During a brief overview he mentioned that despite being the largest denomination in Scotland about a third of the population do not have any faith affiliations. Due to the decreasing numbers he said “the Church & Society Council (C&SC), finds itself less and less focussed on church and a bit more focused on the society. This he said means that “more and more the C&SC finds very thin boundaries and lines as it works with society, and its lenses are very biased towards the poorest of society”. The main things they focus on can be divided into two parts, first, how Science, religion and technology affect and impact the poorest of society. Second, how climate change and eco-congregations affects the poorest in our world.
He also mentioned that the C&SC is asking “What would a more equal Scotland look like in 20 years? What is needed for this to occur? What role can the church play for this to happen?” The Secretary of the C&SC added that in the coming weeks they would be meeting up with key people such as politicians and possible makers as well as people who live in poverty. This is through strands of activities surrounding, food in terms of fairer production and distribution, hospitability in terms of moving from fear of foreigner to being more hospitable, co-groups that respond to questions in society.
The Scottish Minister spent the last three days of his visit in Berekfürdő at the Northern part of Hungary where he took part in a Christian Community Development and Training for Ministers of the HRC.
Njeri Wagana Hughes