Message of sorrow for Transylvanian Unitarians

The Rev. Eric Cherry, director of international resources for the UUA, issued the following statement on Sunday in response to the news this morning of the murder-suicide of two children by a Transylvanian Unitarian minister in Medgyes, Romania. Unitarian Universalists at the UUA General Assembly in Minneapolis learned the news when the Rev. Harold Babcock lit the chalice in an expression of solidarity between American Unitarian Universalists and the Unitarians of Transylvania.

May our thoughts and prayers be with our brothers and sisters in Transylvania in the midst of last night’s immense tragedy, in which Unitarian minister, Reverend Cseh Denes, who served the Unitarian Church in the town of Medgyes (Medias), apparently caused the death of his two children (aged 5 and 7) and then ended his own life. Condolences and support from the Unitarian Universalist Association have been received by Transylvanian Unitarian Bishop, Reverend Ferenc Balint. US congregations—especially those with partner churches in Transylvania—are strongly encouraged to extend their condolences and support at the first opportunity.

The church in Medgyes does not currently have an American partner congregation.

Update 6.30.10: Lujza Nehrebeczky provides an English translation of the notice published on the Transylvanian Unitarian Church website about the tragedy.

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  • http://twitter.com/RevCyn Cynthia L. Landrum

    The Partner Church Council lists Evanston, IL as Medgyes' partner church, as does one brief mention on Evanston's webpage. Are these correct or out of date?

    My heart goes out to the people of Medgyes and the Transylvanian Unitarian community.

  • Chris Walton

    Apparently the two congregations had a partnership at one time, but I was told that it is currently not active.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melymbrosia Lujza Nehrebeczky

    Translation of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church's statement on the tragedy:

    http://www.unitarius.org/data/eue/default.aspx

    The leaders of the Representative Council of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church were shocked to find out about the terrible tragedy that befell the family of Medgyes's Unitarian minister. Last night, the Rev. D… See Moreénes Cseh killed his two children, then committed suicide.

    Our unconditional respect for life is the cornerstone of our Christian system of values. Human life is a gift from God that needs to be protected under all circumstances, and may not be snuffed out by murderous and irresponsible behavior.

    Our community of ministers has been following, with great sympathy, the illness of the Medgyes minister's wife. We strove to help alleviate the family's tribulations to the best of our ability. We deeply regret that this great burden, weighing down on the head of the family, caused a nervous breakdown. Most likely, this acute mental distress led to the minister's murder-suicide. The prevention and treatment of such incomprehensible mental conditions should, more than ever, be a priority for our community of ministers as well as for the medical profession. We shall support the Reverend's widow and our church will strive to do everything in its power to prevent such tragedies in the future.

    May God provide rest for the departed and protection for the living.

  • patrodgers

    The Evanston IL partnership was terminated in 2009, but Rev. Barbara Pescan contacted the PCC Sundary for more information and has already moved to reach out to the Medgyes congregation.

    Los Gatos CA is also partnered with Medgyes, but the partnership has been inactive in recent years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melymbrosia Lujza Nehrebeczky

    I'm a Hungarian national and a member of the UU church in Lexington, KY. I have volunteered to translate messages to the community and congregation of the minister in Medgyes. If any of you would like to send something, please contact me via email: nehrebeczky [at] yahoo [dot] com

  • http://twitter.com/RevCyn Cynthia L. Landrum

    Thank you for clarifying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melymbrosia Lujza Nehrebeczky

    I have translated the Bishop's pastoral letter to all Unitarian congregations. (The previous statement was the church council's press release.) It was posted on the Transylvanian Unitarian Church's website on June 30. Please feel free to repost, forward and share in any way. – Lujza Nehrebeczky

    http://unitarius.org/data/eue/news.aspx?pageid=12

    Pastoral letter to all congregations

    June 29, 2010
    Kolozsvár

    To our Unitarian believers and brethren of other denominations:

    This past Sunday, as we were preparing to go to church with gratitude to God, we were shocked to receive the horrifying news. It caused us both pain and bewilderment to find out about the terrible crime committed by the pastor of our congregation in Medgyes. As a Unitarian minister and as a church member, my soul was tried by hearing the news. This widely publicized event evokes many questions in us both as individuals and as a community.

    I write these words with the belief that God is near us even in such trying times, only we don't know how to look for him. Our forebears had succeeded in finding their way out of severe circumstances. In case our faith in God has been weakened or we have lost the path shown us by the exemplary lives of our ancestors, let us hear the prophet's message: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

    One individual's actions are not the actions of the community. However, this event casts its shadow on all of us. Of course, we do not disown a minister of our church who has served three different congregations over ten years. And we certainly do not disown a family man who has shown exceptional devotion in raising his children and seeking a cure for his terminally ill wife. We regret enormously that this heavy burden that required superhuman strength to bear caused a nervous breakdown in him. This man, who had received psychiatric care for his illness, did not take those lives in his position as a minister. His deeds reach far beyond the life of our church and are considered explicitly criminal acts. While we stood by him, aided him financially and followed his tribulations as his fellow servants, we cannot bear the responsibility for the horrible murders he committed. One individual's actions are not the actions of the community, but this event casts its shadow on all of us.

    Many press sources have been objective in reporting on the immeasurable tragedy that befell this family, and we hereby express our gratitude to them. However, the scandal-craving tabloid media and the public opinion it manipulates have attempted to judge our entire community based on this event. Being Unitarian will become difficult in the coming days and weeks, and it may remain so for a long while. Some people may ridicule or slander us. Others may attempt to associate our faith with ideas we have never espoused.

    We need the strength and sobriety of our religious community now more than ever before. This community consists of us, of each individual person. Let us stand by one another and our faith. Together, let us expect the blessing of our providing God, which we can experience even in the darker days of our lives. Let us remember that our forebears made difficult but sustaining sacrifices for this precious faith, in order that they may pass it on to us. Let us remember the pure and simple faith of our cherished Unitarian religion that has always compelled us to love God and serve people. Over four and a half centuries, our church has enriched humanity with immeasurable values. Let us ensure that this legacy lives on.

    Together, let us pray for the tried but strong congregation in Medgyes; for our shaken believers; for the minister's wife mourning her children and husband. Let us implore our eternal, one true God to dwell amongst us with his providence and power, compelling us to do what is right. May God protect our physical and mental health, send us help in our illnesses, and defend us from family and community tragedies. May God give us spiritual strength so we can stand firm beside those in need. With our godly lives, let us prove that we are brothers and sisters, children of God.

    May the love of God remain among us.

    Bishop Ferenc Bálint-Benczédi

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