The last of a dying breed: Hungarian Calvinists in Romania – PART II
Magyarhang has gone to explore the furthest located Hungarian Calvinist communities in Europe, in Romania, more precisely in Galați, Braila, Ploiești and Constanța. Here, the number of Hungarians is in a steep decline, and only two Hungarians can be found at most funerals – the priest and the deceased.
In the previous part, we have learnt that the Hungarian Calvinist population of South-Eastern Romania is rapidly declining, the number of church-goers is fewer each year. Hungarians are marrying Romanians, and, as a result, children born into such mixed marriages rarely learn Hungarian or are baptised into the Calvinist church.
However, there is another side to the story, that of the Romanians’: sometimes they become interested in the Calvinist teachings.
If there are but two Hungarians at most funerals, the priest and the deceased, it is inevitable that, from time to time, a Romanian Orthodox attending such religious rituals takes some interest. Around the time Magyarhang conducted this interview with pastor Endre, the priest had buried a naval engineer. Several Romanians attended the funeral, after which they asked Endre if there was a possibility for them to join the Reformed church.
“If I tell them that on every second Sunday, the sermon is in Romanian, too, they might even come”, says pastor Endre.
About the Romanian sermon
The sermon conducted in Romanian is the task of a curate, whose life, Magyarhang writes, ‘deserves to be made into a movie’: Androne Mihai studied philosophy in Iași, then acquired his PhD in Orthodox theology in Bucharest. He stumbled upon the Calvinist doctrine by chance, but it has made such an impact on him that during a Swiss scholarship, he converted to Reformed Protestantism.
“It was not really happenstance” he begins explaining his conversion. “It was God’s plan for me to stumble across Protestantism through a book. I was drawn by the God-centralism of Calvinism, that is the reason why I sought the Reformed community once I returned home. There are only Hungarian Reformed Protestants in Galați, where I live, so I joined them”.
There are not many Romanian Protestants in Romania, except for Androne Mihai and the daughter of the Minister of Exterior, Teodor Melescanu, even though the latter never studied Orthodox theology.
Androne had to go through what Hungarian minorities have to do in Romania when his conversion took place (and to some extent, he still feels the pressure). In his views, God does not judge us based on our religious beliefs, but people tend to do so. He has never tried to conceal his views, so the people surrounding him were aware of the changes he was about to introduce into his life. This, however, presented some difficulties.
“I have just learnt what it means to be a minority in this country…”
So how does Androne, who is not a native speaker of Hungarian, get on with the Protestant religion? Hungarian prayers are written down phonetically for him, he sings the Hungarian songs too but conducts sermons in Romanian. Pastor Endre mentions that his accent cannot be heard while singing.
His main job is teaching at a university level, but he still finds the time to translate the Heidelberg Catechism into current Romanian.