Reformed Intelligentsia Gather in Szárszó

2017. augusztus 29., kedd

From August 24-27, various issues of public and social life were discussed at the Conference of Reformed Intellectuals held at the SDG Conference Centre in Szárszó. “The mission duty of Christian people is to provide those around us with a viable and appealing community alternative, so that they wish to and can and join our communities,” said Vice Rector József Zsengellér on the opening day of the Conference.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1b NIV) – It was with these words of Isaiah the prophet that Pál Huszár, Lay President of the Reformed Church in Hungary, greeted the audience. “What joy and reassurance it must have been for our Hungarian Reformed forefathers when they heard these words in their mother tongue for the first time,” he began. Pál Huszár went on to state that as followers of Christ, regardless of the denomination we belong to, we wish to live and work according to this message, preserving our faith and national identity. “Since we ourselves are the church, we must never stop renewing ourselves, and we need to find appropriate answers to the challenges we face. The present meeting is also a way of seeking answers,” added the Lay President.

He continued, saying that, “We are ready to show Europe, which has lost its identity, that we are Christians and Hungarians and we have the strength to demonstrate it before the world.”

In his opening speech, Mihály Márkus, Bishop of the Transdanubian Reformed Church District also voiced his conviction that, “It has always been an aim of the Szárszó Conference to ensure that everyone has firm beliefs that can be represented in Hungary with credibility.”

The three features of the true church

József Steinbach, Bishop of the Transdanubian Reformed Church District, based his opening worship on the first 7 verses of Chapter 35 from the Book of Isaiah, referring to Calvin’s centuries-old explanation: the true church resides where the Word of God is preached in a pure fashion, where the sacraments are administered, and God’s will, as expressed in the Scripture, is obeyed. The Bishop brought up the issue of renewal, and stated that the primary task of the church is to spread the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “The pre-1990 regime forced us to remain within the four walls of churches, which taught us to use well the only available method, preaching,” Rev. Steinbach recalled. And wherever the Word was preached, viable congregations sprang up and flourished, even in places where there had been no congregation before.

“Just as clean water removes dirt from the body, Jesus’ blood removes our sins,” said the Bishop, referring to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In his biblical interpretation, he also mentioned a third aspect of the Word, the mission of “one day, one person”: the true church is where the Word of God is put into practice in a Christ-like fashion. “Do something good for at least one person every day, have a good thought, word, or deed for them. It is with such specific actions that charity begins at our own level and in our own situation, when we perform the Word with a Christ-like love,” pointed out Bishop Steinbach.

Nourished by past roots

On the first day of the conference, the historian Dr. Réka Földváryné Kiss presented the development and significance of the Reformed conferences organized in Balatonszárszó in the 20th century. She began her presentation by mentioning a rather radical memorandum written in 1934 by Reformed college students addressed to the church leadership, entitled “The Church Must Act.” This was the first event in Szárszó that openly discussed public social and political issues, joining the intellectual school of the people’s movement. Földváryné Kiss, who is also the Chairperson of The Committee of National Remembrance, believes the movement was significant because it highlighted the pressing issues of the Horthy era as well as the deformities of Hungarian society in the 1930s, while at the same time announcing a program for renewing the political, cultural and economic elite.

The Soli Deo Gloria (SDG) Reformed student movement, which was originally founded in 1921 and went on to become the organization responsible for the general student mission activities of the Reformed Church, had its own resort in Balatonszárszó, where boys’ and girls’ conferences as well as leadership trainings were organized during the summer months. By the early 1930s, a Reformed youth network had emerged on the basis of Christian creeds and it was sizeable, ready-to-act, and sensitive to public issues. “The peak was the iconic conference of 1943, which turned out to be the most important event for the responsible Hungarian intelligentsia and the people’s movement during the war, where memorable discussions of great significance were held regarding the future of the country,” said the historian.

Faced with current issues

József Zsengellér, Vice Rector of Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, by using the method of diagnosis and therapy, i.e., considering the past, the present and the future together, listed a series of internal and external changes that need to be implemented. “If we wish to make our Christian values appealing to the people whose thinking has undergone a radical change due to the social, economic, and technological developments of the 20th century, we need to implement spiritual and intellectual changes ourselves,” he emphasized. In his view, internal changes are needed in the areas of religious activities, education, and the public sphere of the church.

“The mission duty of the church and Christian people is to find their voice and provide those around us with a viable and appealing community alternative, so that they can and wish to join our communities,” he explained. He believes that the role of the conferences at Szárszó is to once more bring together members of the intelligentsia, condensing the ideas that lead to changes, and providing the sparkle needed for the flames of implementation.


Written by Orsolya Szoták , Zsuzsa Fekete

Edited by Kearstin Bailey

Photos by Dávid Némedi-Varga


Contact us

Click here if you are interested in twinning.


Reformed Church in Hungary

Address: H-1146 Budapest, Abonyi utca 21.   

PO Box: 1140 Budapest 70, Pf. 5

Phone/Fax: + 36 1 460 0708 


Our church through American eyes

We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.