First Parish Church in Weston has been a long supporter of the Partner Church movement, in which a UU church here in the United States is paired with a Unitarian church in another part of the world, most often in Transylvania, the Philippines, or India. We have been partners and friends with the members of the Unitarian Church in Torda, Romania since 1990. In addition to exchanging gifts of support, members of our church have visited the Torda Community and welcomed the Torda ministers in Weston.
450th Anniversary History Exhibit
In 2018, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda, First Parish celebrated the event with a display in the Mary Jo Rines Art Gallery depicting the first 28 years of the Torda-First Parish relationship. This was created by church member Larry Coburn and then converted to an online format by church member Geoff Blum.
Turda (Torda), Romania
Torda, Romania is often called the birthplace of religious freedom. This comes from the 1658 Edict of Torda in which King John Sigismund issued the first government statement of religious tolerance in Central and Eastern Europe. The Edict ends with a famous paragraph:
In every place the preachers shall preach and explain the Gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well. If not, no one shall compel them for their souls would not be satisfied, but they shall be permitted to keep a preacher whose teaching they approve… no one shall be reviled for his religion by anyone… and it is not permitted that anyone should threaten anyone else by imprisonment.
We are honored to join with our Unitarian brethren in Torda and we support this relationship in several ways:
During the winter months our teenage members cook and sell soup during our coffee hour with all proceeds going to Torda.
At Christmastime Torda sends us lace Christmas Tree decorations tatted by Torda parishioners. We sell these lovely angels and bells to our members with all proceeds going back to Torda.
Groups of our members periodically visit Torda and we in turn occasionally host the Torda ministers here at First Parish. These visits connect us to the lives and joys of our early Unitarian brethren in their Romanian community. Recent plans for a trip were put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are considering all our options for a trip in the near future.
Our Denominational Affairs Committee manages our relationship with Torda and provides additional funding to help support the Torda church.
HISTORY OF THE PARTNERSHIP CHURCH MOVEMENT
The UU Partner Church Council was founded in June 1993 to focus and coordinate the enormous grassroots energy of dozens of UU churches which had formed partnerships with Unitarian churches in Central Europe following the collapse of Communism in December 1989. The PCC now supports the partnerships of North American UU churches partnered with Unitarians and Universalists in Transylvania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Khasi Hills of India, The Philippines, and Poland. The truly significant activities of the Partner Church program are carried on by hundreds of volunteers at the congregation and district levels.