Songs for Celebrating!January 19, 2010
Last year's Church life in Hungary commemorated an almost ecumenical 'Year of the Bible', promoted by posters throughout the nation, showing seven kinds of blind men picking up manna which an angel is throwing down to them. Just like for us "blind" folks, wouldn't you say? How could it be that Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch in 1903 knew to depict us so well? Roman Catholics, in particular, were grateful for this emphasis as an opportunity to do more concentrated readings of Holy Scripture at church events and in individual devotions. Reformed folks and Lutherans enjoyed the confirming of what they've always know to be true: the Bible is the Word of God!
This year, an emphasis on John Calvin and his teachings, foundational to Reformed and Presbyterian denominational life, was an emphasis throughout Europe. (A Dutch clergy couple whom we know read Calvin's writings together each morning, devotionally, and sometimes found it difficult to enjoy breakfast at all after the discussions caused by his tenets.) For example, today's Reform<tus Lapja tells us that Calvin was all for music in worship and in life, if the music was one of the God-given 150 Psalms! Anything else was "the devil's poison" intent on turning good Christians away from God. We and our Dutch friends agree that it is impossible to judge the times and the situations to which Calvin was speaking in the 1500's, or to guess how he might address us at this time.
We had thought this 'K<lvin' year was culminating in an impressive Calvin-celebrating music event, held in Budapest at the National Arts Building (Nemzeti Mávészetek Palot<j<) on November 9, 2009. Our cantor and church music instructor at the University's adjunct Teaching College in Nagykőrös, PJter Hargita, arranged tickets 'up front' for Laslo and me. He was conducting one-third of the music for the evening, the section consisting of two out of three brand new contest-winning choral compositions, written especially for this event.
Most of this music was very difficult for the three merged choruses to master (and will not be easily learned by ordinary church choirs). But, it was excellent to hear and truly celebrative, - particularly a 5-metered, 5-phrased, pentatonic, 5-part canon, a kind of a lullaby-like finale, dedicated to the five years we will be celebrating John Calvin! Each year in a different way. One year of celebrating for each century separating us from him.
Head Bishop Bőlckéi introduced to us the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, (General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches out of Geneva, Switzerland), who greeted us in English with a Christ-centered message and well-wishings from that 'parent' body. (You can almost see Laslo and I encircled in the photo below.)
However, the singing focus of this year did not end with that Calvin concert. Our Hungarian Reformed hymnbook here, the Ẻnekeskönyv, of some 512 hymns, was printed most recently – and temporarily – in 1948. The Church was not able to work on it at all during the Soviet years. Only in 1998 did some area churches produce a new hymnbook, including important hymns from outside the new, smaller Hungary, which a few congregations are using. And now, this year, the Duna District of the Hungarian Reformed Church is putting out a series of hymn booklets, January through September, to augment the official hymnal and representing a greater variety of sources, theology, and modernity.
This year of songs for celebrating has been real, and inspiring, and has provided an actual contribution to the Church! We'll see what the next four years bring!
Coralyn and Laslo Medyesy
Laslo and Coralyn Medyesy are missionaries with the Reformed Church in Hungary, based in Budapest, Hungary. Laslo serves as professor of theology in the Department of Theology of the Gaspar Karoli Reformed University in Budapest. Coralyn T. Medyesy serves as a teacher of Social Work and Diakonia at the Nagy Koros School.
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