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The History of the Unitarian Church in Csehétfalva, 2000
The history of the Unitarian church is the same as the history of the village, because everybody in the village is Unitarian.
My wife wrote the history of the church in 2000. In that year the Church Council called upon the ministers to write the histories of the churches for the memory of the Millennium.
As I was the interim minister in Tarcsafalva and Tordátfalva, I had to write the histories of these churches, too, so I was glad when my wife offered to write the history of Csehétfalva Church.
We are thankful for those whose works we used in writing this history. May the knowledge and the conscious work of the past be a guidance to our present and future.
Rev. Lajos Lõrinczi
“To North- East from Énlaka a proud peak is ascending with capricious form whose rocks rise far up, and on its top clouds often rest while down below the valleys and lower crags are shining (…)
This mountain (…) is the Firtos... It is difficult to reach… it takes a lot of trouble to get to its top. ( If we managed to get to its top) half of Transylvania lies under our feet, a lot of wavy mountain ranges lie crossing and following each other like frozen waves of a stormy ocean. And among these mountains shine hundreds and hundreds silver banded streams, hundreds and hundreds valley dotted with towns and villages and peaks beautifully colored by the sun and shadowed by forests.
Here and there show up high peaks crowned once by proud fortresses which were the bastion of national greatness and saintly freedom and which would speak of great events of thousands of years in their understandable muteness.” (O.B.)
In this fairy valley lays Csehétfalva, the village which unexpectedly appears under the bending leafy boughs of the forest making with its silent beauty the visitor’s heart throb. The village steel itself unnoticeably to foreigner’s heart with its ancient stillness and centuries long motionless. The village inhabitants with their friendly and loving behavior show the “székely” disposition which is so difficult to find nowadays.
I have become very attached to this wonderful little village. These feelings, as well as the gratitude for finding a home here have made me to write this history.
2. About the village
Csehétfalva (falva means village) is situated in Harghita district, along the Nyikó River at the foot of Firtos Mountain. It is surrounded by forests and lies next to Konyha stream. Its neighbors are: Firtosváralja, in the East; Tordátfalva, in the West; and Tarcsafalva, in the South.
There are two legends connected with its name. According to one, the name of the village was Cselédfalva, (cseléd meaning servant). The legend says that the servants of the lord of Firtos fortress were living here and the settlement became a village in time. (2) According to the other legend, since the settlement was in a valley surrounded by forests and bushy places its name was Ciherfalva (‘ciher’ meaning bushy, brushy, and scrubby). (3)
These legends can’t be taken as true because there are no scientific proofs of them. Both names are clear words in Hungarian and they sound clearly in our language so these words wouldn’t have changed so much even after using them for century. The most reasonable is what Elek Jakab says. He has searched the root of the székely village names. He said the name was Csehérdfalva.
The name of the village often shows up in legal proceedings documents from the 15th century, like: Csehertffalva, Chiherfalva (in 1585), Chierdffalva, Chierffalva (in 1590), Csehertfalus (in 1596), Chehertfalva, Cheherffalva (in the beginning of 18th century) and Csehérdfalva in the end of the 18th century. The name what we use today comes from around 1800.
We don’t have any documents or dates regarding the foundation of this village. We can prove with historical dates that the village was an ancient one. The oldest data of the village is the date on the old bell: 1481. The above mentioned legal proceedings documents also proves that the village was an ancient one.
3. The Unitarian church
3.1. The beginning of the church
We don’t have any data referring to the origin or the beginning of the church. But against the missing documents and with our tradition “we can say for sure that the church was founded during the rule of John Sigismund and during the time of Francis David who was the founder of our religion and our first bishop. Its foundation was similar to the others: the whole village with its inhabitants and church building became Unitarian (before this they were Catholics).” (7)
If it happened like this or not, we don’t have documents regarding this. The oldest data is a reference to the year of 1618 and it is in the protocollum of 1803, on page 19, in the Archives of the Unitarian Church of Tarcsafalva. (8)
The first written documents are the church rules written in 1640 as well as a contract made in 1680. This contract says that the church had bought an inner ground from Peter Szakállas to increase the ground of the parish house. (9)
3.2. Becoming independent
The church of Csehétfalva was the daughter church of Tarcsafalva. The proof for this is in the above mentioned protocollum written in 1803.
Csehétfalva Church became independent in 1618.
4. Congregation and ministers
4.1. The population
The oldest data regarding the population of the village comes from 1721 when Maria Teresa ordered the census of the families subject to taxation. According to this document there were 26 families in Csehétfalva. Because this data is not a complete one (there were no children, not the whole population included in it) Dr. István Molnár takes the general number of population in Transylvania and estimates the number of population in Csehétfalva around 200.
This data is strengthened by the result of the first official census in Hungary in 1784- 1787.
According to the General Visitation in 1789 led by the bishop István Lázár the number of the population was:
Landlords and widows 66
The landlords wives 50
So the number of the population: 214
By the year of 1869 the number of the population had increased to 406 and from that time the population remained constant at about 400 until the years of the collectivization.
In December of 1933 the population was 219 resulting from the population growing old and dying. In 2000 the population is 165 and 95% of the village is over 60.
4.2. The ministers
the first minister’s name from 1688. Since then there
have been 24 ministers in this village. Now the
minister in Csehétfalva is Lajos Lőrinczi.
5. The school
5.1. The history of the school
There are documents in the church’s Archives saying that in 1789 there was a functioning denominational school in this village. The General Visitation led by the bishop visited the school every year and they took care of the school. If the children were not going to school they strongly encouraged the parents to send their children to school.
In 1808 the General Visitation found the school building in a very bad condition so they urged the church to build a new school. In 1813 a new school was built.
In 1841 the church bought new ground for the teacher’s house and in 1866 they decided to build a new school next to the teacher’s house. They finished it in 1873. In 1878 the church created a nursery next to the school for teaching how to make grafts and how to take care of the fruit trees.
The school building became ruined and the church decided to give it to the government. But the government took only new buildings so the congregation decided to build a new school and keep it for the church. In 1910 the local cantor and teacher E.M. made plans for the new school. In Kolozsvár the Church Council agreed with it and completed the plans with the ideas of the architect Pákei.
The new school was ready in 1910.
After the World War I, Transylvania was awarded to Romania and a new law dictated that one teacher can teach no more than 50 children. In 1935 16 children (mostly from rich families) were sent to the governmental school. According to the new law the teacher had to teach in a foreign language (Romanian). So the school and the teachers had a lot of problems.
In 1948 the ground of the school together with the buildings on it and with all furniture in them was taken away by the government. So with this the denominational school in Csehétfalva came to an end.
5.2. Teachers, cantors, organists
Up until 1842, there were no separate teachers so the minister was the teacher. The minister played the organ, too.
The teaching in those days was casual because the parents sent the boys to work on the fields and the girls weren’t sent to school. The General Visitation was pressing the parents to send their children to school.
In 1841 the church decided to build a new school and asked for a teacher. The new teacher arrived and began to work in 1842.
Between 1953- 1973 there was a nursery school in the village. During summer time it served as day-care centre because the parents were working on the fields.
After 1948, the government took the school away and the secondary school (5-8 grades) came to an end in Csehétfalva, so the children went to school, first to Tarcsafalva and then to Kobátfalva (this village is 5 kms away).
In 2000 the primary school in Csehétfalva came to an end, too. The children had to move to their grandparents and relatives and go to school in Tordátfalva or in Tarcsafalva. The situation is very sad and hopeless. It is to be feared that those few young families who still live here will move from the village because of a better future for their children.
B. Cantors, organists
After the government took away the school, the work of the teacher became separated from the cantors. From that moment there was a teacher and also another person who was the cantor.
Now the cantor in Csehétfalva is Dénes Deák.
6.1. The church building
There are no documents regarding the time when the church was built. The oldest data comes from 1631 when the church building was renovated.
There is a description of the old church building in the documents from 1789.
The church building was renovated in 1777, 1784 and 1786.
In 1801 the church became so ruined that was dangerous to enter it. So the congregation decided to build a new one.
The building was finished in 1826. The stones and doors from the old church were put in the new building. Other churches and congregations helped the church with the building. The inner part of the church, the decorations and benches were finished in 1829. Because of the weight of the big tower the walls of the church building began to move. It needed a lot of fixing and repairing. Repairs were made in 1839, 1847, 1849, 1850 and 1864. The last big repair was made in 1878 when the tower was fixed and strengthened, too.
Further repairs were made in: 1929, 1938, 1950, 1960, 1972, 1981 and 1996.
The church has two doors. The one for the men is the main entrance and the other is for the women. The door for men has a sign saying: “Peace for those who enter salvation for those who leave. This door was made in 1821 by Mihály Ambrus.” The door for women is under the tower and its sign says: “It was made by T.M. Preacher in 1772.” This door comes from the old church.
The ceiling of the church is decorated by traditional Hungarian motif with tulips. Up on the ceiling there is an inscription with the date of 1823 when the church was built.
Inside the church there are two balconies. The organ is in one of them. One balcony is for young men, the other for young women.
According to ancient Hungarian tradition men and women sit separately in the church. So there are pews for men and pews for women. The color of the pews is a grayish one, in their front side decorated with painted flowers.
On the wall there is a large Hungarian banner with traditional red, white and green colors. It was donated in 1942 by those men and women who worked in Budapest in that time.
On the other wall there is a marble plaque, a memorial to those who fought and died in the 2nd World War.
The Lord’s Table in the middle of the church is made of wood and beautifully carved.
The outside of the church and tower is white.
The gate is a carved and beautifully decorated one with the sign:” God is one. Egy az isten. This gate was made for the memory of the 2nd village- meeting by Dénes Deák in 1996.”
The old church did not have a tower. There was only a bell tower made of wood standing separately in the garden.
When the new church was ready the congregation decided to build a tower, too. They began to build it in 1831. In 1834 the tower was standing but without a roof. Even in this condition it became very dangerous for the church building, causing a lot of damage to its walls. They finished the tower and put a roof on it in 1835.
By 1862 the tower had begun to lean to one side. In 1874 the bells were taken down from the tower and moved back to the old bell tower. The repairs were done on the new building and the bells were moved back in 1876.
In 1878 the foundation of the tower was strengthened. But in 1908 it began to lean again. It was fixed again.
In 1911 it was hit by a lightening and damaged very badly. The tower was fixed again.
In 1917 the tower leaned again to one side because of a big earthquake.
So the tower is a
little bit inclined even today but the villagers are
very fond of it!
6.3. The parish house
There is an old description of the old parish house in the records from 1789.
By 1854 the old parish house became so ruined that in that year the congregation built a new one. This one wasn’t a good one, so in 1892 they decided to build a new house. They finished it in 1898.
Repairs were made in 1939, 1940, 1950, 1958 and 1972. In 1983 a meeting room was build next to the parish house. In 1979 a bathroom was made in the house. In 1987- 89 a summer house was built next to the parish house.
In 1999 transformation
works began in the house and it was finished in
2000. So the parish house was enlarged with a
guest room and an office room thanks to this work.
6.4. The house for the cantor
In 1842 the first teacher- cantor arrived in the village. A house was built for him in 1844 next to the school building. But in 1891 they built a new one.
In 1948 not only the school building had been
taken away by the government but also the cantor house
with every other building as well (barns, etc).
C. The history of the bells
In the records from 1773 two bells are mentioned. One made in 1481 the other in 1755.
In the records from 1789 two bells are mentioned, too the one from 1481 and another from 1782. So one of the bells was changed.
The bell from 1481 cracked in 1907. It was sold to a museum and the congregation bought another bell weighting 413 kilos.
After 20 years this bell was taken away in the 1st World War in 1917.
A new bell was bought in 1929 weighting 204 kilos.
Today these two bells
serve the congregation.
A. The history of the organ
The organ was made in 1841 and bought by the congregation in that year. The members of the congregation paid for it.
Repairs were made in: 1850, 1866, 1879, 1889, 1903, 1931, 1947, 1948, 1959, 1961 and 1968.
After that the organ was in
such disrepair in 1992 the congregation bought a new
with the help of the partner churches from abroad.
1. The Francis David Association
With the help of the minister and the teacher the Youth Debating Society was founded. This worked until 1896.
In 1896, for the memory of Francis David, a meeting was held and it was decided to found the Francis David Association. In wintertime there were 3 meetings a week from 1st of November till 1st of April. These meeting were about: reading, writing; filling documents from everyday life; practicing religious and folk songs; talking about agricultural, farming, fruit growing problems; discussing religious history and everyday life problems. The minister introduced readings from the Bible in 1935.
Every year the members of the Association learned a play and they acted it out in the village. They collected the money from this for the Association.
In 1936 they bought 120 books and made a little library.
In that year the government stopped the Association. A long silence came…
The Association was restarted in 1995. Its new name was Francis David Youth Association. The youth met every week. They talked and organized balls and performances.
Today the young meet
occasionally. In 2000 they went to Fiatfalva to take part in a competition.
They finished in the 4th place and were given an
2. The Women’s Association
The Women’s Association was founded in 1933. The women worked a lot and showed their love by doing things like: planting beautiful flowers in the church garden, putting fresh flowers to the Lord’s Table every Sunday and taking care of the forgotten graves. They organized a lot of holidays in Christmas time, at Mother’s Day and holidays for children.
The Women’s Association and their activities were forbidden during communism. Instead of the meetings of the Women’s Association meetings were held in the collective offices led by the teacher. The name of these activities was the Democratic Women and it took place in the 70s and 80s. During these meetings the women listened to different presentations. They also did hand- work and held discussions.
These meetings did not have any religious character.
Of course the women were active in the church
life too, although not in the Women’s Association.
3. The choir
We know from the old documents that both associations (the Francis David Association and the Women’s Association) each had a choir. Together they had 70 members.
The choirs performed
on holidays and at religious events.
Beginning in 1909s all the associations met together every Sunday evening during wintertime. The theme of these meetings was: reading, singing, talking, performing, learning performances and reading from the Bible.
Starting in the fall
of 2000 we meet regularly every week led by the
minister and his wife. The theme of these meetings
is the same as the old ones. Next to strengthening
communications the aim of these meetings is
strengthening the public spirit and self awareness. It also provides the
chance to know each other better, to keep our
traditions alive and also to develop the religious
E. The partnership of the Church
In the 20s the partner church of Csehétfalva was Arlington. But this partnership did not last long.
The real partnership began in 1990. The partner church of Csehétfalva is Kelowna, BC in Canada. The minister of the church is Wendy McNiven; the contact person is Barbara Browman. Barbara visited Csehétfalva in 1993. The local minister, Jozsef Szombatfalvi and his family, as well as the whole congregation welcomed her with great love.
Jozsef Szombatfalvi while being in the USA met the leaders of the Kelowna Church in the States because he did not get visa to Canada.
The partnership between the two congregations is now working very well. There is constant correspondence and e-mail between the two congregations. The correspondence (in English) is between the ministers and the contact persons.
This partnership is
not only spiritual but has material parts, too. The
people from the Kelowna Church donate money to our church many times
to ease the material needs of our church. This money
was used for the renovation works and for buildings.
Let me quote two people whom I’ve quoted very often in my work and who were in love with this little fairy like place named Csehétfalva.
If a foreigner is reading this paper maybe he or she will feel encouraged to visit this village where one can find a real székely culture and surroundings and can also find the now so rare székely spirit.
The first quotation is from Balázs Orbán who shows the way to the village: “the village can be found not with ease and it lies romantic like the homes in the Bible in the shades of forests and amongst rumbling rivers…”
And finally I will quote from the after words of Andor Ekárt’s work. No one can say more beautiful, warmer and topical words, not even that person who loves this place and people better than him:
“This and so much else is the history of the Unitarian Church of Csehétfalva. We, the latest generation stand with wondering worship for a moment in front of the creating faith and the power of generosity from which we can feel the ‘let it be’ words of our Lord. ‘Let it be’ and here stands, blooms, struggles and develops with its miseries, problems and fights a little Unitarian székely village. Times change and we also change with it. Years and centuries are running but we inherit not only the moral and the material things but also the obligations. We who now stand here had to be careful twice that the winds of time not put out the fire of saintly enthusiasm and generosity that brought this church to life and kept it alive. May God help the church to live, develop and prosper.”
Hódmezővásárhely tiszteletbeli polgárai
Orbán Balázs Honismereti Emléktúra