The first Methodist missionaries came to Hungary from Germany and Austria in 1898. They were able to gain ground with their message relatively quickly, first among members of the German-speaking population, and soon among Hungarians, as well. The Methodist missions grew steadily, and soon comprised more than 1,000 members. But due to political developments following First World War (Trianon Peace-treaty, loosing two third of Hungary’s territory) only one congregation remained with one pastor and 100 members. The UMC strengthened in the 1920-ies again, a strong social work system was organized. Another crisis followed Second World War due to the deportations of the German speaking population and the resettlement of the Slovakian speaking population in Slovakia. In addition, all church institutions were confiscated by the state between 1946-49. Difficult years of restriction and isolation followed in the communist era for all the Churches, even the existence of the UMC in Hungary was threatened. All these and tensions within the church eventually led to a painful split in 1974.
But God called new people, who put all their energy into the mission of the UMC in Hungary in the 1970-80-ies. And the political changes of 1989 provided new opportunities. Suddenly, many new possibilities for spreading the Gospel in word and deed opened up. New dimensions were added to the work of the Church, and the congregations grew.
The fact that the UMC in Hungary provided a home for four congregations in Transcarpathia (Western Ukraine) for ten years and assisted them in such matters as training of lay workers, demonstrates that the Church was not only preoccupied with taking care of its own problems. (Since 2003, these four congregations have been part of the UMC in the Ukraine, and thus belong to the area supervised by the Bishop of Eurasia.)
The UMC congregations in Hungary continue to report growth in their missionary and charity activities. They produce TV and radio programs, work with children and youth, and each year organize a nationwide family summer camp which is attended by several hundred people. They are active in religious education in schools, and provide support for prison inmates and drug addicts. They run two homes for the elderly in Kaposszekcsö and Budakeszi, and have built a varied and comprehensive service for the Roma (agricultural extension service, literacy courses, pre-marital counselling, etc.). But above all, they organize regular evangelization meetings, in order to remind the people, by means of the Word and good music, of the One who, in the face of the major changes and insecurity of the present time, wants to give them new perspectives in life.
One happy result of these activities is also a challenge: many of the buildings being used have become too small and outdated, and many congregations are dreaming of new church buildings. They hope that when finances are available, step by step, these dreams will come true.
Beside its own work, the UMC in Hungary is also very active in ecumenical matters, and often assumes a leading role. Recently, the cooperation between six Churches with Wesleyan origins (the so-called “Wesley-Alliance”) has been especially fruitful in the form of a common training program for lay workers.
At the same time, the UMC in Hungary is under great pressure, not least of all due to the country’s recent entry into the EU. The government has repeatedly burdened the Church with new measures, such as large increases in the minimum wage and new standards in social institutions. But Church leaders are confident that their previous experience will once again be confirmed: We are not alone!
For more information about the World Methodist Council and how your donations can help further our mission, please visit our donations page.