Transylvania Partner Church

 Partner Church Link pilgrimage to Transylvania & Budapest in September 2016

budapest5  Budapest  Kolozsvar

romania_2   Barbaraandfriend

ClujRomania_8   groupchoir_Jan  budapest6

beth  partnerchurchyouth


more photos and trip information coming soon!

About Nyaradszentmarton

Eliot Chapel has maintained a partnership since 1990 with Unitarians in NyardSzentMarton (St. Martin-on-the-River), a rural village in Transylvania, a Hungarian-speaking region of Romania.


The Unitarian Church of Transylvania dates to the mid-1500s. (Today they are the second largest group of Unitarians in the world.) Transylvania was a part of Hungary until the region was given to Romania as a result of a peace treaty at the end of World War One.  Because they have maintained their religious faith and their Hungarian ethnicity, the Unitarians of Transylvania were severely oppressed by the communist government of Romania during the Cold War.  At the time the Soviet Union unraveled in 1989 and the Eastern block nations jettisoned their communist governments, the Unitarian churches of Transylvania were on the very edge of collapse.  It was at this critical moment that many North American U.U. congregations, including Eliot Chapel, stepped forward to establish partnerships. Today, although the Romania government generously supports the state-sponsored Orthodox Church, non-Orthodox churches and ethnic minorities continue to struggle for survival.


St MartincroppedBackground of Eliot Chapel's Partnership

Rev. John Robinson, Eliot Minister Emeritus, began the relationship with St. Martin in the fall of 1991 with his contribution of $100 to buy Christmas packages for the Sunday school children.  He was responding to an appeal by Transylvanian Unitarians for help in rebuilding their churches after years of extreme oppression by the communist regime that had finally collapsed at the end of the Cold War.



In the years since, the Eliot congregation has helped St. Martin in many ways. Our Bread Program for the elderly is probably the thing that members of Eliot are most aware of. The offering gathered at our Thanksgiving Bread Services goes literally to buy bread for the elderly of Nyaradszentmarton.


Work of More Than Two Decades

 Some of the other projects undertaken by the Eliot congregation have included the following:

  • The establishment and funding of a revolving loan fund so that people may borrow money to start businesses.
  • The repair of a leaking church roof, which had caused severe damage to the church’s painted ceiling panels.
  • The funding of a playground next door to the parsonage.
  • Support for flood victims, the elderly and the sick.
  • Continuing support for Christmas gifts of school supplies for children.
  •  A car for Rev. Varga to travel to his other two churches. And then another when the first one was thoroughly worn out.
  • Modernization of electrical circuits in the church.
  • Funding for four gas heaters for the church and Sunday school.
  • A new roof on the bell tower in Csikfalva, a neighboring village.
  • Scholarship money for university and high school students.
  •  Church fence repair.
  • A computer, printer and annual internet service.
  • Funding for new plumbing and kitchen.
  • An annual supplement to the minister’s salary.


BalconyHelp from Many Directions

Past support to St. Martin has come from many sources.  In addition to the team’s work, support and participation have come from the R.E. children, Women’s Alliance, the Library Committee, and from generous donations from Eliot Chapel members and the greater community, including the Hungarian community in the greater St. Louis area.  Most funds directed to the program now come from Eliot’s budget.

The Robinson-Weber Endowment

In June of 2000, Rev. Robinson retired as minister of Eliot Chapel.  As his and Diane’s parting gift to Eliot and to St. Martin, he requested that contributions be made to an Endowment for Nyaradszentmarton.  Twenty-four thousand three hundred dollars was collected for the fund.  Interest from the endowment goes directly to the church board of St. Martin to be used at its discretion.


2016 Pilgrimage – The Heart of a Partnership

St Martin Sketch

In 2014 Sandor Kiss became the new minister of St. Martin. He learned much about his partners in St. Louis from the retiring minister, Sandor Varga, but he was anxious to meet some of us in person. The following is from his Christmas e-mail to the Eliot congregation:

“We would like to thank you very much for your care and all your support we’ve received from you last year and the years before that. We are all waiting for a visit from you, it would be very good to meet and talk about the future of our relationship and the ways we could extend it. So, we just want to let you know that whenever you could pay us a visit, you are welcome.”

Sandor Kiss

Our Library Resources

We have several books in our church library about Transylvania and Unitarianism in Romania. They can be found by searching our library catalog on the Eliot website under the subjects “Transylvania” or “Romania.”

Origin of the Bread Program

In 1999 when flooding occurred in the village, Eliot Chapel took a special collection of over $2,000 to help those affected by the flood. The aid was used to provide approximately 100 sick or elderly villagers with a three-pound loaf of bread per week for over a year.  When asked what else we could do to help, the minister asked if it was possible to continue the bread program to help impoverished elderly pensioners. The committee subsequently sent money when it was available from fundraisers. In 2003 Eliot began the tradition of dedicating the entire collection of the Thanksgiving Bread Service to the bread program.  The average amount collected is approximately $3,000.

Sandor Kiss

In 2014 Sandor Varga retired from the ministry of our partner church and was replaced by a 33-year-old minister named Sandor Kiss.  He and his wife, Zsuzasa, also a Unitarian minister, have three children.


Eliot – St. Martin Timeline

1990 – Partnership established

1993 – Rev. Sandor Varga visited Eliot Chapel & Eliot member, David Conrad, visited St. Martin.

1994 – Rev. John Robinson, his wife, and daughter visited St. Martin.

1996 – Rev. Sandor Varga, his wife, and daughter visited Eliot Chapel.

1997, 1999, 2002 and 2005 – Eliot groups visited St. Martin and Transylvania.

2010  –  Rev. Sandor Varga, and his wife, Edit, visited in April.

2014 – Sandor Varga retired and Sandor Kiss became the new minister of St. Martin.


Contact: Bill Coalson

Email: partnerchurch@eliotchapel.org

Last Published: September 24, 2019 2:24 PM