Honourable Congregation, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you on this special day, for an event that was last seen in Budapest in 1943. On 31 October it will be seventy-seven years since a new building was handed over at a Calvinist college-preparatory school in Budapest. Church historians will record that twenty-two years ago the Calvinists in [the neighbourhood of] Budafok showed great determination in founding a kindergarten – the first Calvinist kindergarten in the whole country. It will also be recorded that those seeds fell on fertile soil, and began to grow pleasingly: the kindergarten started with seventy-two children, but now has more than 250. Over time, the kindergarten gave birth to a Calvinist primary school with about 600 pupils, and this primary school generated the idea of a Calvinist college-preparatory school. And this also set the direction for further steps, which would include a new building for that college-preparatory school. So an institution was born that would be the alma mater for many, many students, taking them from infancy to the threshold of adulthood – and in spirit perhaps even further.
A total of twenty-two years has passed since 1998. But is that really the whole story? The threads lead farther back. And as we step back through time, we see a succession of milestones in Christian education in Hungary. We see 1990, when the Baár–Madas Calvinist College-preparatory School, which has been appropriated by the communists, finally reopened in Buda. We see the year 1943, when, with public donations, the grandfather of our bishop István Bogárdi Szabó built the Lónyay Street Calvinist College-preparatory School and College. A few years later that school would also be taken by the communist state power. After the fall of communism it reverted to its rightful owner, but in a completely run-down condition. We see 1538, when the Calvinist College in Debrecen opened its doors. And we even see the school in Pannonhalma, which, with a history of more than one thousand years, was the first Christian educational institution on Hungarian soil. We’ve gone back one thousand years seeking the roots of this school we’re handing over, so let us take the courage to trace the origins of this school back to Jesus Christ’s instruction two thousand years ago: “make disciples of all nations”. I believe that these five-hundred, one-thousand and two-thousand-year milestones mark the place, meaning and purpose of church education in the Hungarian sphere. They provide an eternally contemporary lesson that we must stand firm not only in our own personal lives, but also in the lives of our community, fulfilling our mission in the place allotted to us by the will of the Creator.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our generation has been given three tasks. The first is to preserve and renew everything that the Hungarians have created in the Carpathian Basin over the past thousand years. We have been entrusted with the task of rebuilding churches and schools to be as they were long ago: for the buildings, the thoughts and the faith that our ancestors have left us to be as beautiful, as strong, as rich and as awe-inspiring as our forebears wanted them to be. That is why our centuries-old churches, communal spaces and schools – including the Lónyay Street Calvinist College-preparatory School – have been and will be renewed. Towers have rebuilt, decoration has been renovated, and original owners have moved back into refurbished buildings.
The second task we have received is to build something new next to the old renovated buildings: new churches, schools and kindergartens within and beyond our borders, thus building a strong line of defence that will help to ensure that future generations are Christian and Hungarian. In these two tasks church and state are allies for each other. Therefore, when the state gives resources to build or maintain a church institution, it is putting the money in the best place. Every forint is recouped several times over by the whole of Hungary in terms of education, the raising of children, culture, families, care for the vulnerable – the poor, the elderly and the sick – and in building the nation, in helping Hungarian communities beyond the borders. This is happening in very many areas, in which church and state are now working side by side.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, the third task we have been given is to defend the work we have done so far. Although today is one of celebration, there are questions that we cannot avoid. There is a growing debate around us, a struggle almost at daggers drawn, about the future of our children. What influences should they be under? Upon what values should their lives be ordered? How should they relate to their families, to Hungarian identity, and even to the sex they have been born into? Therefore, possessing our traditions going back five hundred, one thousand and two thousand years, we must give a definitive answer as to what we want to pass on to future generations, to those who attend this school, and to their descendants. When they are being taught, what walls, spaces and human creations should they be surrounded by – so that they, too, appreciate the work of their forebears? Who should teach them and what should they be taught to ensure that the river does not dry up, that the tradition linking us to one thousand years of Hungarians does not break, and that they understand that they too must add the time allotted to them to this thousand years, so that the next one thousand years does not pass without us? So that when the time comes, future generations can give the right answer to the question I once heard asked by Professor Nemeskürty: “Who are you, and why are you who you are?” If we know the right answer to this simple question, then no great trouble can happen to us in our lives. And we also want the lives of our children and grandchildren to be free of trouble. And this school is one of the best places to teach your pupils who they are and who we Hungarians are. And let it also answer the question of why. Why and what is their task, what is their mission in this life? In the Hungarian language, the word “why” not only asks the reasons for our existence, but also its purpose: for what purpose Hungarians were born here, into this Hungarian world, into this century, into this culture and faith. To borrow an expression from “Uncle Bandi” Gyökössy, we have been given Christian freedom to educate them as members of “Homo christianus”: people committed to their faith, their family, their nation, and their fellow human beings.
In light of all this, my wish is for this Calvinist college-preparatory school to be a blessed place where people live and teach in this freedom for centuries. I once again thank those whose work has brought the plans to fruition: who planted, watered, and cared for this new seed-plot for God, and who are celebrating with us today. I offer my special thanks in recognition of the selfless service of your congregation’s former pastor and founder of the school – which has clearly not only been built from walls, but also from souls.
Soli Deo gloria!