Friday 25 April 2014
A pretty early start of the day today. We were having a spicy Hungarian breakfast as early as a quarter to six. One hour later our train left from Debrecen station, where we had been taken by taxi. We rode aboard an old, small diesel train through the Pusztas; the empty Hungarian plains. After two hours we arrived at Tiszaszentimre, a small, isolated village. From the station without platforms it is a ten minute walk to the village centre. Most of the houses belong to the past and there’s hardly a car on the bumpy tarmac road.
We join a lady to the village civic centre, which functions as a cultural centre for the area. In the building we come across a small library and a space for village meetings and parties. We are kindly welcomed by some locals, who serve us a second breakfast. But the palinka is more important. Strong liquor must not be absent at nine o’clock in the morning. As a token of hospitality we are offered small glasses of a strong gin, which we cannot refuse without being rude. By nine thirty some have had their third glass.
We visit Tiszaszentimre to interview three inhabitants about themselves, the village and the village church. Our focus is again on the theme of diversity and community. An 86 year old man tells us extensively about the reformed village during the era of the communist regime. “As a Cristian you weren’t a member of the party, which meant that your chances in society were scanty.” He is optimistic about the future of the church in the village. Now that the socialist system has gone, the church has been growing and is becoming more visible in the village each year.
The village church is run by a young ministers’ couple. They organise many activities for the mostly elderly inhabitants. Since a number of years they have brought a healthy breath of fresh air to the village. A number of younger couples have settled down in the village and the church building now has a separate space for the ten members of the Baby-mom club. The enthusiastic couple leads us around through the village and the church and discusses all sorts of clerical matters with us. The social influence of the church in Tiszaszentimre is strong. The old age pensioners’ home, for instance, is in the care of the church and not of local governance. The elderly are quite happy about this. Since the takeover some years ago the home has been nicely refurbished. After a visit to the local pub we return to the station, so as not to miss the last train of the day – departure 16.35 hrs. An interesting day, having been introduced to the reformed church in Hungary’s rural countryside.