COMMUNICATION is an important part of our lives – especially with the prominence of the internet and mobile phones – and language is usually considered to be an integral part of this.
However, this is not always so, as I recently found. A few weeks ago I was invited to share in the celebration of the 16th anniversary of the dedication of a small Unitarian church in rural Transylvania (Romania), near the town of Targu Mures.
The minister of that church had visited us at Dunham Road Unitarian Chapel in 2009 and suggested that we form a partnership, exchanging news and photographs.
I had seen photographs of the little white church and members of the community, but was somewhat apprehensive about my visit as I had no idea what to expect and what form the celebration would take. I need not have worried.
From the first moment of meeting the minister and his wife I was made so welcome, with warm hugs and generous hospitality.
Three action-packed days followed, visiting local Unitarian churches, meeting the mayor, lunching with members of neighbouring churches and seeing some of the sights in Targu Mures including the old Unitarian church and the stunning Palace of Culture. What struck me in particular was the care people took of their churches, even in poor communities where there was no running water so each house had a well in the garden.
There were embroidered runners and hymn book covers, and flowers everywhere. These people had so much love in their hearts.
At the anniversary service, the press and TV were there which was a bit daunting – I had to give a speech and present a Union Jack flag to the Lay President.
But the wife of the Lay President sitting next to me, who spoke no English, held my hand tightly – she could tell I was nervous – and this moved me greatly. The message I will take away from this visit is that you do not need to speak the same language to be able to communicate.
The smiles and hugs we exchanged did not need any words.
These wonderful memories will stay in my heart for a very long time.