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Honoring the Life of Rev. Dr. Árpád Szabó

The following obituary was released by the Consistory of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church, in Kolozsvár:

The Consistory of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church announces with deep sorrow the decease of its retired leader, Rev. Dr. Árpád Szabó, the thirtieth bishop of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church, who passed away on September 30, 2010, at the age of seventy-six, following a year of hard illness endured with dignity and good faith.

During his lifetime, he worked to promote the fulfillment of the centuries-old, historic mission of the Unitarian church, and served its needs with devoted enthusiasm, at convenient and inconvenient times. “Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid!”

He preached the gospel of Jesus: the experience of God’s provident love, the responsible vocation of the Christian people, and the preserving power of a religious community.

He was born in 1935 in an ancient Unitarian village along the valley of the Homoród, and he studied in Városfalva, Székelykeresztúr and Kolozsvár, where he obtained his ministerial degree between 1953 and 1957. He started his career in the church as a secretary to the bishop between 1958 and 1965, later as the minister of the downtown Kolozsvár congregation between 1965 and 1976. In 1974, he became the professor of Unitarian biblical theology at the Protestant Theological Institute, and in 1977-1978, the scholarship holder of the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. In 1996, the Synod elected him as the thirtieth bishop of the church, reinforcing his title in 2002. He retired in 2008, after half a century of church service.

The first part of his service passed in a period of great tribulations in church history, while the second part fell in times of opened perspectives. He fulfilled his mission with responsibility and commitment in both periods. As a minister, he called the attention of his parishioners upon the providing care of God and His power to preserve the community. As a teacher, he worked for the aim of passing on his knowledge in theological science and the vocation of ministry to the young generations. As a bishop, he sought to find orientation among newly appearing opportunities, and urged the spiritual and financial strengthening of the church.

His attention was also extended on intellectual needs: by his own example, he encouraged the pursuance of theological sciences and literature, and the editing of church periodicals. The restarting of the denominational schools and their development into quality educational institutions, the strengthening of the church institutions, the constructions of new church buildings, and the promotion of international relations are all good evidence for his devoted, conscious, responsible service.

His funeral service will take place on Monday, October 4, 2010, at the Unitarian church of downtown Kolozsvár, from where he will be accompanied to the cemetery of Házsongárd.

May his memory be blessed!

Condolences may be sent to the Consistory at ekt @ unitarius.com

Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), a letter of condolence on September 30, 2010. to Bishop Bálint Benczédi of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church. To learn more about the contributions of Szabó, please read Morales's letter.

UPDATE: 11/4/2010

The Consistory of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church has announced the establishment of the Szabó Árpád Memorial Fund for PhD Scholarships in Unitarian Theology.

Following Bishop Szabó’s recent passing, the intention of the church leadership is to immortalize his legacy by creating a motivational source of support and inspiration in a field that was most dear to him. Bishop Szabó himself was a recipient of a PhD degree in Unitarian theology, from the Protestant Theological Institute in Kolozsvár; he was also granted an honorary doctorate from both the Protestant Theological Faculty in Montpellier, France, as well as the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, USA. As he became a theological professor, he had led the PhD training of some of his spiritual successors, acting as a model for a theologian of dedicated research and prolific writing.

The creation of the memorial fund aims to provide financial and professional support for those choosing to enter PhD training in Unitarian theology. The fund will act as an endowment, sharing its annual benefits among those enrolled in such a program.

For further information, visit the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Partner Church Council's website.

Unitarian Universalist Life

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, November 4, 2010.

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