We acquired the multi-story building on the corner of Benczúr street and Munkácsy Mihály street as a gift from the Government of Hungary in 2018. The property, which was used as a kindergarten and a music school earlier, had been abandoned for a long time, resulting in its serious deterioration. Today, thanks to its smart design and sophisticated renovation, nobody would recognize the old building. As our experienced foreign guests at the opening ceremony pointed out, the house, wich is elegant, simple, and reminiscent of the past while still displaying characteristics of modernity, stands its ground proudly among the world’s renowned ecclesiastical establishments.
The building that is now known as the Baptist House had its ceremonial opening on 30th June.
The guests for this special occasion arrived from Hungary and abroad. They were immediately greeted by a brass fanfare in front of the building, and then Gyula Háló, the host of the morning session and the former Communication Director of the Baptist Union of Hungary, made the opening remarks. After his speech, citing Psalms 118, as the most important part of the ceremony, László Ottó Varga (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Hungary), Dr. Elijah Brown (General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance), Dr. Zsolt Semjén (Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary), János Papp (President of the Baptist Union of Hungary) and Miklós Soltész (Secretary of State) cut the national-coloured ribbon together.
After the cutting of the ribbon, the rest of the ceremony was held inside the new building, namely in the conference hall where Kornél Mészáros, the former General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Hungary and the Investment Director of the whole project – taking care of the construction in the last few years – prayed.
To the great pleasure of the attendees, a double quartet also contributed to the event with a superior performance including Tímea Jobbágyné Papp, flautist, and Sámuel Tóth pianist. The pro tempore musical ensemble was conducted by Elvira Szilágyiné Mátyus conductor.
The addresses commenced with the kind words of Dr. Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister, in the name of the Government of Hungary. He emphasised that the State of Hungary would never forget the incredible role Hungarian Baptists played in the retrieval of the Holy Crown 45 years ago. He added that the acquisition of the inaugurated building can also be considered a sign of respect. He also mentioned that the government policy concerning churches is based on the cooperation of church and state. Instead of building a hierarchy, the Government of Hungary practices the strategy of cooperation and considers Hungarian Baptists to prove to be invaluable partners. Dr. Semjén also recognized the Church’s endeavours taken on the social and educational fields and expressed his hope that the new building will provide a suitable venue for these as well.
The next one to greet the gathered congregation was Dr. Elijah Brown, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, with the help of Pastor György Varga who interpreted his speech. Dr. Brown mentioned that in connection with the Alliance, numerous churches and 20 humanitarian agencies conduct their work. Nevertheless, he mentioned one particular agency, the Hungarian Baptist Aid, and their preparedness and sacrifice that made the name of the Hungarian Baptists known to the churches of the Alliance. He also suggested that many of Lord Jesus’ teachings were told in different houses. He encouraged the participants that this house, the Baptist House, should be the bearer of eternal messages, a place of peace and recovery not only for Baptists, but for everyone.
The next speech was made by János Papp, the President of the Baptist Union of Hungary. The complete and unabridged version of his speech is available here.
Afterward, Zoltán Balog, Bishop of the Reformed church and Pastoral President of the Synod, addressed the participants. He recalled that he was present at that particular service in Tahi where Billy Graham was preaching. Even though it was 46 years ago, he still thinks of this event as an outstanding spiritual experience. He added that he nourishes a brotherly, friendly relationship with Baptists. In his remarks, the President of the Synod referred to the words of Pope Francis about how the proximity of power doesn’t have a good effect on churches. According to him, we should heed this advice, however, he also implied that communities living according to the word of the Bible are not seeking the proximity of power, but the opportunities to cooperate, just as the Baptist community does. In this cooperation, the educational and social institution systems can serve as tools of ministry for the Church.
The morning session was closed by the prayers of László Ottó Varga (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Hungary) and Norbert Simon (Chief Financial Officer) and the congregation singing the national anthem of Hungary. During the free hours of the lunch break, the guests had a standing reception and the opportunity to freely take a tour around the newly opened building. We are thrilled that Dr. Zsolt Semjén (Deputy Prime Minister) and Zoltán Balog (Bishop of the Reformed Church) stayed for the reception. After touring the building, they also took time to write a few kind words into the guestbook of the Crown Room on the upper floor.
Afterward, the Hungarian leaders of our community, both from Hungary and abroad, visited the Hungarian Parliament with Dr. Elijah Brown (General Secretary of the Baptist World Association), Dr. Mateusz Wichary (the future President of the European Baptist Federation) and Sorin Badragan (President of the Union of Christian Baptist Churches in Romania).
The opening ceremony was planned to last all day, which meant that we continued the function with a thanksgiving service at 3 pm. For this session, the colleagues of our central office and the representatives of the National Pastoral Assembly joined the foreign guests.
As the host of the service, Péter Kiss, Chief Operating Officer, greeted the congregation. The opening prayer was told by the former President of our Church and a retired pastor, Árpád Révész.
The worship team that guided us in glorifying the name of the Lord during the afternoon was led by Renáta Tósoki.
During his recollections, János Papp emphasised the fact that we can look at this building as a gift. He recalled the financial background and the future roles planned for the Baptist House. Then we could catch a glimpse of some pictures taken during the reconstruction.
Afterward, Dr. Elijah Brown, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, delivered a sermon. He said that this was the day of celebration. “There are 51 million Baptist brothers and sisters who are celebrating with you now! This House should be a house of prayer, a place where dedicated disciples are raised and prepared for the ministry.” He then encouraged the congregation based on the first 3 verses from 2 Timothy 2 and referred to those who are now suffering for their faith all around the world. He revealed that 30% of the world’s Baptists are conducting their ministry among calamities and persecution.
His sermon was followed by László Ottó Varga, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Hungary, who expressed his desire that this building should become a house of prayer. The 12 messages that will be placed all around the walls will surely remind us of that. This house will point to something, to Somebody. It was built using diverse materials, but it now forms a harmonious unity – similarly to a spiritual house. He said the church employees working in this building would constitute a spiritual house like this, and this building will stand for the whole Church.
Finally, Mr. Varga also expressed how happy he is that the house will give a home to the Central church. This way, it becomes much more than a simple office.
Afterward, more greeting remarks were made.
The first in the row was Dr. Mateusz Wichary, the future President of the European Baptist Federation: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit and fill the country with the love of Christ! This house shall be a tool to do so!”
With resounding success, Sorin Badragan, the President of the Union of Christian Baptist Churches in Romania said a few words in Hungarian during this address: “May God bless the Hungarian Baptist Brothers and Sisters! We love you!”
Dr. Kálmán Mészáros, the Rector of the Baptist Theological Seminary pointed to the new building and said the following: “The head of the Church is here, but its heart is there [pointing to the building of the Theological Seminary across], because the heart of the ministry is theology. Without a head, you can’t do a ministry, but you can’t lead a Church without a heart.” He promised that a great partnership will characterise the relationship between the Baptist Theological Seminary and the Baptist House.
György Varga, the Pastor of Central church highlighted that “it is a brave thing to name a building as the building speaks of those who named it. Our Lord is fastidious, may we be as fastidious as Him. Let this building speak about the Lord Saviour who lives here!”
Dr. Béla Szilágyi, the President of the Hungarian Baptist Aid recalled the three main goals of the Aid, as worded by Sándor Szenczy, the former President: “To help, to step out of the boat and to provoke the Church to do good.”
The opening ceremony was closed with a thanksgiving prayer led by István Durkó, Missionary Director of the Church.
We hope the Baptist House will be blessed and that it will accomplish its God-ordained mission in our Church, country, Europe and all around the world.
(Issued by the Press service of the Baptist Union of Hungary, translated by Anna Szabó)