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In memoriam, and yes, friendship saves

October 27, 2013

Here follow words written to honor the memory of a great friend, a colleague in Unitarian ministry, and one of the most extraordinary men I have known.  How so?  That story is told in the oral history I wrote with his cooperation several years ago, Feribacsi In His Own Words (see publications page of this blog).

IMG_3174-Norbi (1)My words were occasioned by the funeral of the Reverend Nagy Ferenc (Francis Nagy, pronounced “nadge,” with last name first, as in Hungarian usage), affectionately called Feribacsi (“Feri-bachi”), who died this month, aged 97 years, at his home in Sighisoara, Romania (or as the Hungarians prefer, in Segesvar, Transylvania, attached to Romania on account of the Treaty of Trianon, which dismembered the old Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War.)   That’s a lot of explanatory parentheses, but they should not make us think of the people and the land of Transylvania (Erdley, in Hungarian) as utterly foreign, or even weird (the home of Dracula and all that).  They are friends, they are members of the oldest continuous Unitarian church community in the world–dating from the 16th century–and after several decades behind the Iron Curtain, they rejoiced in being rejoined to the Europe that was their historic homeland.

This historical background is implicit in my remarks for Feribacsi’s funeral.   I did not attend in person, but the Reverend Torok Istvan, another great companion in the Transylvanian Unitarian ministry, graciously translated and conveyed my words for the service, held at Ferenc’s home church in Segesvar.  –GKB

In memory of Nagy Ferenc

IMG_3194-sirnalAt whatever age a man should die, it seems too soon.  Our hearts were not prepared to lose you, dear Feribacsi, from the land of the living.  Nor could they ever be prepared, satisfied to accept your passing without a pang, without the heart’s silent protest.  Now it must be spoken for all to hear: in your community, among your grieving kin, among all of us who loved you.  For this is our witness:

We love you still, and so we know that you are present still—your great benign presence among us, living still in our hearts, living in our lives so long as we shall live, living always in the communion of saints, and sinners too, gathered round the throne of God, just as we gather here.

IMG_1630You received us gladly when we first came to your enchanted land, so like a fairy-tale princess under an evil spell.  In your many years you saw the rise and fall of dreadful regimes, and you embodied endurance, good humor, and steadfast faith among your people.  This was your triumph.  Where had we Americans been all those years—cowering on our side of the Iron Curtain?  Your indomitable spirit helped your people to break the spell.   For us your “Let’s go!” spirit—carrying us from church to church up and down the land—helped us to break through the isolating barriers that keep strangers from being friends.

Our congregations, your Segesvar and our Arlington, became partners.  We did the most radical thing in the world: introduce people to one another.  You and dear Piroska came to meet our people, to preach and sing your songs with us, to see our Capitol city, to enjoy our country home, dubbed Campicello by a U. S. Navy captain, with a pond that you dubbed our “pocket sea.”

Of our many journeys to your land, most memorable was racing from Seged to Segesvar on a Sunday morning.  I was to preach, in this very church your father built!  Piroska played the organ on and on during our delay, but you were calm and confident of our arrival.  Also most memorable, the church in Feheregyhaza that you (not to be outdone) built by dint of your own creative drive.  It is a beautiful structure that binds the old and the new in one–just like our liberal faith, as you said in our oral history, published as Feribacsi in His Own Words. 

IMG_1641Also most memorable, traveling together to Kukullosard, with its ancient church in an ancient village named for an ancient princess.  Coming from afar, you said the village with its surrounding hills called to mind Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem, about the hen who gathers her brood under her wings.  It is an image of the peaceable kingdom, the community of God.

Ferenc, may you rest well in the eternal community of God.

George Kimmich Beach and BarbaraKresBeach, MadisonCounty, Virginia, U.S.A.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard Boeke permalink
    October 28, 2013 1:36 am

    To Rev G.K Beach:

    Dear Kim:

    Thank you for your eulogy to Nagy Ferenc, I am passing it on to a few friends: David, Maria, Josef, Bishop, Istvan

    An invitation to you, Barbara, and Transylvanian friends, if you would like to be invited as a speaker or panellist for the 24-27 August 2014 IARF Birmingham Congress, or to the IALRW 20-23 August (also in Birmingham. England), Please reply with a suggestion of the topic you would like to address. I will pass it on to the Congress Committee.

    The theme of the Congress is The Challenge to Religious Freedom in the Digital Age. However, the challenge of peacemaking in a divided world is also a sub-topic. Our Host Committee announced this weekend that our opening speaker on 24 August will be Karen Armstrong. Read one of her books, TWELVE STEPS TO COMPASSION, or my favourite, THE SPIRIAL STAIRCASE.

    Today, I will be recommending to the Congress Committee the Right Rev Angealos, Coptic Bishop of the United Kingdom (Religious Freedom) and Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester (The Multicultural City)

    With Gratitude, Richard

    * Bishop Angaelos

    * Bishop Angaelos was consecrated in 1999 as a General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, the church of Egypt founded by Mark the Apostle around 55 AD and the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Wikipedia


  2. Howard Stoodley permalink
    October 28, 2013 9:07 am

    Beautiful eulogy…you haven’t lost the ability to inspire.

  3. Thomas Wintle permalink
    October 28, 2013 3:51 pm

    Kim —

    This is, my friend, one of the finest eulogies I’ve ever read! Just magnificent use of language — “the heart’s silent protest” . . . “your great benign presence.” And a marvelous invocation of the communion of saints (and sinners).

    Thank you, Tom Wintle

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