10 January 2023
Ukrainian crisis gives new
focus in mission to
Anglicans in Budapest
Amber Jackson from the diocese communications team in the Diocese of Europe and Patrick Comerford from USPG are visiting Anglican chaplaincies in Hungary and Finland to see how they are supporting Ukrainian refugees with funding from the joint Ukraine appeal.
Patrick Comerford visits Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church in Budapest to hear how it became involved with Ukrainian refugees
The Anglican response to the needs of Ukrainian refugees in Hungary is often thanks to the energy of the Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs, the chaplain of Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church in Budapest. He has been the catalyst in securing funding from USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Anglican Diocese in Europe for projects in the Hungarian capital we have been visiting over the past week.
The congregation in Budapest comes from many nations and continents: from Hungary to the United Kingdom, from Africa to North America, of ‘all vintages and sizes,’ as Father Frank says.
During the past week, we have been visiting some of the initiatives supported by people at Saint Margaret’s, including the Menedékház Foundation or House of Refuge, on the outskirts of Budapest, Ukrainian Space, a day-care centre for Ukrainian parents and children, and Next Step Hungary, providing refugee services.
‘Whilst Hungary has not received refugees on the same scale as countries like Poland, the Church in Hungary is supporting Ukrainian refugees who do arrive here,’ says Father Frank Hegedűs.
People at Saint Margaret’s, like Gordon Cross and other parishioners, have been directly involved in both Ukrainian Space and Next Step.
Saint Stephen, an early tribal leader and king, established the Hungarian State at the end of the 10th century, and became king in the year 1000. He reorganised the diocesan and church structures and is regarded as the founder of the Hungarian state and a key founding figure in Christianity in Hungary.
According to legend, his crown was provided by Pope Sylvester II. He died in 1038 and was canonised by Pope Gregory VII in 1083. His feast day on 20 August is a public holiday in Hungary, commemorating the foundation of the state. His crown is displayed in the Hungarian Parliament on the banks of the Danube.
Saint Margaret of Scotland, who gives her name to the Anglican church in Budapest, was a pre-Norman English princess and a member of the Anglo-Saxon royal family in Wessex. She was born in exile in an ancient castle at Mecseknádasd in southern Hungary, the daughter of Prince Edward the Exile, and a granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, King of England.
Some legends say her mother Agatha was related to the Hungarian royal family; others suggest she was related to the royal family of Rus in Kiev, which links her to the early beginnings of modern Ukraine.
Saint Margaret returned to England with her family in 1057. After the death of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, her brother Edgar Ætheling was elected as King of England, but he was never crowned king. Margaret and her family fled north, and she married King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070.
Anglicans have been present in Hungary for generations, with an Anglican presence in Hungary that dates back to the 1890s. Many of those early Anglicans were business-people and, interestingly, English horse trainers and riders employed by Hungarian aristocrats In the Tata Castle in Komárom-Esztergom county.
Anglican worship in Hungary remained sporadic during the Communist era, with an Anglican priest coming to Budapest periodically from Vienna. Current records also show there was an Anglican service on the first Sunday after the revolution in 1956.
Saint Margaret’s was officially founded after the fall of Communism in 1992 by Canon Denis Moss. The church first met in the crypt in the Church of the Hungarian Saints. Canon Moss now lives in retirement near Lake Balaton in Hungary.
Father Frank Hegedűs is of Hungarian ancestry and came to the Diocese in Europe from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. He has been the Anglican chaplain in Hungary since 2011 and also serves as Area Dean in Central Europe.
Hungary is predominantly Roman Catholic but with significant numbers in the Reformed (Presbyterian), Lutheran, Orthodox, and Baptist churches, among others. Saint Margaret’s and the Anglican Communion is one of the 30 churches or Christian denominations officially recognised by the Hungarian State.
Today, Saint Margaret’s uses a chapel in the Lutheran building on Szentkirály utca, with the Sunday Eucharist celebrate at 10:30 according to Rite II in Common Worship of the Church of England. The Eucharist is also celebrated most Sundays at Balaton in the village of Zalaszántó near Keszthely and the spa centre at Hévíz.
According to Father Frank, the Anglican presence in Budapest is ‘miniscule’ but this small congregation provides a presence in Hungary for one of the largest Churches or Communions in the world.
About one-third of the current community is British, and another third, Hungarian. There are members too from Africa and from North America.
Father Frank says the Ukrainian crisis and the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Budapest has given Saint Margaret’s and its people ‘a new sense of purpose and mission’, with the people actively responding to the needs of refugees and engaging with the projects we have been visiting.
He recalls how Saint Margaret’s opened its doors to about 20 Nigerian medical students who had been studying in Ukraine. ‘Along with the students came a medical professor and her husband, Father Solomon Ekiyor, who had been an Archdeacon in Nigeria. Receiving Father Solomon and his family was a bittersweet experience – it was wonderful to have them with us but the circumstances that brought them here were most unfortunate.’
The crisis has also given a new ecumenical dimension to the presence of Saint Margaret’s in the Hungarian capital. Through Father Frank’s passion, grants from the Diocese in Europe and USPG have also helped the work of other churches in Hungary, including the Jesuit Refugee Service and Saint Columba’s Church, the Church of Scotland church in Budapest.