kajata herald

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Appears bi-monthly in a number of European languages. It brings news and thoughts from and about the kajata community. The English version does not yet appear regularly. If you read e.g. German or Hungarian, you may order it in the language of your choice. If you would be willing to help with translation (approximatly one day's work every other month), please contact Brother István at kajata@matavnet.hu.
If you only wish to be informed occasionally on kajata - say once a year - you may subscribe to another mailing list.

Have a look at the on-line edition of the German and/or Hungarian newsletter, if you understand that language.

This is a personal letter of Brother István to his English-speaking friends:

kajata herald

Bi-monthly News and Meditations from Füzérkajata:
Special English Edition - Brother István to His Friends, in Summer A.D. 1997.

Dear Friends,

For quite some time I plan to contact you by the means of a special edition of this newsletter. Even though it is rather a personal letter to my friends in Australia, NZ, US, Canada, Africa, UK and so on, it may also serve to introduce you to the kajata community and to its newsletter. In case of significant demand, and if somebody would be prepared to assist with translation from German and/or Hungarian to English, we will go on to publish the English herald regularly. (Some folks in Eastern Europe would be eager to receive an English copy, to assist them in language study, or because it doesn't appear yet in their own language.) You are also free to share this letter with friends who might be interested.

Unfortunately, save one or two exceptions I was not able to keep in touch with hardly any English-speaking friend. Thinking of my time in Australia with all its keen memories is like thinking of a former life on another planet. Some of those occasions come to my mind, when you meet an old friend, whom you haven't seen for ages, just to find out that the friendship continues, just as if no time had passed. Even if you'd spend only a few moments together weaving the threads of friendship, you know that this goes on to exist beyond farewells and separation. You might also find out, however, that you are unable to pass beyond courteous phrases: Your former friend, just as yourself, may have developed in a different sense. He or she may have married, changed profession, hobbies, faith and philosophical views. Sometimes this goes to the point where it hurts, where you are confronted with deception. In some cases it may also offer you a chance to get to know and to love a different, matured person - something I have experienced with my own brother.

There is a solid majority of Adventists amongst the recipients of this letter. I trust that those of you who are not Adventist won't be bored reading the story of the unfolding of my Adventist faith life - and that Adventists won't be scandalized. I sincerely hope that the testimony of my life will contribute to mutual understanding and that it will be a living offering towards the growth of Christian - and even Adventist - unity.

Back to Austria… 

Upon return from Australia I went on to Civil Service in Austria, at the Red Cross Ambulance Services. Although working relatively hard (extension of ambulance facilities - and, by the way, due to liberalization of service laws there are actually 5 fellows serving where I had been all on myself) I had a good time. On Sabbath, I used to visit the small church at Mistelbach with my parents. Only exceptionally was I taking part in some youth program at Vienna. As a result of inner faith development and of growth in experience, I felt like a small fish returning home from a long trip in deep waters: The Adventist Church in Austria is small and has developed its own peculiar social patterns. After studying overseas (without the oral consent of some brethren), and as a consequence of the "anonymous Catholicism" that has been reaping inside of me during theological studies, I felt discontinuity and was not particularly keen to face conflicts with church officers and "concerned youth". On the other hand, to some extent I (re)discovered the lands of my youth - the Weinviertel in the north-east of Lower Austria - including some committed Christian people and groups (mostly Catholic, just as the population majority). And I started writing and researching for Adventist church periodicals, mainly Zeichen der Zeit (Signs), Adventecho and Zeitlupe (Swiss youth paper). This I enjoyed increasingly, to the point where I imagined at least part of my ministerial career within publishing. During the first months at Collonges I was able to represent Adventist periodicals at several major ecumenical events, which included some contacts to Pastor Beach at the time. My press activities came to an abrupt end, when the employment of Ursula Weigert and Irmtraud Wittenberg was discontinued, and Gerhard Rempel retired. The new editor of Adventecho - in the words of a friend - "needed a special General Conference approval" before publishing anything on ecumenism or containing some progressive views. (Zeichen der Zeit was discontinued as a regular paper. One of my greatest hopes for European Adventism disappeared with it. In its own way, I reckon it was as significant as Spectrum - and an official Church publication! A comment: Not only did I gain some friends from amongst editors and contributors, it was by the means of a Zeichen-article I got to know e.g. the Taizé community.) So long for my involvement with press, apart from some Zeitlupe contributions (including an interview with Dr.Beach rejected by Adventecho, including also a major article on creation issues, and some thoughts on liturgy and on the Blessed Virgin Mary).

To the "holy mountain" Salève… 

Immediately after terminating the Service I was able to continue studies at Collonges, thanks to the helpful attitude of the Dean, frère Badenas. The first trimester was tough because of my poor French, but results were satisfying and did not improve with my language progress, probably because of my attitude to concentrate on the worthwhile fields of study, neglecting the boring stuff and poor teachers. I can't avoid the remark that, coming from Avondale, I was disappointed with the academic laxity at Collonges, with the poor training and methodology of teachers. This is only in part due to a lack of good Adventist professors, I would also attribute it to student attitudes somehow like this: I already know the truth, all I need is to memorize a couple of Bible texts, along with a minimum of methodology and general culture. Outstanding person R. Badenas, known for his academic and human qualities. He helped not only by his attention to individual student needs, but also by accepting credits of courses I did at Geneva University.
Those courses not only turned out to be helpful towards an appreciation of contemporary reformed theology and currents in ecumenism, they resulted in Zeichen-articles and, above all, in some contacts to Hungarian students that should give a completely new direction to my life.

Most of my friends typically were not French, but US, African, German, Asian and so on. (This considerably changed only with my involvement at the St.Francis of Sales parish at Geneva.) My room mate was Robert Holbrook junior, in the first place; with him and Daniel Daniel, the Aussie guy (Mr. Doust) and the American girls - amongst others - we did have some great time. (Was I trying to balance academic laxity with some cultural laxity? I don't know, I guess I've stayed quite conservative all the way long, even compared to the Adventist average.) My room always looked like a living museum, and served as a cultural café, as a meeting point for sharing self-made prose and artistry, as a hide-out for girls in boyz hall, as an emergency entry for late- and early comers (delivery window for beer supplies), and as a fondue restaurant. I might have abused the trust of student deans who usually passed on the entrance key to a theology student without questioning. But there was a relationship of trust between us, and this was essential for individual assistance. At least I knew where the guys went on Friday eve, who had an alcohol, drug or love problem etc.…
Rob and D.D. discovered a neat place in the squatter's quarter at Geneva behind the railway station. On some days we ran it in the "owner's" place: you could eat crêpes-pancakes and drink coffee or Mexican beer. Those habits and contacts also influenced the development of my cultural taste and habits.

I started to attend Geneva Central church - quite a large community - attracted by its concern for liturgy, by the intelligent Sabbath school classes and by possibilities for involvement. (By the way, faculty at that time began to systematically encourage involvement of theology majors in local churches.) I particularly worked with the small German language community at Geneva church, including well-prepared and innovative services, assisted by Günther Preuss with all his musical and liturgical fervor. The English church, where we attended occasionally and where I was invited to preach, offered a family approach, and a thoughtfully structured liturgy as well.

During the last months of my stay at Collonges and Geneva there is a thrilling record of my spiritual engagement: at the Central Adventist church and at the English (international) church, at the Roman-Catholic parish St.Francis of Sales (run by the St.John's Community) and at the Hungarian Catholic Mission; I used to confess at Notre-Dame de Genève and had a spiritual father at Opus Dei. Next to this I participated in a Hungarian and in a German ecumenical group, and there also was an exciting ecumenical liturgical circle initiated by Adventists at the Chapelle St.Legér. I got to know the Lutheran community and officers of the Lutheran World Federation at a time when the first official Adventist-Lutheran dialogue was inaugurated, and I frequently spent time at the Ecumenical Centre (route de Ferney). How comes, and what about this turn towards Catholicism?
(P.S.: The Salève is the mountain behind the Collonges seminary. A Jewish guest lecturer once told us, that he had arrived straight from the Mount of Olives to another Holy Mountain. We spent much time "in the Mountain", some of the most spiritual one…)

Discovering the Body… 

Let me start by telling you that I've always had - from my earliest childhood - a very "catholic", that is universal view of the Adventist Church. Of course, some ideals shipwrecked, but should there have been any disillusionment in my view of the Church's mission towards mankind, it did not have the effect of essentially questioning local and international leadership, or the Adventist message. I did not turn against the Church, but I learned to live with human weakness - without accepting it as final. Focusing on accepting humans - but not their sins - and on the Church as the spiritual Body of Christ, another amazing effect of this was my accepting of other Christians as brothers and sisters, and of the Roman Catholic Church as a significant part of the Body - without leaving Adventism, but reaffirming it! The question has been raised, whether the Adventist Church is - or should be - a prophetic community within the Church universal, or rather the universal Church for all of mankind? We might not be able to answer this crucial question categorically, although there seems to be a development towards the second possibility. And - even from a Catholic point of view - there is reason to be glad about this. The rise of this world Church (mainly) out of Protestant denominations - but leaving far behind Protestant particuliarism - is a mighty testimony in today's pluralistic world. My vision of the Adventist Church sharing the Eternal Gospel with all people has remained alive all the way long. After years of studying Catholic teachings and faith practice, however, after Avondale and Collonges I was no longer able to see our mission as isolated from and in decided opposition to the Catholic Church (and in many ways Orthodoxy and other denominations as well). That is, I was preparing to become an Adventist minister, a catholic - or ecumenical - Adventist minister. Since I had come to understand and accept major catholic teachings - especially on sacraments - I had close, but merely occasional contacts with Catholics. I knew that  all this would require more-than-human grace, yet I somehow believed that I would be able to integrate, within due time, new light into Adventist faith practice, and I tried to keep my allegiance clear with the Adventist Church.

One day I just started to live as an adventist Roman Catholic. There was no conversion, since inner realities have been evolving over the years. It just happened! It did almost no difference to my allegiance towards the Adventist Church, as I continued to live as an active, tithe-paying member of good and regular standing. Following an inner promise, I resolved never to quit the Church of my birth by my own action, as long as I would be able to live up to faith convictions. Interestingly, as I embraced Catholicism, Adventism has become to me exactly what the first model states: a prophetic religious community within the Body.

Getting serious about Catholicism had to do with my becoming a Hungarian. But before I tell you how, let me clarify two things: I did not become Catholic because of Hungarians, neither to please a particular girl. In a way, those people and circumstances are peripheral, even though instrumental. Secondly, the kajata community - although it can't be separated from my biography and from my circle of friends - is not to be equaled with my personal way! It is open to everybody. Yet I am particularly keen to see people join us, who know and live their faith within denominational boundaries. For example, Adventists who are able to share the Advent message with fellow Christians and Humans.

One-way ticket to Hungary… 

Once upon a time, at a Collonges Sabbath service, I stayed to listen to the organ postlude. That day I got to know Günther Preuß, the choirmaster. (It became friendship, dominated by a common passion and involvement for and with liturgy.) That day Günther invited me to join the school's choir on a trip to Austria/Hungary a few days down the track. That became my first visit to Hungary. At that time, all I knew was that Budapest (and not Bucharest) is the capital, and that the Danube passes through the country on its way to the Black Sea. Within a few month this radically changed. First, a girl from the local Adventist church we visited started to write. I thought by myself, it's been a long time since my last girl friend, and gave it a go. Although I realized after a year of (mostly English) correspondence and after some encounters that it was not meant all that serious - good stuff to be seen with a guy from overseas! - my relationship with her family and friends became quite cordial. Once the lady who had helped to organize the choir trip drew my attention to some Hungarian students at the Reformed faculty. They invited me to ice skating, and to a Hungarian Bible group every Friday evening. A few days later at a Bible evening, Judit invited me to Hungarian mass, after a discussion on the Eucharist. It was as if I were standing in front of a border line, and someone close to my heart had just stretched out his arm and touched me with the little finger of his hand, and I did the one step I had pondered for years. From that on, I attended mass regularly and participated, as far as possible for a "non-Catholic", in the sacraments and in the liturgical year. By now, I take part in the Eucharist at least four or five times a week - communing but spiritually, heeding counsel of my rather conservative environment. Judit and I became close friends, but - apart from singing together and apart from the Hungarian mass twice a month - we lived our faith entirely separate. She's the main responsible for my move towards Hungary, and in her own peculiar way has done most to initiate me to this Central European culture.

There are some corner stones, yet there is a whole human chain that has swept me to a tiny place called Füzérkajata, close to today's Hungarian-Slovakian border. (Note the fact that Hungarians - and to a lesser degree Slovakians - live on both sides of the border!) It was the son of an Adventist conference president who took me to the Zemplén mountains one summer day, and his house in Kajata was the most lovely place we had visited that day. He offered it in change with some old printing machines of my father's. (Because of the economic situation, real estate was and is sold far under its actual/idealist value.)

Even preceding final employment chats with Swiss and Austrian church leaders I decided that this was going to be my temporary home after study. I was still going to be a minister - although I knew chances were dwindling. At Kajata I would ponder on how to shape my professional life beyond the Adventist ministry option. I planned to add a year overseas in practical service, preferably in an African country. But this did not materialise in time - upon the news of my move to the poorest and most remote region of Hungary mills began to grind. The idea of camp meetings was dropped by some of my friends, and others had a vision of ecumenical workshops. The need for a spiritual movement was discussed to counter a trend towards denominational particularism and identity decay in Central and Eastern Europe.
It did not take long for me to get hooked, and by the time I actually moved from Geneva to Kajata I had decided that this was going to be for good.

And here I am. After more than two years of an intense learning process and after some humble beginnings I am still here, serving as a coordinator of a quickly growing group of friends. There is no official organization, no fees, you can't become a member. There is no shared life so far, although that seems to be a perspective. All you can do is to invest yourself with your potential, and you are encouraged to do so first of all within your own environment. Kajata, as we perceive it, is a way of life. That is one of the main reasons we have chosen as a model St.John the Baptist.

István is Hungarian for Stefan. Judit and some Collonges friends first called me like that. I got used to it, and as a consequence people who don't know me think I'm Hungarian - perhaps one who grew up overseas, or has a minor speech defect. It's a common name, certainly in honor of Saint István, the king who founded the Christian Hungarian state politically and culturally orientated towards the west. There is a definition of being Hungarian: to speak the language, and to love the country and its culture. According to this, no doubt I am Hungarian, just as much as Catholic. (Without rejecting my Austrian, Swiss, German and Adventist identity.) In a way, the identity question points to something larger, such as: European, and Christian. Or human, child of God.

Kajata is a beautiful place, a tiny village with hardly any youth, and with a drinking and unemployment problem. (Not a single person lives out of agriculture!) Our community of friends came to be known by the name of the place. Sounds different, and it's neutral. Since there is no membership, there are no exact numbers, but there is an inner circle of some 50 or so of active friends, and at the outer limit there might be roughly 3 or 4 thousand who know of it and, to some extent, support it. They are Roman and Greek Catholics, Reformed, Lutheran, Adventists, and one or two Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist and Evangelical. The herald's regular readership amounts to some 300, tendency growing. (Some group leaders xerox it, and it is also mailed to a few libraries and institutions.) Another fundamental is that you can't donate. I run a translation business (besides growing potatoes and vegies) for a living. Community friends may help only by the way of their personal involvement.

What is this good for? 

Kajata is a true-to-life experiment for unity. Unity within denominations, within Christianity and between neighboring peoples. Kajata was born within a certain historical and geographic situation: post-communist, pluralist society. Post-Trianon and post-communist nationality problems. (At the peace treaty of Trianon, Hungary lost two thirds of its territory to neighboring nations.) While the effects of state socialism continue to be felt, western materialism and consumer patterns are gaining ground quickly. Churches tend to withdraw and to search for identity. Our way towards unity may be summarized in three steps:
  1. Getting to know your own roots more deeply.
  2. Getting to know and understand other heritages.
  3. Moving towards unity following Christ's footsteps and Bible counsel. Our main principles are love and a thirst for truth.

How may I participate in this? 

You may participate in kajata in one or more of the following ways:
a) summer meetings at Kajata, b) theme meetings and working groups, c) group work at home, d) kajata-prayers, local or regional meetings, e) networking of Christian organisations and communities, f) in due time: community of shared life, g) kajata as a way of life.

What about the meetings? 

A weekly meeting begins on Monday, when participants get to know each others, and everybody finds his or her place within the camp family. Tuesday through Friday each day another Christian heritage  is being introduced: the Eastern, the Western, the Protestant and the Adventist. During the week, there are excursions and a variety of occupation largely determined by participants themselves. Prayer and some work belongs to the daily rhythm. On Saturday we celebrate together the biblical day of rest, which gives us an occasion to digest the experience of the week. On Sunday you may attend at and actively participate in one or two services at Kajata or a neighbouring village.

And what about you

This is largely where I'm at. Anything but boring, as you can imagine. Yet we are acting and reacting not only for the thrill of things, but because we are looking for harmony in life. And many of us are committed to the ways of the Master. This may result in very distinct solutions, in a variety of life stories. I am curious to learn what has happened to you in the meantime. What important decisions are behind you? How is your life unfolding? What about your present friends? You may worry for me, and I might also be anxious for you, if it looks like the distance between us has increased. Still I hope that one goal is keeping us on the move, and that we'll meet in the process.
If this should not be evident - well, let's look for it!

Get in touch! Lots of love,

Brother István (Stefan Neumann)

(Much has remained unsaid - many an event which may seem significant, a couple of incredible anecdotes, astonishing details of the story. Many topics of human and theological interest remain to be exploited. If I were to write each one of you personally, I'm sure not only a book, but a small library would be the result! This might be a good intention for retirement. If you deem this letter worthy of a response, however, I'll try to react at least with a few lines, or by dropping an e-mail.
Anyone who'd like to receive the herald regularly, please let me know and I'll put you on the mailing list, as soon as the English edition materializes. From fall, there ought to be a Hungarian, German, Slovakian, Romanian and a French edition of the newsletter. Readers are asked for a voluntary contribution. Costs are about US$ 5 per year and subscription, including air mail. Should there be a surplus, this goes into reduced and free subscriptions for Eastern Europe.)

Dedicated to the memory of Peter Rayner,
and to all those who are still on the way.
Postal address:
Keresztelõ Sz.János Közössége (Community of St.John the Baptist)
H-3994 Füzérkajata, Phone: (+36)47-570-030, Fax: -031, guest room: -032
kajata@matavnet.hu  http://leeloo.kiskapu.hu/kajata
S p e c i a l    M e s s a g e    f o r    A d v e n t i s t s :
kajata is part of Global Mission - the Advent Message to all of Christianity!
S p e c i a l      M e s s a g e      t o     A l l     A u s t r a l i a n s :
Midnight spOil forever!
L e a f ( l e t )   f r o m    t h e    T r e e    o f    L i v e:
krisztusban közösség

Communion in Christ, the hidden meaning of the Hungarian name of our newsletter, kajatai követ. The k letter stands for our Saviour and for the Church, his bride. k is unique within its fast-moving time. It's dynamic and it's standing still. Firm as a rock it bears with God and with man. It belongs to the community, yet in case of need it may stand by its own. k was born into pluralism, it is flexible and truly tolerant. First of all, however, it has learned to listen to the divine Word. It resists the egocentric, suicidal behaviour patterns of its time. It's the parable of a loving Community, of the Family of God.

What is our calling as individuals and as a kajata community? With 2000 closing in, some people's fantasy is going through. For Christians, the essential is commemorating the birth of our Saviour. And not only his coming in the flesh - the Kingdom of God is closing in as well. One year, two millennia closer towards the return of the Son. For humans, that's enough time to be bothered. With God, it's like one or two days. Within the preparation for the Jubilee, this year we are reflecting on the Son. Our calling is to re-approach each other by following Christ, the living Word. Scriptures speak of him from the creation stories onwards up to a new creation, each writer at least glimpsing at him. Only if we meet the Son of Man on the pages of the Bible will it become to us the Word of God, source of new life. Otherwise it remains just a book, literature, mystical, boring at times - printed letter.

1. Our calling - to encounter ourselves. To tap those sources of living water that have quenched the thirst of our forefathers. Let us love and value those sources above all. There are other sources as well, that sprinkle and pour out just the same water. Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd, and I have sheep in other folds. He told his disciples to keep on going to the ends of the world, teaching and baptizing all of mankind. Today, this means us. So we ought to bother about other folds - but there are other flocks and other shepherds in place. What about them?

2. Our calling - to accept and to get to know others, as they are. Other sources may never become our own, but it's not forbidden to drink out of them and to ponder upon them. That's what Adventist pioneers have done, amongst many reformers, saints and sinners. That's why we've grown into a Family. If we know our own face "by heart" - in every sense of the word - we're winners. We won't be deceived by pollution and dead tracks, because we will keep our eyes fixed upon Christ and we'll cling to Scriptures, to the source above all. Upon returning to our own sources, we are more likely to discern possible pollution in our proper nest.

3. We can't know in advance, where exactly our calling is going to lead us. Abraham found a home in the distance. After tasting eternity, he returned to his fathers. Humanly speaking, it was no huge deal. Neither was it a bad one. He was able to accept present realities, he was flexible - sometimes too flexible. And yet eternity was something just as real to him, something he needed to deal with. God calls even us to leave home for an uncertain, distant shore. Each and every youngster needs to leave the nid - those who are unable to do so, will handle in a bunch of problems. Perhaps you experience that period, as it were some sort of Alice's wonderland - just to wake up closely to your point of departure. No place is more beautiful than home. Home is where we're at peace with ourselves and - more or less - with our environment. This remains true even if reality lacks the splendour of our fond dreams and ideals. Let us all pine for that ultimate home, where truth is grooming love to gender a peace that endures time and eternity.

Prayer for kajata (extract)

Lord Jesus Christ, prince of love never ending!
You have bestowed us with eternal goods.
You have provided a place, of which we can say,
Spiritual home, monument of our new birth. …
At once you gave it all, at once you deprived us of all,
So that we may see what is hidden from human eyes:
Spiritual poverty, communion of saints,
True friendship, and a heart plain with goodness. …
Take care of that place, we pray …
To you, master mason of eternity.

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