Partner Church Committee
Connecting First Parish Bedford with
Transylvania since 1994,
the Philippines since 2004,
and the Khasi Hills
The purpose of the Partner Church Committee is to support the relationship between First Parish in Bedford and our partner church in Abasfalva, Transylvania (Romania) and to partner with other Unitarians and Universalists around the world. The committee actively supports First Parish’s membership in the Abasfalva Association (comprised of the Unitarian church in Abasfalva, the Landowner’s Association in the village, and First Parish in Bedford), and in the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council which promotes connecting Unitarian and Universalist congregations around the world.
Chair: Sharon McDonald
Join us to keep Partnership strong!
Many hands make light work of all that keeps Partner Church going! We welcome your help with short-term or long-term tasks. If you are interested in traveling to Abasfalva or North East India or the Philippines, contact Ron Cordes (firstname.lastname@example.org), Sarah Dorer (email@example.com), or Rich Daugherty (firstname.lastname@example.org). Or…come and join us for one of our regular meetings at church on the second Thursday of each month (except summer) and learn about our friends and partners around the world!
The youth of our congregation sponsor Karlisle Isobel Piera, a member of the UU Dumaguete Fellowship in the Philippines, so that she can attend school. The sponsorship is through a program of the UU Partner Church Council, and we have sponsored her since first grade. She’s nearly done with high school! Our intention is to sponsor her through graduation, with the hope that we may help Karlisle attend college in the future. Each year the First Parish Bedford UU kids send letters and pictures of themselves to Karlisle and in return she sends us letters, pictures…and her report cards! Karlisle and our children are growing up together and maybe someday there will be a trip to the Philippines.
“Transylvania? Is that a real place?”
Who lives in Abásfalva?
What are the other villages and towns like near Abásfalva?
What lies in the future?
Khasi Hills of North India
From 2014-2019, First Parish was a sponsor of the Margaret Barr Memorial School. The school has about 50 students from pre-K through 7th grade in Lawsohtun, a suburb of Shillong in the Khasi Hills. Founded in 1982, the school gets some funding from the State of Meghalaya but was helped largely through our financial support. In 2015, two of our parishoners visited the school on a pilgrimage to the Khasi Hills.
Margaret Barr, for whom the school is named, was a Methodist born and raised in Yorkshire, England. She became a Unitarian in 1921 as a student in Girton College, Cambridge, after a friend invited her to a service. The sermon that day was a scholarly and appreciative explanation of Hinduism. Barr loved the Unitarian approach to other faiths…and she went on to become a minister herself.
While she was serving Rotherham Unitarian Church (1927-1933), she learned about the inidigenous Unitarians in the Khasi Hills of India and about their founder, Hajom Kissor Singh. After a visit to India, she knew she wanted to return. Several years later, she got a job at a girl’s school in Calcutta that paid for her move to India. Eventually, Margaret Barr made her way to the Khasi Hills, where conditions of illiteracy, poverty and ill health predominated. H.K. Singh had died and congregations were floundering. She opened a school and trianed teachers in Shillong. So that students didn’t have to leave home, she opened another school in Kharang, then opened a Dispensary, then finally made Kharang her permanent home. She opened schools in villages, then turned the schools over to the government. Maragaret Barr died in 1973.
Clearly, Margaret Barr headed the advice given to her by Gandhi, “Keep out of jail and find some constructive work to do.”