Pastor Rares Calugar from Romania speaks during the Roma Consultation in Cluj, Romania.
Church Growth in Romania
by Dick Arnold
Romania, a country of about 20 million people, became a member of the European Union eight years ago. The country is slowly emerging from the dark days of Communist rule. Its religious make up is highly Christian Orthodox, with Roman or Greek Catholics and Protestants in the minority.
The origins of the current United Methodist work in Romania began in 1995, when an independent missionary from the United States, who also had a United Methodist background, went to the city of Cluj-Napoca, commonly known as Cluj, which is the second most populous city in Romania.
Together, this missionary and his family ministered to the people in several villages, setting up home groups, distributing medicines and food, and bringing them the good news. After he left, the leaders of the nondenominational churches he had started (two “Way of Faith” churches in Micesti and Cluj) realized that, for sustainability and future growth, they needed to affiliate with an established denomination.
After much discussion and visits to Micesti and Cluj, which included the Bishop of Central and Southern Europe, the churches decided to join the United Methodist denomination. On September 4, 2011, the official service forming the first United Methodist church in Romania took place.
The Way of Faith United Methodist churches in Cluj and Micesti desire to offer people a different expression of church life, allowing them to experience new birth in Christ and a personal relationship with God. Their vision is to start a new home group in a different area each year hoping that some of these groups will become new local churches.
Existing Romanian Churches with One on the Way
Today, there are three United Methodist churches—two in urban areas of Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu and one in the rural area of Micesti. A fourth one is in the process of being planted in a Roma rural community.
- Cluj UMC, under Pastor Rares Calugar, the first United Methodist pastor in Romania, holds weekly worship, Bible studies, and home groups, and has a ministry with teenage orphans.
- Sibiu UMC was planted less than a year ago by Pastor Christian Istrate, who has formed a small congregation and whose work is focused on ministry to skateboarding teenagers. He will soon start another ministry in a senior citizens home.
- Micesti UMC and the new church are focused on working with poor families, especially those from Roma communities outside of Cluj. Samuel Goia, a lay missionary, visits communities weekly for fellowship and worship and is working with teenagers through camps, sports, and meetings to present the gospel.
Church growth in Romania is supported by Global Ministries through its In Mission Together 50/50 Partnership-Covenant program, which embraces an asset-based, long-term development approach, whereby mission partners participate in the work equally, utilizing everyone’s skills and resources.
Cluj UMC has had a partnership with Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, Ohio, since January 2012. Besides regular communication and sharing of prayers, teams from Reynoldsburg UMC have come to help build new ministries and support the leadership in Cluj, helping church members to learn about their faith and the heritage of the UMC. Pastor Rares Calugar has also visited Reynoldsburg UMC.
Dick Arnold is Global Ministries’ In Mission Together partnership coordinator for Eastern Europe and the Balkans, which includes Romania. This article was originally published in the November-December 2015 issue of New World Outlook magazine. Used by permission.
A Roma family’s house in Micesti, Romania. Photo: Üllas Tankler
Samuel Goia (far right), a local pastor with the Romanian UMC, visits a family in Micesti, Romania. Photo: Üllas Tankler