Hungarian husband and wife team move to Shetland to help with church shake-up

Rev Tamas Bodis and his wife Rev Emoke Rozgonyi(Photo: Church of Scotland)

A Hungarian minister and his family have arrived in Shetland to help the Church of Scotland as it continues to undergo huge changes in the face of declining membership. 

The move by Rev Tamas Bodis follows the announcement last October from the Church of Scotland that it would be closing 20 churches on the Shetland Islands - two thirds of its churches in the area - over the next three years. 

The tragic closures, which include the oldest church, Hillswick, dating back to 1733, come at a time of huge challenges for the Church of Scotland, including a rising national deficit and shortage of ministers.

Rev Bodis has made the move with his family from Slovenia, where he served for many years in the Reformed Christian Church, which has close links to the Reformed Church in Hungary. 

In Shetland, he will work mainly with congregations on the west side of the islands, while his wife Rev Emoke Rozgonyi will assist in church work. 

Mr Bodis said: "After 11 years of service with the Reformed Christian Church in Slovenia, we had to step back to see where God will lead us. So we prayed for a place where we can work and study in a team for a year.

"When God showed us this place, we were impressed by how brave people are in Shetland as they are willing to face up to problems and are working to have a future.

"I hope we can learn from them and help them on this difficult journey."

The family are staying in the manse in Scalloway but working in the parishes of Sandsting and Aithsting linked with Walls and Sandness, including the islands of Papa Stour and Foula.

As part of the major shake-up across Shetland, the Church of Scotland is in the process of creating one new parish out of the 13 that had existed across the islands. It is also seeking to make a new presbytery with Aberdeen on the mainland. 

Rev Dr Frances Henderson, Presbytery of Shetland transition minister, said the family "have so much to contribute".

"We are delighted to welcome them and their three children, and hope that this will be the beginning of a friendship which will extend far beyond their year in Shetland," she said.

"The Church is part-way through their process of radical change, as we seek to make one parish out of 13 and to make a new presbytery with Aberdeen.

"As we reshape and remake our traditions for our own time and place, Tamas and Emoke will bring a valuable perspective as well as two extra pairs of hands.

"And we hope that, at the end of their time here, they might also take some of our ideas back to Hungary and Slovenia."