History of The First Hungarian Reformed Church of Cleveland, Ohio
May 3, 1891
First Church, the first established Hungarian Reformed Church in America was organized in the Trinity Reformed Church on the corner of Madison (the present East 79th Street) and Rawlings Avenues by Reverend Gustav Juranyi with about 60 members. Reverend Juranyi arrived from Hungary, sent by the Reformed Church of Hungary through mediation of the German-background Reformed Church in the United States. He began the organizing work among the Hungarian Protestants of Cleveland.
May 19, 1892
Reverend Juranyi secured the charter for the church.
The congregation purchased property on East 79th for the future location of the church building. Purchase price was $1,800.
A wooden church building was constructed.
November 25, 1894
The dedication of the church building took place with great celebration. Reverend Juranyi resigned unexpectedly and returned to Hungary. The second pastor, Reverend Alexander Harsanyi, took over the administration of the congregation. In a short time, the debt left from the construction of the church was paid off. The first parsonage was built adjoining the church.
The third pastor, Reverend Elek Csutoros oversaw construction of the second building known as the “stone church” on East 79th Street. The beautiful stone church was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1904.
The Ladies Sick Benefit Society was organized.
Reverend Elek Csutoros resigned upon receiving a call to the pastorate of Siter, Hungary. Reverend Alexander Toth became the fourth pastor.
The Lorantffy Society was organized. The congregation of the First Church was split as the First Magyar Presbyterian Church was formed. Reverend Julius Kish from Pittsburgh’s Western Theological Seminary became its first pastor serving until 1926. A wooden church was built on East 103rd and Buckeye, which the congregation used from 1915 to 1918.
The Reformed Congregation celebrated its 25th Silver Anniversary with three-day nationwide festivities. The congregation bought a house on Buckeye and East 123rd Street since many members were moving “up on the hill” from the old 79th Street area.
The Ladies Aid Society (Nőegylet) of the Presbyterian Congregation was organized.
The Presbyterian Congregation built their brick church on East 126th and Buckeye to provide a convenient worship location for those who lived on “Upper Buckeye.”
Reverend Alexander Toth left the congregation to assume a professorship at Franklin – Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.
Reverend Dr. Joseph Herczegh became the fifth pastor of the Reformed Congregation. The congregation decided to purchase property in the upper Buckeye area, but struggling with debt, could not execute the plan.
Dr. Joseph Herczegh left the congregation for one year to teach in the Theological Seminary at Papa, Hungary. Reverend Stephen W. Csutoros became the third pastor of the Presbyterian Congregation. He and the church helped many impoverished people during the Depression.
Education center with Bethlen Hall was built and dedicated by The First Hungarian Reformed Church under the leadership of Mr. Emery Kiraly, the teacher of the congregation and chairman of the building committee. Reverend Herczegh personally undertook a campaign to walk door-to-door to collect for the construction of the church.
Reverend Csutoros maintained an effective radio ministry until 1959 which was broadcast locally and in Europe.
The 50th Anniversary of the Reformed Congregation was held.
April 27, 1947
The Reverend Dr. Joseph Herczegh resigned and accepted a call to California.
Reverend Dr. Stephen Szabo became the pastor of the Reformed Congregation.
On the 100th Anniversary of the Hungarian Fight for Freedom, the National Convention of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America was held in the buildings of the Reformed Church, followed in April by the Magyar Synod Meeting.
Bethlen Kata Circle was organized for the young married women of the church. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new church was held April 11.
Placement of the cornerstone of the cathedral-style church.
The Children’s Choir was organized.
December 12, 1948
A banquet was held to celebrate the completion of the walls of the new church.
January 1, 1949
The new Reformed Church Constitution was formally adopted and took effect.
September 4, 1949
Four thousand people attended the dedication of the new church, the largest and most beautiful of all Hungarian churches of this time period.
May 27, 1951
Dr. Stephen Szabo was elected by Magyar Synod to the Presidency.
The 8th Anniversary of the new Reformed Church building was celebrated with the burning of the $120,000 mortgage paper. During the year, 250 refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fight were sponsored and settled by the congregation. In 1956, Reverend Csutoros went to Austria to help many homeless refugees find their way to Cleveland. He and the Presbyterian congregation also did a great deal to help the new refugees get started in America.
August 20, 1958
The Women’s Guild of The First Hungarian Reformed Church was organized.
The Reformed Congregation reached the highest number of communicants (3,474) throughout the history of the church.
Dr. Stephen Szabo was honored by the Magyar Synod and received the Right Reverend ecclesiastical title as lifetime honorary president. He was also entrusted with editorship of their publication, The Reformátusok Lapja.
September 20, 1964
The dedication of the Bronze Plaques in the vestibule marked the 15th Anniversary of the Reformed Church sanctuary. The Lorantffy Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The Reverend Anthony Carter was consecrated for his mission work in Japan.
May 15, 1966
The 75th Anniversary of The First Hungarian Reformed Church included the dedication of the new “Grand 100” organ.
September 14, 1969
The 20th Anniversary of the Reformed Church building was commemorated with the dedication of a Bronze Plaque in memory of Margaret Szabo, wife of our pastor. Reverend Csutoros retired and was elected Pastor Emeritus of the First Magyar Presbyterian Church.
Reverend Frank A. Endrei became the fourth pastor of the Presbyterian Church. Faith building weekend conferences were held at the church with guest speakers, some from Hungary. Weekly Bible Studies in English and Hungarian were established.
September 19, 1971
“Ode to the Loyalty of First,” written by the Rt. Reverend Dr. Stephen Szabo with music composed by Leslie Kondorossy was presented by the Chapel Choir and Festival Orchestra for the 80th Anniversary of First Church.
June 9, 1974
Templom Segelyzo of the Reformed Congregation celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The First Magyar Presbyterian Church celebrated its 60th Anniversary together with the 60th Anniversary of its first pastor, Reverend Julius Kish and the 50th Anniversary in the ministry of its third pastor Reverend Stephen W. Csutoros.
William E. Nyerges becomes student pastor at the Reformed Church while studying at Ashland Theological Seminary.
May 22, 1977
Dr. Stephen Szabo’s 30th Anniversary in the Reformed Church and 50th of his ministry. The church was designated as a historical, cultural and architectural landmark by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission.
October 18, 1981
The 90th Anniversary of the organization of The First Hungarian Reformed Church was celebrated with great festivity and the dedication of the new Bronze Plaques.
October 25, 1981
Ordination of Reverend William Nyerges. He served as part time associate pastor 1981-1984.
Dr. Stephen Szabo retired and was elected Pastor Emeritus. The Women’s Guild of the Reformed congregation celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
August 1, 1983
Stephan Nagy assumed duties as the seventh pastor of The First Hungarian Reformed Church. Attendance and donations increased. The Reformed Congregation considered building a new church and formed a site committee.
Stephan Nagy resigned. Land was purchased in Walton Hills for the new church.
Reverend Stephen T. Szilagyi became the eighth pastor of The First Hungarian Reformed Church. Its Constitution and By-laws were published.
The First Hungarian Reformed Church organized a trip for 83 people to travel to Hungary to explore their heritage; the youth performed Hungarian dances.
September 11, 1988
After months of discussions, the Reformed and Presbyterian congregations voted to worship together. The First Magyar Presbyterian Church congregation was formally welcomed into The First Hungarian Reformed Church to worship together, but to remain separate congregations.
Both congregations voted to unite and to have the two pastors serve together as co-pastors.
The Presbyterian Church on East 126th street was sold.
Reverend Stephen T. Szilagyi left to become pastor of the United Church of Christ in Conneaut, Ohio.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA officially dismissed the First Magyar Presbyterian Church with its financial assets and parsonage into the Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ. The union of the two churches was finalized and Reverend Frank Endrei became the ninth pastor of the newly united congregation. After being apart since 1914, now, by God’s grace we joined together again.
Reverend William Nyerges became Assistant Pastor.
September 9, 1990
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new chapel and church hall was held.
Construction of our new chapel and church hall on Alexander Road in Walton Hills took place during 1991. The reunited First Hungarian Reformed Church, now numbering 564 members, gave thanks to our great God as it celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the congregation.
March 15, 1992
Our congregation worshiped together in the newly completed “Bethlen Hall” and temporary chapel. The chapel accommodated 125 people and was later turned into Sunday School rooms. At Christmas and Easter, worship services were held in Bethlen Hall to accommodate the larger crowds.
Construction began on Phase II, building our new sanctuary.
October 29, 1995
A Cornerstone Dedication Ceremony took place. The church bells were erected in our 73 foot tower. These same bells rang at our church on East 79th Street, and also at our church on Buckeye Road and East Boulevard.
April 28, 1996
At the time of our 105th Anniversary, our beautiful new Sanctuary in Walton Hills was dedicated. We served Holy Communion to over 400 individuals. A gala banquet was held with a total of 360 guests in attendance.
June 30, 1996
Reverend Frank Endrei retired as pastor of the Reformed Church. Reverend Endrei was elected Pastor Emeritus.
June 8, 1997
Reverend Steven (Istvan) Geczy is elected as the tenth pastor of our church, and installed on September 6, 1998.
July 13, 1997
We retired our mortgage with the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, due in part, to the generosity of members who remembered us in their will. The bill for building our nearly two million dollar sanctuary, education center and social hall was completely paid.
May 12, 2001
Our 110th Anniversary is celebrated with a special Communion Service and Celebration Dinner. The Bronze Plaques were restored and placed in a wooden frame in the Narthex.
October 31, 2002
Reverend Steven Geczy resigned as pastor of The First Hungarian Reformed Church stating that his Call to ministry has taken him in a different direction and that the focus of his ministry is no longer Church based.
March 2, 2003
Reverend Csaba Krasznai was elected the eleventh pastor of The First Hungarian Reformed Church.
May 11, 2003
Reverend Csaba Krasznai conducted his first church service at The First Hungarian Reformed Church on Mother’s Day.
May 25, 2003
The Dedication of the Memorial Garden to our past, present and future members and friends, took place in a service conducted by Reverend Csaba Krasznai. A granite stone was placed in the center of the circular garden patio, engraved with the Coat of Arms and Inscription of The Reformed Church of Hungary which has been in use since 1560 AD. Individual engraved bricks are placed around the center stone and in the walkways leading to center. Three (3) stone benches are placed around the circular center and can be used for reflection and meditation.
June 19, 2004
Installation and Ordination of Reverend Csaba Krasznai. Ministers from the Calvin Synod and other churches participated in the service and ceremony.
October 25, 2004
New church parsonage was built and ready for occupancy in Northfield Center, Ohio.
June 25, 2005
Blessing Sunday. The members of First Hungarian Reformed Church were blessed by Reverend Csaba Krasznai in a special church service.
May 6, 2006
The 115th Anniversary Church Service and Anniversary Dinner celebrating our founding May 3, 1891 took place at the church and Bethlen Hall.
May 20, 2010
Reverend Csaba Krasznai was elected Auxiliary Bishop of the Calvin Synod and received the Right Reverend ecclesiastical title.
June 5, 2010
Rt. Reverend Csaba Krasznai receives his Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership from Ashland Theological Seminary. His title is Dr. Csaba Krasznai, D.Min.
Church parsonage was sold and proceeds were placed into the Church Building Fund.
May 5, 2013
The church celebrates Rt. Reverend Dr. Csaba Krasznai’s 10th year in pastoral ministry at our congregation.
May 16, 2013
Dr. Csaba Krasznai was re-elected to a second term as Auxiliary Bishop of the Calvin Synod.
The Templon Segélyző celebrates its 90th Anniversary as a church group.
December 14, 2014
The 100th Anniversary of the Lorantffy Society of The First Hungarian Reformed Church is celebrated with a special church service and reception.
August 20, 2015
The 57th Anniversary of the establishment of the Women’s Guild of the First Hungarian Reformed Church was organized on August 20, 1958.
April 30, 2016
The 125th Anniversary of the Founding of The First Hungarian Reformed Church of Cleveland, Ohio. A church service and gala celebration dinner will be held to commemorate this important day of May 3, 1891 in the life of our church.