Good News for the Bulgarian Methodist Church

In mid-December Margarita wrote:

“Christmas is approaching and our hearts are burdened with worries. In May, four of the political parties introduced changes to the law on religion that aim to severely restrict all minority religious groups.

Such changes are in direct violation of the Bulgarian Constitution that guarantees separation between Church and State and religious freedom for all citizens. They threaten the existence of all minority groups.

Despite protest letters from religious groups across the country, as well as from outside Bulgaria, Parliament passed all proposed changes. These included an increase in the minimum number of people required for registration from 300 to 3,000.

If accepted, this would threaten the registration of the majority of Protestant denominations, including the Methodist Church.

Politicians here want the law to be passed quickly and implemented immediately.

Despite street protests by Christians, one party leader declared openly that they would fight “with teeth and nails” for the articles to be passed exactly as proposed. Please continue to pray for us.”

Then on 21 December Margarita sent us this update:

“Today, in its final working day for 2018, Parliament passed the new religious law in Bulgaria. We are happy to inform you that to our great relief 95% of the proposed restrictions were dropped.

It has taken a lot of work by many people to reach this outcome. This includes international pressure, as well as seven Sundays of official prayer marches and protests in Sofia and other cities.

It has also involved prayer and fasting, TV interviews, other media activity and discussions with members of the Parliament’s Commission on Religion and Human Rights.

We are grateful to God for all the support that we received. This has shown our politicians that, though we are a minority, we are part of a big worldwide family. We are a force to be reckoned with.

As a representative of the Bulgarian Methodist Church I would like to thank everyone who helped. I’m especially grateful to the World Methodist Council, the European Methodist Council and the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church women for their support.

We have one more reason to celebrate this Christmas. Our hearts will gladly sing praises to our Lord Jesus for his power and might, love and faithfulness.”

The Methodist Church in Bulgaria and proposed law changes

“At the annual meeting of the European Methodist Council gathered in Copenhagen from 7th-11th September 2018, the members of the Council were shocked to hear in detail of the proposed changes in Bulgaria law which will have serious impact on and severely limit the work of the Evangelical Methodist Episcopal Church in Bulgaria and the Church of the Nazarene (member Churches of the European Methodist Council ) and of all other churches with a membership less than 1% of the population.

The European Methodist Council therefore expresses its great concern of the violation of the Bulgarian Constitution’s provision of the separation of Church and State and of the right of independence of all religious organisations provided by the Bulgaria Constitution.”

The United Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe covers churches in 16 countries, including Bulgaria.  The Bulgarian Methodist Church is  concerned that proposed amendments to the Religious Denominations Act would dramatically affect whether United Methodists could receive international support essential for their operation as churches, also possible effects about those allowed to serve as pastors.  The proposed changes would give the Religious Confessions Directorate control over donations, religious institution accreditation and education.

More details – or ask Sue Marshall-Jennings.

Thanks from Svetla

Dear Ladies and gentlemen,

I express my gratitude and sincere thanks to you for the grant with which you gave a chance for my quick and successful, healthy recovery and maintenance.  Thank you for being part of the few, real and decent people who have responded to my needs at this difficult time for us.

I acknowledge the support of all donors from the bottom of my heart and wish you healthy bright days and happiness for the homes.


Methodism in Bulgaria

The Methodist Church in Bulgaria is linked with USA-Methodism, being part of the Southern and Central Europe United Methodist Church Central Conference.

Most churches date from the late 19th century.

Only 3 sets of premises were used in the time of communist government; since the 1990s, legal cases have secured the return of most of the properties.

The Bulgarian United Methodist Church has c 2,700 members/ friends – a small church in a predominantly Christian Orthodox country.

Its life centres on 15 churches ,with an increasing number of church plants and communities, working especially with minority groups such as Turkish-speaking people or those of Roma-origin, making for around 35 congregations overall.


Pastor Margarita from Sevlievo wrote recently to thank the Circuit for the help it had sent for Svetla and her family. ‘It is a witness to her family of our love and care.’

She also told us about an old Bulgarian custom.

‘Soon it will be 1st March. This day is special in Bulgaria. We call it “Grandma March Day”. On this day we give each other a martenitsa. It is made of white and red cotton or woollen threads. It symbolises good health, long life, fertility and abundance. The white colour symbolises purity, innocence and joy. The red colour symbolises life, health and the fire of love. One of the traditional forms of the martenitsa is of a boy and a girl, called Pizho and Pends respectively. In folk tradition the month of March is personified by a woman – Granny March. Her mood constantly changes and so weather in March also changes quite a lot. We say that when Grandma March is angry, weather is cold, and when she smiles – it is sunny and warm. People wear the martenitsa pinned on the lapel, around the waist or around the neck. They take it off when they see the first stork. If they don’t see one, they take it off on 22 March when spring officially starts.

According to the legend when the Bulgarians led by Khan Asparuh reached the Danub valley (present day North Bulgaria) they were enchanted by the place and decided to settle down there. After declaring the new Bulgarian state the khan decided to make a sacrificial offering to god Tangra. Tradition demanded the sacrificial fire to be lit with a stalk of dried dill but the Bulgarians could not find any. While they were wondering what to do a falcon landed on the khan’s shoulder. It had a stalk of dill tied to its leg with a white woollen thread, half of it red because of the blood dripping from the falcon’s injured wing. The bird had been sent by the khan’s sister who had had a dream of her brother’s predicament. The khan took the dried dill and lit the fire. Then he pinned the white and red thread on his shirt to keep him in good health. Apart from the legend suggestions have been made that the martenitsas are an inheritance from the Thracians who have lived on this territory.

So we are sending a small martenitsa for each one of you wishing you happiness, good health and long life. May God bless you abundantly. While wearing your martenitsa do think of us all, and especially of Svetla and her son.’


Sevlievo news

We are delighted to hear from Pastor Margarita that Svetla is making good progress on her crutches.

Sevlievo appeal – thanks

An e-mail from Sue and Julya to Circuit congregations, expresses “huge thanks” for the amount raised which to date totals £667.60. The sum of £617.60 has already been sent to Bulgaria, via Julya; Pastor Margarita is handing it to the family along with donations received from Bulgarian churches.

What a difference this will make to this family who must surely have been wondering how they would ever begin to cover the medical costs that Svetla and her surviving son are incurring. Your generosity will have lifted a huge burden from them, so that instead of worrying about finances, Svetla and Konstantin will now be able to concentrate on getting better. More too, the massive sense of relief on the part of the grandparents who, whilst having so little money and the struggle of supporting the daughter and grandson through a horrific time, must now feel overwhelmed by the love and support from congregations so far away, who have not only held them in prayer but who have gone the extra mile with them and extended that support beyond their wildest imagination. True connexionalism as part of a worldwide family of Methodists.

Thank you all so much”

Sevlievo Appeal

An e-mail has been received from Julya about the amount donated – “That is absolutely amazing. Please let everyone know how very grateful we are here for their love and generosity.”

Collection for Sevlievo

The Retiring Offering last week in Dundee to assist Svetla and her family in meeting the costs of care after the recent tragic road accident amounted to £262.50. This will be sent as part of the Circuit total, but if you have not yet been able and wish to support this appeal, contact David Easson (Church Treasurer).

Please sign the card today to our fellow Methodists in Sevlievo, as a sign of our solidarity with and support for them at this time.

A further card will be sent with our Christmas Greetings for their marking of this Festival according to the Orthodox Church calendar, at Epiphany (January 6 -7).