The Moravian Church, (Latin: Unitas Fratrum, meaning Unity of the Brethren), is a Protestant denomination. Its religious heritage began in 1457 in Kunvald, Bohemia.
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- Extracted from Wikipedia, Moravian Church
In 1722, a small group of Moravian Brethren who had been living as an illegal underground remnant in the Catholic Habsburg Empire in Moravia (the so-called "Hidden Seed") for nearly 100 years arrived at the Berthelsdorf estate of Christian David, an itinerant carpenter) that they be allowed to settle on his lands in Upper Lusatia, which is in present-day Saxony in the eastern part of modern-day Germany.
The refugees established a new village called Herrnhut, about 2 miles (3 km) from Berthelsdorf.
Along with the Royal Danish Mission College, the Moravian missionaries were the first large-scale Protestant missionary movement. They sent out the first missionaries when there were only 300 inhabitants in Herrnhut. Within 30 years, the church sent hundreds of Christian missionaries to many parts of the world, including the Caribbean, North and South America (see Christian Munsee), the Arctic, Africa, and the Far East. They were the first to send lay people (rather than clergy) as missionaries, the first Protestant denomination to minister to slaves, and the first Protestant presence in many countries. Owing to Zinzendorf's personal contacts with their royalty, the first Moravian missions were directed to the Dano-Norwegian Empire. While attending the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark, he was profoundly struck by two Inuit converts of Matthias Stach and two others [Christian Stach and Christian David] founded the first Moravian mission in Greenland in 1733 at Neu-Herrnhut on Baal's River, which became the nucleus of the modern capital Nuuk.
Moravians founded missions with Algonquian-speaking Mohican in the British colony of New York in British North America. For instance, they founded one in 1740 at the Mohican village of Shekomeko in present-day Dutchess County, New York. The converted Mohican people formed the first native Christian congregation in the present-day United States. Because of local hostility to the Mohican, the Moravian support of the Mohican led to rumors of their being secret Jesuits, trying to ally the Mohican with France in the on-going French and Indian Wars.
Although supporters defended their work, at the end of 1744, the colonial government based at Poughkeepsie expelled the Moravians from New York.
In 1741, David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf led a small community to found a mission in the colony of Pennsylvania. The mission was established on Christmas Eve, and was named Bethlehem, after the Biblical town in Judea. There, they ministered to the Algonquian Lenape. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is today the sixth largest city in Pennsylvania. Later, colonies were also founded in North Carolina, where Moravians led by Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg purchased 98,985 acres (400.58 km2) from John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville. This large tract of land was named die Wachau, or Wachovia, after one of Zinzendorf's ancestral estates on the Danube River in Austria. Other early settlements included Bethabara (1753), Bethania (1759) and Salem (now referred to as Old Salem in Winston-Salem North Carolina) (1766).
In 1801 the Moravians established a mission to the Cherokee Nation in present day Murray County Georgia that remained until the forced removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma, and remained active there through the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The mission was transferred to the Danish Lutheran Church and continues now as the Oaks Mission School in Oklahoma.
Relationship with the Jewish Community
- Extraced from Craig D. Atwood, Zinzendorf and Judaism (Hinge 11.1), reviewing Christiane Dithmar, Zinzendorfs nonkonformistische Haltung zum Judentum (Univ. of Heidelberg, 2000).
"Initially [Zinzendorf] appears to have held to the typical understanding of Judaism. Jews were the symbol of the blindness of unbelief, but there was some hope that individual Jews might convert. Dithmar discusses Zinzendorf’s personal contact with Jews who followed the radical teachings of Sabbatai Zevi, which initially misled Zinzendorf into believing that Jews would readily recognize that the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is both Jesus and the Messiah. Through further personal contact with the Jewish community in Amsterdam and especially with a Portuguese refugee named Nunez da Costa, Zinzendorf came to appreciate the distinctiveness of Judaism. Da Costa, for a while, was one of Zinzendorf’s closest friends, and he attempted to live with the Moravians in Europe. Eventually Zinzendorf helped set him up in business in Amsterdam.
It was around the time of the contact with Da Costa (1739) that Zinzendorf added the petition for Israel to the Litany in 1740. According to Dithmar, this marks this first time that a Western church made prayer for Israel a regular part of the liturgy. Zinzendorf’s petition asked that God would “restore the tribe of Judah in its time and bless its first fruits among us.” Zinzendorf here joined two of his developing ideas on the Jewish mission: that Israel’s salvation is in God’s hands, but that some individuals (first fruits) had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and could live among the Moravians. After the death of Zinzendorf, this prayer was changed to a plea to save Israel from “blindness.”
Zinzendorf made several attempts to establish a Jewish “Kehilla” or community within the Moravian community or “Gemeine.” He spent years pursuing this project, but he never succeeded. He did arrange for the marriage of Jewish-Christian couples according to Jewish rites, but there was never a large enough group to establish a separate community. Samuel Lieberkühn spent much of his life working among the Jews, especially in Amsterdam, and became so versed in Torah and the rituals of 18th century Judaism that his friends called him “rabbi.” Dithmar notes that Lieberkühn and Zinzendorf disagreed fundamentally on the role of reason in religion, but Lieberkühn remained a key contact in the Jewish community.
A Moravian star (German: Herrnhuter Stern) is an illuminated Advent, Christmas, or Epiphany decoration popular in Germany and in places in America and Europe where there are Moravian congregations. The stars take their English name from the Moravian Church; in Germany, they are known as Herrnhut stars, named after the Moravian Mother Community in Saxony, Germany, where they were first commercially produced.