History

Founded before the Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Methodist churches — even before the discovery of America — Moravians have long focused on faithful living and Christian unity. Rather than concentrating on divisive doctrines, the Moravian Church preaches the basics of the faith which all Christians share in common. Moravians are encouraged to live out their faith through service to those in need. Our mission work has concentrated on the poor and the powerless, and groups largely unreached by other denominations.

The Moravian Church, also Unitas Fratrum, or the American branch of the Renewed Church of the Unity of the Brethren, is an evangelical Protestant denomination organized in Herrnhut, Saxony (Sachsen), in 1727 as a reconstitution of the 15th-century Bohemian Brethren; Members are called Moravian Brethren and Herrnhuters. The Moravian Church is governed by the conferential system; its ministry is composed of bishops, elders, and deacons. For administrative purposes, the church is divided into northern and southern provinces, which have headquarters at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, respectively. Provincial synods exercise legislative authority delegated to them by the component congregations. The two American provinces, (Northern and Southern) together with the German and British branches of the Renewed Church of the Unity of the Brethren, are under the overall jurisdiction of a general synod, which meets every ten years. The Moravian Church conducts missionary work among the Native Americans, the Inuit (Eskimo), and in many foreign countries. Moravian institutions of higher education include Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., and Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C. The official organs of the two American provinces are The Moravian and The Wachovia Moravian.

The Moravians have no specific creed, but their tenets agree in substance with those incorporated in the Apostles’ Creed and the Augsburg Confession. The Bible is the only guide to faith and conduct. Infant baptism is practiced, but full church membership requires only a voluntary profession of faith. Congregations follow a liturgical form of worship; many retain the love feast in imitation of the ancient agape. Special stress is placed on fellowship and missionary work. Moravian church music, especially singing, is known worldwide. The Moravian Church in America is noted for its unity.

The first Moravians in America settled in Savannah, Georgia, in 1734, but moved to Pennsylvania six years later. About 1740 other Brethren, immigrating in groups, settled Bethlehem, Nazareth, and other Pennsylvania towns. Another group founded Salem (now part of Winston-Salem), N.C., in 1766. For a full century, residence in Moravian communities was closed to outsiders, but this policy was abandoned after 1856.

In the early 1990s the Moravian Church in America reported about 52,200 members and 162 separate churches. New Beginnings is a member of the Southern Province.  

(Excerpted from Microsoft Encarta ’99)

Moravian Church

… During the late 20th cent. the church experienced increasing growth outside of its well-established communities. By 2000 church membership was about 50,000 in the United States and 700,000 worldwide, with about half of the worldwide total in Tanzania.

The Moravians emphasize conduct rather than doctrine, and their church is governed by provincial synods, the bishops having only spiritual and administrative authority. The music in Moravian churches is famous, especially the part-singing of the congregations.

(Excerpted from The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2006, which references historical studies by E. Langton (1956) and J. T. Hamilton (1989); E. A. Sawyer, All about the Moravians (1990))

 

Traditions

LovefeastMoravian Lovefeast

[Copied from Moravian.org.] The holding of lovefeasts, after the practice of the Apostolic Church, has come to be one of the outstanding customs of the Moravian Church and has proved to be a real means of grace. Members of other denominations are attracted to Moravian lovefeasts in large numbers, and thus the spirit of fellowship is greatly advanced.

Lovefeasts originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost. The early believers met and broke bread together, thereby signifying their union and equality. These meals of the church family were associated with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which followed them. They were called agape, from the Greek word for love, that is for the highest type of spiritual love. Gradually the agape lost its devotional character, and toward the end of the fourth century the Church gave it up.

 

Moravian Star

Moravian Star

[Copied from Moravian.org.] Originating in the Moravian boarding schools in Germany in the nineteenth century as an exercise in geometry, the stars were carried throughout the world by missionaries and other church workers. Now, from the Himalayas to the Caribbean, the star proclaims the hope of Advent. While we are most familiar with the white star, the first star had alternating red and white points. Stars colors have also included red and yellow, white and yellow, and a yellow “starburst” with a red center.