Sunday, December 26, 2010

History and Faith of the Moravians – The Faith Reborn at Herrnhut

Excerpt from "Old Salem - The Official Guidebook" by Penelope Niven and Cornelia Wright (click on the link to purchase your copy). Visit the official website of Old Salem Museums and Gardens
"The history of the Moravians comes to life at Old Salem. A unique religious group, the Moravians made the town of Salem an oasis of beauty and order in the Carolina back-country. Today in the workshops, homes, and gardens of Old Salem, men and women carry on the daily tasks of living just as they were done in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - crafting beautiful objects, running households and businesses, and  engaging in artistic and musical pursuits. This guide will help you make the most of your visit to Old Salem, one of the most authentic living-history museums in the United States."

The Faith Reborn at Herrnhut

For decades the church survived in small, hidden enclaves in Bohemia, Moravia, and Poland. In 1772 in Dresden, Christian David, a carpenter and a member of the Unity of the Brethren, met Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. During their conversations about religion, David told the count about how its members yearned to practice their faith in the light of day. Zinzendorf offered to let a few families settle near his estate at Berthelsdorf, in the German state of Saxony.

Led by Christian David, a small company of Brethren slipped out of Moravia in May 1722. They traveled through Bohemia to Saxony to take sanctuary near Zinzendorf’s vast estate. In this refuge, the Moravians gathered strength and built a carefully organized communal town called Herrnhut, a word with two meanings: “under the Lord’s watch” and “on watch for the Lord.”

Zinzendorf preaching to people from many nations
A few at a time, other Moravian men, women and children made their way to Herrnhut, evading their enemies, often crossing unfriendly borders by night. By May 1725 there were ninety Moravians in the Herrnhut community. Other religious refugees also found safety there – Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Separatists, and former Catholics. Gradually Count Zinzendorf assumed the role of minister, counselor, and sometimes mediator in this ecumenical flock.

With the Herrnhutter’s varied backgrounds and ideas about how their community should be run, dissension was inevitable. To quell the arguments that were splitting the community, Zinzendorf devised a plan to foster harmony, outlining it in the carefully crafted Brotherly Agreement of the Brethren from Bohemia and Moravia and Others, Binding Them to Walk According to the Apostolic Rule. This document, which contains many principles of the old Unitas Fratrum, became the foundation for all future Moravian congregation towns, including Salem. It reflected Zinzendorf’s long-held belief in being kind to all people, being true to Christ, and carrying the gospel to nonbelievers or the “heathen,” as Zinzendorf put it.

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