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Join We All: The August 13th Story

Each August 13th we celebrate the renewal of the Unitas Fratrum. This is a remarkable story of the Czech reformation Christian refugees, who, for over 150 years had been forced into hiding in the areas of Moravia and ultimately Poland. Now, they had come together with disenfranchised Lutheran Pietists and other religious non-conformists to set up camp on Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf’s land in Saxony (eastern Germany).

Would Zinzendorf allow them to stay? Would he deport these illegal immigrants back to where they came from? What is the game plan? What is it that they want from Zinzendorf and from each other? They don’t want to be Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, or Anabaptist… So, what do they want?

Zinzendorf accepted this ragtag group, and entrusted the care of this developing community to the Lutheran Pastor of Berthelsdorf, Johann Rothe. For the next two years, Pastor Rothe worked with the sixty or so folks who wanted to form a worshiping and ministering community.

These refugees then began building their village they called Herrnhut (which means The Lord’s Watch), and they worshiped in Pastor Rothe’s Lutheran church in Berthelsdorf where Zinzendorf lived – only a 20-minute walk away.

Zinzendorf began assisting with some pastoral duties, but when the Herrnhut community began to grow and quarrels and disputes became inevitable, he assumed more responsibility and authority to bring order and purpose to this group.

In May of 1727, Zinzendorf encouraged every resident of Herrnhut to sign his document called Manorial Injunctions and Prohibitions along with the Brotherly Agreement which made clear to all who voluntarily signed, that this was to be a religious community with the teachings of Christ as their core.

After the signings, Zinzendorf instituted the Bands which were made up of small groups of volunteers led by a director who assumed responsibility for the pastoral care and spiritual direction of each person in the band. (The Wesleys copied this organization model calling them “Methodist Societies.”) Christian David gives a description of the workings of the band:

We meet as bands to confess to one another the state of our heart and sinful inclinations…this is not done to give light to our imperfections, but that one may see the rightness of the heart. In this way, we learn to trust one another, to meet once a week to assist each other with the unburdening of the heart.

On Sunday, August 13, 1727 during the service of Holy Communion at the Lutheran Church in Berthelsdorf, the Holy Spirit came upon these people and they realized that they had a purpose. They wanted to be Christ’s congregation.

Zinzendorf encouraged the bands to meet and sent food from his manor house to the homes where they were gathering. These “Agape Meals” or “Lovefeasts” became important for this community as it grew together in love and in mission for Christ.

290 years ago, on August 13, 1727, the Unitas Fratrum was brought back to life in the form of the Moravian Church.

What might God have in store for us this August 13, 2017?

Blessings to all,

Barry

-The Rev. Barry Foster is pastor of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. This article was first published in the August 2017 church newsletter. 

Singing in the Storm

Dear Unity Family,

In the month of July, we will commemorate Jan Hus’ courageous mission to bring the Spirit of Christ to the people in their common language and in the sharing of the cup of grace in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Hus, of course was a Medieval Roman Catholic Priest in the city of Prague, who felt the “Church” had put institutional authority ahead of faith and discipleship to Christ and Christ’s love for everyone.

In his 1915 Princeton lecture entitled “The Life and Work of John Hus,” Dr. Remsen DuBois Bird states:

Thus he perished, a man whose only offense even in the eyes of those who condemned him, was that he placed the Bible before the Church, the Lord before the Pope, and the individual conscience before the will of the hierarchy. Thus he perished, John Hus, a man who deserves to live on in the hearts of those who love the Lord, as a dauntless hero, a champion of the Holy Word, a martyr to the truth. Thus he perished, a man who was a great patriot and leader of his people, a heaven-inspired preacher of righteousness and as such one truly zealous for the reform of the church.

Sunday, July 9, we will share the bread and cup of Holy Communion remembering our Lord, Jesus, and his sacrificial love for humanity. We will also remember Jan Hus and his faith in Christ and desire to move the church away from institutional politics to a ministry of love and faithfulness to all the people.

The Moravian revival in the early 1700’s rode in on the wave of music. John Wesley and his brother, Charles, were introduced to the Moravians through their hymn singing as they sailed for Georgia in October 1735. On the four-month journey, a storm came up suddenly and broke the main mast. While the Englishmen were crying, a group of Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. John Wesley was impressed by their personal faith in the face of a dangerous, life-threatening storm. He became convinced of his inner weakness while the Moravians seemed to possess an inner faith he did not. It was through his friendship with Moravians that Wesley discovered what seemed to be missing in his faith – a conviction that through Christ, God had truly justified our existence, and in spite of our sinfulness, had forgiven us and redeemed us to our full value as human beings. We are now free from the fear that we are unworthy, or unable to live up to a perceived standard of perfection. We can relax and allow Christ’s Spirit to complete us, and lead us to a fulfilling life.

We can sing in the midst of life’s storms!

In the last week of July, we will celebrate Moravian Music at the highest levels. Please note the information about the Moravian Music Festival found in this newsletter and consider participating in a choir or band… and/or attending the many concerts during the week. The month of July allows us to celebrate our earliest roots and musical heritage as we bring our Moravian Christian faith to the people in our 21st century world.

Faithfully,

Barry

-The Rev. Barry Foster is pastor of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. This article was first published in the July 2017 church newsletter.