Before the Lord Rises, We Clean the Graves

For many, Easter is primarily about giant bunnies and sugary Peeps. But Easter, for Moravian Christians, is much more. Beginning Ash Wednesday and running through Holy Week (with services nearly every night), Great Sabbath and into Easter morning (early!), we focus on the suffering, sacrifice, and, ultimately, joy of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Easter, many Moravians gather in God’s Acre (the church cemetery) to proclaim their faith in the resurrected Lord and celebrate newness of life as the sun rises. The Easter Sunrise Service gives us a chance to joyously proclaim our Christian faith, beginning with the opening words of the Easter Morning liturgy: “The Lord is risen!” We answer together: “The Lord is risen indeed!”

But we are a practical people too. At Unity Moravian Church here in Lewisville, NC, we don’t have a very large graveyard (like Salem) in which to observe our Easter service. But we take time each year to lovingly prepare the graves for our own Easter service, much in the same way the women visited the tomb that first Easter morning (see photos below). Yes, God’s Acre is a place to mourn and remember those who have died, but it is also a place where we rejoice because we know that even though our loved ones are no longer here on earth with us, they are now living with Jesus. God’s Acre is a place of peace, hope, and faith.

The links below provide some perspective on Moravian Easter, particularly as it’s celebrated in Winston-Salem, NC. Enjoy and remember, the Lord is Risen! That’s who we worship . . . a risen Christ.

We hope you join us at 11:00am Easter Sunday at Unity Moravian Church for a moving service which concludes on the graveyard, but we do also participate in a community sunrise service at 7:00am at Lewisville Square. All are welcome!

Unity’s Watchword for 2017

On Sunday, January 15, 2017, ushers distributed baskets of “watchwords” to those in attendance. Pastor Barry invited everyone to select their own personal “Watchword” for the year. He selected the following text for the congregation.

“In Jesus Christ you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

The Tradition of the “Watchword”

The roots of this long-standing tradition go back to the Renewed Moravian Church, a small group of refugees forming their own community of faith on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludvig von Zinzendorf, a Saxon nobleman.

On May 3, 1728, during the evening service, Count Zinzendorf gave the fledgling congregation a “watchword” for the next day. It was to be a “Losung” (watchword) to accompany them through the whole day.

Thereafter one or more persons of the congregation went daily to each of the 32 houses in Herrnhut to bring them the watchword for the day, and engage the families in pastoral conversations about the text.

From this oral tradition, the Daily Texts soon became fixed in printed form. Zinzendorf compiled 365 watchwords for the year and the first edition of the Losungen was published for 1731. Now printed in over 51 different languages and dialects and with an annual press run of nearly one and a half million, the Daily Texts is probably the most widely read devotional guide in the world, next to the Bible itself.

“The watchword is either a promise, an encouragement, an admonition or word of comfort; the doctrinal text contains a point of revealed doctrine.”

By 1812 it was established that all watchwords would be drawn by lot from a selection of Old Testament texts, and the doctrinal texts would be selected from the New Testament. By the end of the nineteenth century, the custom was established to relate the two texts in theme or thought.

Over the years, congregations began a tradition of distributing scriptures for people to select their own personal watchword (a scripture to guide or inspire them through the year) during the Watchnight (New Year’s Eve) Service or at a service held near the first of the new year.