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Moravian Church in the History of the USA

 

The modern Moravian Church, with about 750,000 members worldwide, continues to draw on traditions established during the 18th-century renewal. In many places it observes the convention of the lovefeast, originally started in 1727. It uses older and traditional music in worship. Brass music, congregational singing and choral music continue to be very important in Moravian congregations. In addition, in some older congregations, Moravians are buried in a traditional God's Acre, a graveyard with only flat gravestones, signifying the equality of the dead before God and organized by sex, age and marital status rather than family.

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In 1772, John Ettwein and his group of some 200 Lenape and Mohican Christians traveled west along The Great Shamokin Path from their village of Friedenshütten (Cabins of Peace) near modern Wyalusing on the North Branch Susquehanna River

The Moravians continue their long tradition of missionary work, for example in the Caribbean, where the Jamaican Moravian Church has begun work in Cuba and in Africa where the Moravian Church in Tanzania has missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. This is reflected in their broad global distribution. The Moravians in Germany, whose central settlement remains at Herrnhut, are highly active in education and social work. The American Moravian Church sponsors the Moravian College and Seminary. The largest concentration of Moravians today is in Tanzania.

The motto of the Moravian Church is: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love".

Some Moravian scholars point to a different formula as a guide to constructive debate about faith. This formula was first advanced by Luke of Prague (1460–1528), one of the bishops of the ancient Unitas Fratrum. Luke taught that one must distinguish between things that are essential, ministerial or incidental to salvation. The essentials are God's work of creation, redemption and sanctification, as well as the response of the believer through faith, hope and love. Things ministerial are such items as the Bible, church, sacraments, doctrine and priesthood. These mediate the sacred and should thus be treated with respect, but they are not considered essential. Finally, incidentals include things such as vestments or names of services that may reasonably vary from place to place.

 

 

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 of America. 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 ongoing 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 seventh largest city in Pennsylvania. In 1772, the first civilized settlement of what later became Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania occurred when Reverend John Ettwein, a Moravian missionary, arrived there with a band of 241 Christianized Delaware Indians.

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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 Lower 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 Springplace mission to the Cherokee Nation in what is now Murray County, Georgia. Coinciding with the forced removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma, this mission was replaced in 1842 by New Springplace in Oaks, Oklahoma. Due to Civil War-related violence, New Springplace closed in 1862, and resumed during the 1870s. Finally, in 1898, the Moravian Church discontinued their missionary engagement with the Cherokees, and New Springplace, now the Oaks Indian Mission, was transferred to the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church.