Festival of August 13 — August 13, 2017
Renewal of the Moravian Church
On August 13, 1727, exiles from Moravia (now the Czech Republic) on the German estate of Count Zinzendorf felt God’s blessing in a dramatic fashion. They experienced a moment of transformation much as the apostles had at Pentecost. Five years before, the Moravian refugees had started building Herrnhut as a place of refuge from persecution; but as Herrnhut grew, conflict also grew. The Herrnhuters fought about doctrine and worship so much that authorities in Germany demanded that Zinzendorf deport them. Instead, Zinzendorf took charge and confronted the conflict. First, he prayed with the Moravians, studied Scripture with them, and listened to them.
In May 1727 the Herrnhuters signed a “Brotherly Agreement” written by Zinzendorf. This provided a way to deal with their conflicts in love. Herrnhut became a unique religious community within the Lutheran parish of nearby Berthelsdorf. Everyone in Herrnhut agreed to live according to the guidance of the New Testament and to follow the will of Christ. On August 13 Pastor Rothe in Berthelsdorf confirmed two Moravian youth. During the service Zinzendorf offered a moving prayer that the Herrnhuters would be united in Christ. During Holy Communion, people felt Christ’s presence so strongly that they wept tears of gratitude. The Moravians felt such joy at being reconciled with Christ and one another that they continued their worship while enjoying food provided by the count.
Love had replaced hatred in Herrnhut. Before August 13 the Herrnhuters had been quarrelsome and divisive. After August 13 they became a community that looked for new forms of mission. Just a few years after August 13, Moravian brothers and sisters were preach-ing the grace of Christ from Greenland to South Africa. Today we celebrate this rebirth of the Moravian Church as a global church.
Craig Atwood, Professor of Moravian Theology, Moravian Theological Seminary