If you lived in Winston-Salem this summer, you could hardly ignore the fact that Salem was celebrating its 250th Anniversary. With so much going on in “Old Salem,” the challenge for the Children and Family Ministry Team of the Board of Cooperative Ministries was to plan a unique provincial event for Moravian children—one that stayed true to the August 17, 1727 children’s spiritual renewal in Herrnhut, fulfilling our guiding congregational baptismal promise “to love and nurture the child in Christ” and honoring our heritage in a meaningful way.
Thus, the Third Annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast took place on August 14, 2016 at Salem Square. The Salem Creek RCC congregations of Home, Trinity, St. Phillips and Messiah Moravian Churches along with Anthony’s Plot, a Moravian intentional community, sponsored this year’s event.
Despite the brutal heat and humidity of a summer afternoon in North Carolina, families from 23 congregations gathered to explore our history, learn about our present, uplift our future and rejoice in our faith in new and creative ways.
Connecting with the past
A stroll around the Square gave our children the opportunity to connect with the past as they donned traditional Moravian clothes and posed for a commemorative framed photo. Attendees learned about the historic importance of trades in a Moravian community as they helped Salem potter Mike Fox prepare a platter that will be placed in the Moravian Archives.
Through the creative voices of storyteller Joyce Carter and puppeteer the Rev. Tripp May the children heard the appeal of freed slave Anthony Ulrich to the community at Herrnhut that resulted in an enduring denominational call to missions. They then were able to experience contemporary community outreach as they planted seeds for Anthony’s Plot fall garden, and received pottery communion cups made by local inmates, presented by Rodney Stillwell, chaplain at Forsyth Prison Ministry.
One of the most popular stops was the Bishops’ Birthday Party, where Moravian Bishops Graham Rights and Lane Sapp greeted each child, presenting them with a Moravian Birthday Book and sharing some cake to celebrate Salem’s birthday.
The journey through past and present continued as participants ventured down Church Street and were invited to explore the Single Sisters House and see the original mouse hole of its famed furry resident, Sister Maus. They visited St. Phillips Moravian and heard about the rich heritage of our African-American congregation and its important contributions to the original Salem community.
A stop in front of Home Moravian was a musical feast as band members played traditional hymns, and children were invited to experiment with an instrument at the Instrument Zoo.
Meeting today’s church
Provincial Agencies rolled out the red carpet for these most important guests. Cedarhyrst, also known as the “castle” and home of the Provincial Elders Conference and Unity Women’s Desk, was open for tours. Tasty treats were provided by the Provincial Women’s Board and a tour of the Archives inspired awe in our young readers.
Colorful displays, welcoming smiles, and personal attention was given to each child as they learned about the roles of these agencies in the contemporary Moravian Church, Southern Province: Board of Cooperative Ministries, Laurel Ridge Camp/Conference Center, Board of World Mission, Moravian Music Foundation, Salem Congregation, God’s Acre and Wachovia Garden.
A children’s Lovefeast
In traditional fashion, a band prelude called everyone to Lovefeast in the sanctuary of Home Moravian Church. The
Rev. Ginny Tobiassen led an engaging and interactive service for the children, telling Suzanna’s story as her inspiring message. The Revs. Doug and John Rights took up their guitars with the Regional Youth Council and led the congregation of participants in the singing of much loved camp songs. New children’s shoes were passed as offering plates to take up a collection that would help provide shoes for the school children in Anthony’s Plot neighborhood. It was a high-energy celebration that touched the hearts of all who attended.
According to the numbers, the Children’s Festival and Lovefeast was a success: 23 congregations were represented, with 260 participating in the Festival, and 247 served at Lovefeast, raising $602 for shoes for the children.
Sometimes success is measured in less tangible ways: the rapt attention of a child listening to Anthony’s story; a small thumbprint preserved on a piece of pottery; a toddler’s tiny finger poking into a mouse hole; a child’s vow to return to the “library” to read all those books; a Bishop’s warm smile of welcome; enthusiastic voices belting out a camp song. No matter where you looked, success was visible in the smiles, the laughter, and the enthusiasm of the children.
Ultimately, the secret to that success was trusting in our shared Moravian heritage: a passionate community can move mountains; strong traditions bind us together and survive the ages; children are relevant members of our congregations to be nurtured and encouraged; generous spirits continue to touch lives both at home and abroad; and coming together in fellowship fills our hearts with well-being.
Most fundamentally, when we place our faith in Jesus as our guide, we experience daily renewals that shape our lives. The Moravian Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is a unique tapestry of celebration: of the past that shaped us, of the future that will lead us, and of the faith that defines us. As a community, we look forward to our next celebration at Friedberg Moravian Church in 2017!
Article and photos by Suzy Tucker, a member of Bethania Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.