Every month, I have a page or two to share my thoughts and ideas about the work I do, the people I meet and the things I experience as part of the Moravian community. When Spring rolls around — although as I write this, the calendar says I still have several more weeks until it is “officially” here — my thoughts turn to Lent and Easter.
For many years, Lent was that time between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday when I was expected to give things up. As a child, that would be candy or comics (my mother often saw through my efforts to give up brussels sprouts or cream corn). As I grew older, it was giving up television time or soda.
But as I reached adulthood, I gave up giving things up for Lent. I found it wasn’t bringing me any closer to my faith to do without something for a couple of months in the spring.
Since entering the Moravian world, I’ve been looking for ways to give back, not give up; for ways to get involved and learn more about what makes Lent such a special time. I am getting more in touch with my Daily Texts, and leafing through a copy of Readings for Holy Week. I listen more intently to the scripture readings on Sunday that tell the story of Jesus’ ministry and last days. The songs I play with the Edge band — the ones about a heart of worship, the wonderful cross, inviting God to fill our place of worship, creating a clean heart, the Refiner’s fire — all take on new depth and meaning.
This year, I’m also taking time during Lent to learn more about the history of the Moravian Church. Thanks to a special Lenten program at my church, my Wednesday evenings in Lent have become a time for fellowship and learning.
The Wednesday evening Lenten Services at Edgeboro, themed, “My Hearts One Desire: Five Moravian Leaders that Changed Our Church,” trace the roots of the congregation back to the founding of the Unitas Fratrum. Developed by our pastor, Chris Giesler and student pastor Aaron Linville, the Lenten Services at Edgeboro feature a different figure in Moravian history each week.
The evening starts at 6:00 with a soup and bread dinner. Church board members and volunteers serve up a variety of amazing soups (last week’s vegetable soup and corn chowder were especially delicious) and a healthy dose of fellowship. Following an hour of food and friendly conversation, the congregation heads upstairs to the sanctuary for worship.
During the service, either Chris or Aaron lead the lesson about the historical figure. Through the five week program, they will discuss Gregory the Patriarch, founder of the Unitas Fratrum; John Amos Comenius, a bishop of the Ancient Unity considered the father of modern education; Christian David, one of the original exiles to seek refuge on Count Zinzendorf’s estate; Rebecca Protten, a freed slave from St. Thomas who was an evangelist there and later became one of the first black women ever ordained in Christianity; and the Rev. Douglas Rights, one of the four seminarians who helped start the Edgeboro congregation (and father and grandfather to a number of Moravian bishops and pastors.)
This is the first time in many years that the Lenten season has meant this much to me. As I sat with my wife Kathy at last week’s service, I couldn’t help but feel my spirituality grow and my knowledge expand. It is wondrous how an evening of soup, good friends and good learning can bring more meaning to the season. We eat, we pray, we learn… a wonderful way to spend an evening.
In this issue of the Moravian, you’ll find more stories of the Lenten season and how Moravians celebrate this holy time. We share the story of first Easter Sunrise service in Herrnhut and the inspired Lenten artworks painted by young members at First Moravian Church in Dover, Ohio. In addition, you’ll read about mission efforts here in the U.S., in Tanzania and in Cuba.
To strengthen understanding of the Moravian Church, we continue our “Moravian Basics” series with the “Moravian Covenant for Christian Living.” For many of us, this may be the first time in a long time we’ve read through this meaningful guide to an expression of a Christian life. I invite you to read and be refreshed.
And while spring is a time for celebrating, it is also a time for travel. As representative for the Interprovincial Board of Communication and editor of The Moravian, I will be travelling to central Pennsylvania and North Carolina for communications workshops; Laurel Ridge for the Moravian Environmental Stewardship Conference; and then to Appleton, Wis. for the Northern Province/Western District Synod, followed a week later by a trip to Calgary, Alberta for the Northern Province/Canada District Synod. I look forward to meeting and working with Moravians across the country, and bringing you news of your church.
Blessings to you and yours during this Lenten and Easter season. I hope you enjoy this month’s issue. And I’m looking forward to this week’s soup!
Mike Riess, Editor
From the April 2012 Moravian Magazine