Moravians in many parts of the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean all have an opportunity to share in the same powerful message of faith every week. Through the Moravian Sunday bulletin subscription offered by the Interprovincial Board of Communication, the words of Moravian pastors and writers enhance the teaching of the weekly scripture readings.
About 100 congregations receive the Moravian Sunday bulletins. This includes about three-quarters of the Northern Province congregations, a quarter of the Southern Province congregations, and some Moravian churches from the Eastern West Indies, Alaska, and Labrador. The covers and the meditations on the back are based on the Gospel reading of the day from the Revised Common Lectionary.
While not all Moravian pastors follow the lectionary in preparing sermons, many do. The Moravian bulletin also unites us with the many other churches that do follow the lectionary. It is common to hear that a neighboring Catholic priest or Presbyterian pastor preached on the same text as one’s Moravian pastor.
The bulletin series started in the 1940s on the initiative of F. P. Stocker of the Northern Provincial Elders’ Conference. A committee to prepare the bulletins was appointed by the Eastern District Board. This committee functioned until 1969, when responsibility for bulletins moved to the Northern Province Board of Christian Education; it now rests with the Interprovincial Board of Communication.
Since 1987, first as director of publications and now in retirement, I have been responsible for preparing the Sunday bulletins by recruiting writers, editing their work, and submitting it to the printer. This has been a very enjoyable responsibility that keeps me in touch with the Moravian Church throughout the United States and Canada. (The longest-serving member of the original bulletin committee was Gretchen Schwarze of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who happened to be my high school English teacher.)
The early years of the bulletin, prepared by the Moravian committee, were in one color and frequently used stock photographs of U.S. and Canadian scenery. From 1980 to 1988 we used covers from Judson Press of the American Baptist Church and provided bulletin backs written by Moravians. Bulletins were shipped from a Moravian office in Bethlehem. Since 1988 we have worked with Augsburg Fortress Press of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the Moravian Church’s full-communion partners. Augsburg chooses the covers, adds the Moravian meditation on the back, and ships bulletins to congregations.
I have invited most pastors of Northern and Southern provinces to write bulletin meditations. This ensures that writers are both men and women, liberal and conservative, black and white, from somewhere between Edmonton and Miami, Downey and Brooklyn. I try to make sure I have not missed pastors of small congregations, who seldom are heard beyond their own parishes. I do not limit my recruiting to pastors of congregations that take the bulletin. (If your congregation has its own covers, such as a photo or sketch of your church building, you can still order the meditations on the back from the Interprovincial Board of Communication.)
Most pastors are glad for the chance to share their convictions and experience on the back of the bulletin. Occasionally I have moved beyond active clergy and asked lay PEC members and bishops, some of whom are retired, to write. I have also tried to give opportunity to some pastors whom I see as gifted writers by asking them to prepare a seasonal series in Advent or Lent. I have varied from the lectionary by providing bulletin backs for the August 13 and November 13 Moravian festivals.
After I receive a meditation, I do minor editing. Most often this is because it is a little too long. Occasionally I have a question of theological content or copyright permission for the writer. If you ever see my name as writer (it happens a couple times a year), it is because a writer has forgotten a deadline and I have had to substitute.
Don Winters, former pastor of Kernersville Moravian Church in North Carolina who recently retired, shared, “Reading the bulletin backs was truly a highlight for me and I thoroughly enjoyed knowing who the writer was. If I did not know the writer I made an effort to send her/him with a note and introduce myself which, I believe, served your thinking and purpose for the writers of the bulletin backs. I read them first by the quarter, as we received our quarterly bulletin stock, then again on a weekly basis. I learned much and actually met new clergy friends.”
Rachel Schacter, a member of Edgeboro Moravian Church in Bethlehem, suggested the idea of sharing the weekly message online for those Moravians who aren’t able to be in church on Sunday (Rachel is currently studying at Drew University in New Jersey). Based on her suggestion, the weekly message is now posted Sunday mornings on www.moravian.org.
So next time you read the message on the back of your Sunday bulletin, know that Moravians across North America are sharing the same insights and learnings.
Hermann Weinlick, a retired Moravian pastor from Minneapolis, Minnesota, served as director of publications from 1987 to 1998. He serves now as ecumenical officer of the Northern Province.
From the March 2o13 Moravian Magazine