it needs a nurturing environment where people really accept people, where warmth shines and radiates, where friendliness is a genuine and natural outcome as our relationships grow and mature.
When our atmosphere is upbeat and pulsating with joy, then we are nourished for growth in relationships. Growing in relationship with God has always been a great Moravian focus. It surfaces in our worship life and our hymns; many of the hymns that we sing invite us to give expression to our relationship with God through our lord Jesus Christ. Our spirituality points us continuously to relationship with God and people.
Relationships are the glue of our faith community. The Apostle Paul put it like this: “In union with [Christ Jesus] you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22 TEV).
The Moravian Church is a down-to-earth approach to faith and life that seeks to emphasize Christian faith, hope and love and de-emphasizes doctrines and creeds.
Paul said: “Freedom is what we have – Christ has set us free!” (Galatians 5:1 TEV) Freedom of faith expression is a hallmark of who we are as Moravians. We don’t dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s; we don’t greet you at the door with a list of prescribed beliefs or a statement of doctrinal purity; we don’t have an official creed. The Moravian Church accepts the historical creeds of Christianity and have never said that we were the best or the only way to experience Christ’s love. We have truly had a freedom of faith expression.
Our Moravian emphasis has been on faith from the heart more than from the head, on personal experience of God’s love rather than on abstract doctrinal arguments and theological formulations. This down-to-earth approach seeks to make God’s love real for people at the crossroads of faith and life, at the crucial intersection of our everyday living experiences and God’s ever-present love, at the place of pain, suffering and hurt in this beautiful and broken world. This means that we are involved in both the struggles and joys of life, in the ups and downs of people, in the dynamic movement of faith as a journey of hope and love.
Being down to earth means cutting through the pretenses and hierarchies that divide people, and being sensitive to the feelings and situations of individuals. Meeting people “on their turf” is a great gift of the Moravian Church.
The Moravian Church is a living witness to our motto: “In essentials unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
This old motto, while not original to the Moravian Church, has served as a reminder that love is the real spirit of acceptance, that love is the bottom line of our life together. We are most Moravian when we dare to make this motto our living witness, when others look at us and say, “Hey, that motto is more than just catchy words, more than a nice poem; it is a description of faith and life in the Moravian Church.”
In essentials, unity: Christ is the one big essential. The reality of God’s love offered in Christ is what our life of faith is all about. We don’t understand or experience Christ in exactly the same way, but it doesn’t matter. Our faith in Christ and our commitments to live as his followers are what really matter. Christ is the ground and source of our unity.
In non-essentials, liberty: The list of nonessentials is as big and wide as the heart of liberty. Here we go beyond mere tolerance to acceptance of diversity. We need to be able to say that it is not only okay to have variety of worship forms, musical selections, clergy styles, program offerings and service opportunities; it is good and healthy for the life of the church. Tolerance is too easy; acceptance is our real challenge.
In all things, love: Love affirms our unity rather than our divisions. Love has the power to make of our differences no difference. We all know we have plenty of differences. We could spend a lot of time identifying and fighting with one another. But “In all things love” means the love that has the power to overcome our differences by refocusing our concern on all that we have in common. We believe we all have much more in common than we will ever have in difference. Love not only brings us together in God’s family but keeps us together as a community of faith.
The Moravian Church is a Christ-centered church with an active congregational fellowship and service.
The roots of our congregational life are in Christ. Moravian churches are gatherings of believers who take seriously these words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians: “Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him. Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him and become stronger in your faith.” (Colossians 2:6-7 TEV).
Our faith identity is as Christians, as followers of Christ who happen to be affiliated with the Moravian Church as a way of being Christian. We are Christians first, not Moravians first. Fellowship and service are dual values that flow of our Christ-centeredness, that emerge from the unifying power of God’s love alive in our midst.
The Moravian Church is a regular Protestant denomination that has been serving Christ since 1457.
Regular is one of the key descriptive words. We are regular Protestants, in the mainline; moderate, committed to the Reformation principle of keeping our focus on serving Christ in the world. And we have been serving Christ for a long time – since 1457. The Moravian Church is known as the oldest Protestant church to be organized, older than Lutherans by more than 60 years.
We have a long and fascinating history that originates in the revolt of the Czech priest John Hus. Some of his followers in Moravia and Bohemia started a church called the Unitas Fratrum. The church was driven underground in the early 1600s and was renewed in the 1720s in Germany by refugees from Moravia and Bohemian and a Lutheran named Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. From there, missionaries went out to serve Christ in diverse places and among many races, as the Moravian Church established itself as a recognized Protestant denomination.
The Moravian Church is a worldwide church
Although small in number – only slightly more than 900,000 people – our denomination is truly an international church, with congregations in North America, Central America, South America, Africa and Europe, in addition to specialized ministries in Palestine, India and Nepal. Moravians have a reputation for bringing the gospel of Christ to people in places where others were either unwilling or unable to go. Moravian history is a story of missionaries going above and beyond to bring the Word of God to the world.
North American Moravians are a distinct minority in the Moravian Unity, making up less than 10 percent of its total membership. In fact, three out of five Moravians now live in Tanzania and South Africa; four out of five Moravians today are people of color.
In the midst of the church’s political, economic, cultural and racial diversity, the worldwide Moravian Church embodies the vision of Paul expressed in his letter: “You are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of the family of God.” (Ephesians 2:19 TEV).