Painting captures moment in history of Graceham Moravian Church

In the light and fragrance of a trimmed beeswax candle, award-winning artist Rebecca Pearl recently completed a historic portrait of Graceham Moravian Church entitled, “‘Morning Star’ Graceham Moravian Church, 1892.”

The Graceham Moravian Church was organized in 1758. The current building—a combination parsonage, church and school—was erected in 1797, with a sanctuary added in 1822. The painting shows the Church in the original red brick, prior to a change to white stucco in 1942, and several later additions.

Before beginning “Morning Star,” Ms. Pearl read A History of Graceham and watched a Moravian Christmas Homecoming video created by the congregation. She was intrigued by the beauty and simplicity of Moravian traditions and architecture, and in particular, by the spiritual significance of the joining of home and sanctuary.

Speaking of her experience, Ms. Pearl said, “This was far more than just doing a painting of a building. This work of art was conceived with the great help, love and support of Pastor Sue Koenig and the parishioners. The collaboration gave me an insight and education of the history of Moravians from centuries ago to present time, especially at the Graceham Moravian Church in Maryland. I had no idea of the gentle simplicity and deep faith in the ‘Lamb’ of God by these people. I love the magic of the Moravian Star and the beautiful symbol it carries. I was not alone while accomplishing this painting, guided by the light of our Lord and members of this very charming historic church.”

Ms. Pearl met with members of the congregation in the church’s Heritage Room, sharing faith beliefs, practices and traditions of the Moravian Church, looking at photographs and images of postcards from the late 1800s from the church’s records, and other items provided by the congregation and the Moravian Archives. The Joint Board, with input from the congregation, suggested the Christmas Eve setting. (Portraits of the present-day church in spring were painted by artist Rebecca Bennett, daughter of the Rev. Warren and Mrs. Doris Wenger as a gift for the congregation’s 250th Anniversary in 2008.)

Ms. Pearl’s painting was unveiled at the formal opening of a new Main Street Center in Thurmont, Maryland in early November and was well-received by guests gathered in a festive atmosphere. The Main Street Center is the same building that was Thurmont Moravian Church, built in 1874. The Thurmont Moravian Church was one of eight churches included in a second painting unveiled the same evening by Ms. Pearl entitled the “Spires of Mechanicstown.” Thurmont was known as Mechanicstown until 1894. The Thurmont Moravian Church closed in 1918.

“Morning Star” captures the beauty and serenity of a Moravian Christmas Eve, as worshipers leave the sanctuary and children carry the “Light of Christ” out into the world. A magnificent sky, a Moravian Star on the porch of the Gemeinhaus and candles glowing offer details that fill the painting with the joy of Christmas. Other details, such as the Moravian seal, the Spring House and cemetery, add depth and meaning to the painting, even as one’s eye is drawn to the light illuminating the distinctive Moravian belfry.

Ms. Pearl is graciously giving a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the prints to the Graceham congregation; in turn, the congregation will use the funds received to support ministries and services in the community.

Prints of Ms. Pearl’s painting, “‘Morning Star’ Graceham Moravian Church 1892” are available in two sizes (14”x18” and “12×17”) at $95 and $55 respectively. A few larger prints (22”x30”) are available on request at $175. Ms. Pearl may be contacted at [email protected].

The Rev. Sue Koenig is pastor of Graceham Moravian Church in Thurmont, Md.  

From the December 2015 Moravian Magazine