Living Branches: A resource for teaching Moravian heritage

Living Branches: Moravians Growing in Faith, Love & Hope, is a flexible, 13-week Sunday School program focused on sharing the story of our Moravian heritage from Jan Hus to the present day. It includes lower elementary, upper elementary, youth and adult components.

Living Branches curriculum covers historical topics and figures like Jan Hus, Gregory the Patriarch, John Amos Comenius, Count Zinzendorf, Moravian missionaries and more. Curriculum planners coordinated the sessions’ topics so that a particular time period or historical figure could be studied by all ages. For example, if the Moravian Church is celebrating Comenius, Sessions 4 and 5 throughout all age ranges can be pulled out and explored.

The lower elementary, upper elementary and youth programs all lead with scripture passages, songs and stories that highlight each lesson. The programs also include fun, creative activities that engage students in Moravian history, along with resources and tools to provide Sunday school leaders with the instructions, materials and background necessary to successfully teach each program.

The adult program, “Faith-Singing Through Moravian History,” covers similar time periods, but does so through a study of Moravian hymns. Each lesson looks at different hymns and how they reflect our heritage. Thought-provoking discussion questions help adult students dig deeper into each subject and reflect on what Moravian hymns mean to them.

Living Branches addresses the need for updated Sunday school material that helps young and old alike understand how those who came before us have shaped our church today. The effort grew from a resolution from the 2012 Eastern District Synod to explore the development of a Moravian-focused Sunday School curriculum for all ages. A similar need was identified in the Southern Province, so teams from both provinces came together to develop a resource for use across the Moravian Church in America.

The curriculum was jointly developed by the Eastern District and the Southern Province Board of Cooperative Ministries, overseen by Marie Couts, Eastern District director of Christian Education; Beth Hayes, director of congregational ministries and resources, Southern Province Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM); Ruth Cole Burcaw, BCM’s executive director; and Mike Riess, executive director of the Interprovincial Board of Communication.

In developing the Living Branches curriculum, writers and editors worked to ensure the historical lessons of the Moravian Church were tied to the church today. Making our history relevant, and using it to educate how our Moravian Church exists today, permeates each lesson.

Writers for Living Branches include : Tricia Everett for the lower and upper elementary programs; The Rev. Carol Foltz for the youth program; and The Rev. Dennis Rohn for the adult program, with contributions from many Moravians. Margaret Norris of Winston-Salem, N.C., served as project manager.

Material was reviewed by experts and editors including: The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood from the Moravian Theological Seminary and Center for Moravian Studies; The Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse from the Moravian Music Foundation; the Rev. Dr. C. Daniel Crews, former Southern Province Archivist; the Rev. Otto Dreydoppel; the Rt. Rev. Kay Ward; and many more.

A free resource

In an effort to ensure all Moravian congregations have access to Living Branches, the curriculum is available as a free of charge download for all Moravian congregations in the Northern and Southern Provinces. To request the digital download, please contact Marie Couts ([email protected]) (Eastern District) or the Commission on Congregational Development  ([email protected]) (Southern Province). Printed versions will be available at cost; contact Marie or Beth for more information.

The lower elementary (grades K-3), upper elementary (grades 2-5), youth (grades 6-12) and adult programs of the Living Branches series are available now. High school classes may also wish to use the adult curriculum on hymns.

To view a preview sample of Living Branches, click the links below.