Thanks to the efforts of Moravian scholars from around the globe, the Worldwide Unity has been blessed with a new reference that tells the story of—and teaches the foundations of—the Moravian faith tradition.
Our Moravian Treasures, published by the Unitas Fratrum, provides information on how the calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ is lived out in the Moravian tradition. The 188-page, hardcover book is now available from the Interprovincial Board of Communication here in North America.
“’Following our Lamb…’—this sentiment from the Moravian Seal describes what this manual is all about,” explains the Rev. Dr. Peter Vogt, director for Theological Education in the European Continental Province and co-pastor of the Herrnhut Congregation in Germany, in the introduction to Our Moravian Treasures. “This manual has been written to provide information on how the calling to be disciples of Jesus Christ is lived out in the Moravian tradition. Here, Moravian pastors, church leaders, educators and theological students can learn more about some of the most important aspects of Moravian faith and life.
“The Moravian Church has always recognized the importance of theological education,” continues Peter. “Moravian pastors and church administrators need to know what our Moravian tradition stands for. They are the stewards of the spiritual ‘treasures’ that express the wisdom from the experience and witness of faithful believers who travelled the path before us. We believe the Moravian tradition offers many good and valuable insights about our Christian calling and we can trust this tradition as we seek to follow our Lord Jesus Christ today. At the same time, we recognize that in our changing world, traditions and church practices often need to be interpreted and renewed in order to be meaningful for new generations. This is the particular responsibility of educated church leaders who are the stewards of the ‘treasures’ that have been entrusted to us.”
The Our Moravian Treasures manual provides basic knowledge about our Moravian tradition and raises the awareness of how this tradition has found diverse forms of expression in different places. It was written for all who are interested in knowing more about the Moravian Church, but especially for theological students preparing to be pastors in our congregations and all others who are serving as teachers, lay leaders and church administrators.
“We hope this manual will help these brothers and sisters become familiar with the Moravian “treasures” that mark the identity of our church, thus leading us to a better knowledge and a deeper appreciation of the Moravian way of following Christ,” wrote Peter.
A better resource
The idea for Our Moravian Treasures arose during a consultation of leaders in Moravian theological education that took place in 2010 in Paramaribo, Suriname. “The participants who came from many different provinces shared their professional experience and realized that better resources for teaching about the Moravian traditions and practices were urgently needed,” said Peter. “They agreed on the project of a ‘Common Curriculum of Moravian Topics’ designed to address the following goals:
- to strengthen our shared Moravian identity by providing a solid understanding of important Moravian topics
- to provide an adequate and up-to-date teaching resource, especially for those provinces without access to conventional scholarship
- to connect with one another and with our common roots
Discovering our treasures
According to Peter, the discussions of the Paramaribo conference affirmed that our Moravian tradition has many important spiritual insights to offer, which are of enduring relevance for us as we seek to live as God’s people according to the call and promises of our Lord Jesus Christ. “As one participant put it, these insights are like the “treasures” of our church, which we are called to uphold and pass on to every new generation of believers,” said Peter. “For this reason, our manual bears the title Our Moravian Treasures.”
“Studying and upholding our Moravian treasures does not mean that we set ourselves apart from other churches and denominations. Rather it helps us to become aware of our unique contribution to the wider ecumenical context.”
This manual has been written to assist in the instruction of Moravian topics in theological education. It may be used as a handbook for teachers and as a textbook for students. In the ideal case, every Moravian minister and all persons preparing for ministry in the Moravian Church should receive a copy.
“It should be clear that this manual cannot cover all details of the Moravian tradition. It includes those topics that we felt were most important and summarizes the information found in many scholarly books and articles,” continues Peter. “We hope it will serve as guide for a better understanding of our Moravian tradition because we believe this tradition is a unique gift of God, and deserves to be better known. At the same time, we present these chapters in the spirit of open-mindedness, not as the final and definitive word, but as an orientation and as an invitation to engage in conversation as the tradition of Moravian “treasures” continues to develop.”
A word of thanks
While the groundwork for Our Moravian Treasures was laid at the 2010 consultation in Suriname, the work was completed by an international task force including members from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean region and North America. Planning and writing was a group effort, involving Moravian scholars and church leaders from various provinces. The effort was coordinated by Peter and the Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, Director of the Center for Moravian Studies in Bethlehem, Pa.
During the interim, Moravian scholars from all parts of the Unity worked on the material. Several meetings of the group in 2012, 2014 and 2015 solidified their work. A complete draft was printed and presented to the participants of the third Moravian Mission Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. This conference—the largest international gathering of Moravians to date—provided the opportunity to receive feedback from church leaders of many different provinces, representing almost the whole Moravian world.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the manual received the official endorsement of the delegates,” wrote Peter. “Following the conference, a number of people offered specific corrections and suggestions, which were incorporated in the final version. This manual is thus the product of a long process in which many individuals took part. We are very grateful to all.
“From the beginning, the project of this manual has benefited from the generous financial support of the Moravian Church Foundation, for which we are truly grateful. Likewise, we are grateful for the support of Moravian Theological Seminary and its Center for Moravian Studies in Bethlehem, Pa., and to the Unity Board and the Office of the Unity Board Administrator for their support and interest in the completion of this project.
“We hope that readers of all provinces in our Moravian Unity will find this manual helpful for studying and teaching Moravian topics, and we look forward to hearing from you about your experience. May our Lord guide the exploration of these ‘treasures’ with his blessing!” n
Ed note: Printed copies of Our Moravian Treasures is available in the United States and Canada through the Interprovincial Board of Communication Bookstore at store.moravian.org. We have imported a limited supply, but will be able to order additional copies should our initial supply run out. The book is also available as a PDF download from the Unitas Fratrum (Worldwide Moravian Church) website.
This article uses information and wording found in the Rev. Dr. Peter Vogt’s introduction to Our Moravian Treasures.