A Brief History
Although the Sunrise Service dates back to the 1730’s at Herrnhut, the Easter Morning Liturgy was first used in its present form in 1749 and in English in 1759. The Moravian Covenant for Christian Living states that a Moravian confession of faith is to be found in the Easter Morning Liturgy, and many others have identified it as a summary of Moravian doctrine.
The Easter Morning Liturgy is an example of the preferences of Moravians to express their doctrines in liturgical forms. The essential features of some creeds are too long to be used in worship are found reflected in Moravian liturgies. A closer examination of the Easter Morning Liturgy reveals its roots in the Augsburg Confession and in Luther’s Shorter Catechism (Gramley, 1990). Over a long period of time, the Renewed Moravian Church expressed agreement with the Augsburg Confession and held it as a standard while still declaring their primary dependence on Scripture and freedom of conscience. The synods of the Moravian Church acknowledged the authority of the Augsburg Confession along with other creeds of the reformation and the Apostle’s Creed. They derived points of doctrine from the Augsburg Confession throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Gradually, the Augsburg Confession lost some of its pre-eminence as a doctrinal statement on which Moravians depended. In 1957 in The Ground of the Unity and its 1981 revision, the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Shorter Catechism are listed along with other creeds as creeds in which “the main doctrines of the Christian faith find clear and simple expression.” By this time, the Easter Morning Liturgy had gained more authority as a confessional statement which retained the essential doctrine of its Lutheran ancestors as well as significant scriptural content.
The Moravian Book of Worship in 1995 made few changes in the Easter Morning Liturgy. Notable as an indication that this is a liturgy we say in community, most of the statements beginning with “I” have been changed to “We.” An exception is the deeply personal paragraph beginning with “This is my Lord who redeemed me…”
The Easter Morning Liturgy is a statement of faith which, like any classical confessions, we say in solidarity with the Christian community. As a starting point for developing one’s “Personal Theological Credo,” it can offer us categories for thinking about what we believe about God and our relationship with God. As an example of the hard work done by our ancestors in the faith to come to an understanding of the Gospel, it can serve as a benchmark by which we test what we believe, what we do not believe, and what we struggle to believe.
Source: Gemeinschaft III Manual