CCD Spotlight Blog

Jan Hus is Coming to Town

spotlight blog banner


Several years ago when I was serving as the Chaplain for Moravian University, I  received an invitation to be present for a visit from the then-President of Czechoslovakia, Václav Havel. He was flying from a meeting in Washington D.C. and was coming to rededicate the statue of Jan Amos Comenius that stands before Comenius Hall on the main campus of Moravian University. It was a private affair with only certain vetted people attending from the University Staff and the Mayor’s Office of Bethlehem, PA.

At the appointed hour, we gathered beneath the imposing upright arms of our beloved Educator, Jan Amos Comenius, to receive detailed instructions from the Lead Officer from the Federal Government. We were told exactly where we would stand, how we were to address the President, questions that were and were not allowed, and of course the proper way to stand as photos were taken of the President and the gathered audience beneath Comenius’ welcoming arms.

The Comenius statue at Moravian University. Image via Czech Center, New York.

My emotions were on edge as the hour approached.  Here was a man who had achieved a tremendous victory for the people of his country. The shadow of the statue loomed large as the afternoon sun made its way over Comenius Hall. Traffic was blocked at all intersections. Several large black SUV’s lined the main street and at least a dozen men with earpieces and black suits watched and listened for instructions. After ten or so additional minutes, some activity was spotted on the street. Then, the Lead Officer came to the base of the statue to report that President Havel was not feeling well and was heading home directly from D.C. We were dismissed and the protection detail left without fanfare.

Well of course, Jan Hus was not coming to town that day. However, a reformer from a different era was making a gesture to the world and to his own people that reformation is needed in every age. Hus made his mark on the life of his beloved homeland and on the Christian reformation before Luther, Calvin, or Swingli. Hus gave voice to the forces of change as Comenius would do for educational reform. As Dr. Craig Atwood reminded us in his work entitled Always Reforming: A History of Christianity Since 1300, “Hus encouraged each and every  generation to be reformers.”

In our time now in 2023, the Moravian Church is called to be a reforming agent in the sea of denominations often competing for a listening audience. In the centrality of Christ and Him Crucified, we can lead the way in focusing our energies not solely on survival but on the essence of a heart religion. In our simplicity of faith, our church can help others see the benefit of being Christ through acts of compassion and service. In our efforts to “lift others,” we can demonstrate the way by loving neighbors as we transform our communities one person at a time. And in our focus on the essentials of a faithful witness, the Moravian Church can lead in a reformation for others to choose hope, faith, and love.

No, President Havel did not make it to Bethlehem that day, but the spirit of reform is still alive on the campus of Moravian University. Both Comenius and Jan Hus made it possible for modern day reformers to BE the change. If you visit Bethlehem be sure to drive past the campus. You never know who might be standing with Comenius on any given day; maybe a president, a scholar, a pastor or a reformer, or maybe yourself?

Follow up to the story: In 2021, former President Havel returned to Moravian University to participate in the 30 year anniversary of the re-dedication that he wasn’t able to make in 1991. You can read about the event here.

About the author

The Rev. David Merritt is a retired Pastor, former Dean, Outreach Director, and Chaplain, but he’s “papa” according to his grand-kids. David loves God, Laurel Ridge, and his family. He has enough sense to get out of the rain but prefers raindrops anyway.

Requests for republishing, click here

We’re always looking to share new stories and voices. Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here