Representatives from all Unity Provinces and Mission Provinces throughout the worldwide Moravian Church gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this month for meetings of the Unity Board and Unity Synod. PEC President Rev. Dave Bennett represents the Northern Province on the Unity Board. At Unity Synod, the constitutional body of the Unitas Fratrum, the Northern Province was represented by Rev. Dave Bennett, Rev. Jason Andersen, and Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman. Rt. Rev. Blair Couch was also present to represent the Bishops of the Unity, and Br. Justin Rabbach attended as a translator.
We will share news about specific actions of the Unity Synod as they are transcribed and published; in the meantime, Brother Bennett shares the following reflection about his experience at this global gathering:
It happened on multiple occasions at the 2023 Unity Synod of the Moravian Church.
As we arrived at the airport in Cape Town, South Africa, none of us were absolutely sure as to who would be picking us up once we cleared customs. With an immediate relief at spotting our luggage, we walked through those wide doors quite uncertain as to who we would see and who would shepherd us to the right place. However, it ended up being quite simple, at least for a “Moravian.” As we pushed through the doors and spanned the large waiting area for arrivals, there it was… the Lamb! On a simple 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper… being held up high…we knew we had found the right place. Interestingly to me, who is not an experienced world traveler, even though I was quite far away from home – halfway around the world, actually – when I saw that Lamb within the Moravian Seal… the same one that I had seen since a child on the front of the sanctuary at West Salem Moravian Church in Illinois… I realized I was home. It made no sense, logically, but spiritually it did. We went straight toward it and were welcomed with an embrace – strangers no more.
Having checked into the hotel provided for this sacred event of both the Unity Board meeting and the Unity Synod, it was soon time for dinner. He simply stuck out his hand to me… with a big smile… and the only thing we had immediately in common was a name tag with that same Lamb and a name with the word, “Delegate” under it. We did our best to communicate, but I could not speak Swahili and he did his best to understand my English. However, somehow that didn’t matter. We worked our way through our greetings and expressing our pleasure at attending this synod as sisters and brothers in Christ. We shared a table and a meal, even though we could not speak the same language.
My tablemates at Synod were The Rev. Dr. Amy Gohdes-Luhman and The Rev. Jason Anderson. We each spoke of being moved by the process of synod, whereby an individual would speak and then that language would be translated so others could understand it. Before each meal we sang the Moravian table grace, each in our own version and each in our own language. It was like having a glimpse into the beautiful experience of Acts when the Gospel was spoken in differing languages… yet the same gratitude was shared each in its own way.
I hope to share more details about the actions of synod as they are transcribed and published in the near future. In the meantime, let me attest to the fact that I experienced the Moravian Church in a way I have never experienced before. We have a world-wide community of faith who cherishes each moment we are able to be together. Our fellowship reaches beyond language… beyond geography… beyond differences of polity and practice….united under what can be found upon an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper – a symbol of our Unity. A Lamb… The Lamb. The theme for the 2023 Unity Synod? “Many Cultures… One Witness!” Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him. Amen… amen… and amen!
The Rev. David E. Bennett
President, Provincial Elders’ Conference
Moravian Church, Northern Province