Who are the Moravian Brethren?

Who are the Moravian Brethren?

The motto of the Moravian Church is as follows: "Our lamb has conquered, let us follow him".
The Moravian Church is a Lutheran independent church with the same confessional basis as the Danish State Church (Den danske Folkekirke). The Moravian Church is also referred to as the Moravian Brethren, and its origin dates all the way back to 1415.
The Moravian community in Christiansfeld is the only one of its kind in Denmark. Originally, the Moravian community was organized in so-called choirs. That is to say that the members of the community were divided into groups by gender and marital status. There was a choir for unmarried sisters, for unmarried brothers, for boys, girls, married couples and widows. Gradually, this choir system was abandoned by the end of the 19th century. The community was and still is led by a Council of Elders, which had great influence on the lives and activities of the individual members in Christiansfeld.
Today, the Council of Elders serve as vestry members.

The lamb. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret
Jesus figure. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

The relationship with Jesus

The German Count Zinzendorf, who participated in the establishment of the Moravian Church and who had great influence on the establishment of Christiansfeld, had a special relationship with Jesus. Since early childhood he had conversations with Jesus and regarded him as his best friend.
”Our lamb has conquered, let us follow him” is the motto of the Moravian Church. This motto is placed around the symbol of the Moravian Church, which is the conquering lamb carrying a flag of victory and a cross and featuring a halo around its head.
Brothers and Sisters
The original Moravian Church called itself Unitas Fratrum, which is Latin for the Community of Brothers. It was using the concepts and titles of brothers and sisters to emphasize that God is the heavenly father of man, and thus humans are brothers and sisters with a shared father and a shared brother, Jesus Christ.
In the Moravian community, there are big community houses and facilities. In the morning and in the evening the members met in these choir houses to strengthen one another by singing, reading from the bible and praying together.
In Christiansfeld and in other Moravian towns the aspiration was to live peacefully together in Christian charity and with ample spirituality and community. Here, all members took care of one another while upholding and safeguarding the community.

Brothers and Sisters

The original Church of Brothers called itself Unitas Fratrum, which is Latin for the Community of Brothers. When using the titles of brothers and sisters, the intention is to underline that God is the heavenly father of all humans, so that humans are brothers and sisters with a common father and a common brother in Jesus Christ.
In the Moravian community, there are large community houses and facilities. In the morning and in the evening, there were gatherings in the choir houses where the members would encourage each other with hymns, readings from the Bible and common prayers.
In Christiansfeld and in other Moravian towns the aspiration was to live peacefully together in Christian charity and with ample spiritual life and human community. Here people took care of each other while safeguarding the community.

The community

In general, the members of the community perceived the community as being of a very valuable quality.
Within the community this was and still is reflected in caring for each other, in a genuine interest in the wellbeing of the other members and also in the willingness to take on a number of practical tasks.
Even though the choir system as an institution is no longer active, traces of it can still be observed these days.
At the Sunday service there will usually be a female hall servant in the sisters’ side and a male hall servant in the brothers’ side of the church. The brothers and sisters who serve as hall servants distribute the work between them autonomously. The church choir and the brass choir (orchestra) are both examples of common projects. Fundamentally, community is often a core matter in relation to solving various tasks – and they can be many.

The Sisters' House. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

How to become a member of the Moravian Church?

If you would like to become a member of the Moravian Church, you must submit an application for membership to the Council of Elders. If you are interested and if you have attended the services in the Moravian Church and participated in other activities for some time, the Council of Elders will usually give a positive answer.
After that, the admission ceremony takes place at a service, when the congregation sings a verse: “We reach out to you our brotherly hand”, after the speech of the minister. After the singing of this specific verse, the minister goes to the new member and shakes hands with him or her. The Moravian Church is not actively recruiting members who are already members of other churches.
However, it is possible to hold membership of both the Danish State Church and the Moravian Church at the same time.

The Moravian Church. Photo: Eva Kristensen

The missionary work in Denmark and abroad

In 1843, Nordslevigsk Missionsforening (the Missionary Society of Northern Schleswig) was founded by the community in Christiansfeld and by the minister Niels Johannes Holm. After the First World War, it changed its name to Brødremenighedens Danske Mission (the Danish Missionary Society of the Moravian Church).
The Moravians have sent out missionaries to almost every corner of the world: Europe, America, Africa, the Caribbean and Central America. Today, the missionary work that takes its starting point in Christiansfeld is concentrated around Albania, Tanzania and D.R. Congo.

Africa. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

The Watchword

The concept of the Watchword arose in Herrnhut, when Count Zinzendorf wanted all inhabitants to start each morning with a single bible verse, which was intended as food for thought and reflection for all. The first fragment of a Watchword booklet saw the light of day in 1729, but not until 1741 the Moravians started publishing texts for a whole year at a time.
Today the Watchwords are drawn from a pool of approximately 1,900 verses from the Old Testament. The assumption is that by drawing them, God will see to it that texts are chosen that will educate or encourage the readers on the specific days when they are read. The drawing process takes place once a year in the castle Vogtshof in Herrnhut, Germany.
The Watchword booklet is published in more than 100 countries and in more than 50 languages and dialects and thus it has a far further reach than only the Moravian Church itself.

Biographies – what are they?

In the Moravian Church, the members are expected to write their biographies themselves. The so-called biographies are descriptions of the members’ lives in their own words. The texts are used at the funeral, where they are read aloud. If a member could not write the biography on his or her own, according to tradition the closest relatives will do so instead.
All biographies are kept in the archives of the Moravian community.

Watchword booklet 2015. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

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