Seeking the Moravian Way (part one)

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BY CHAZ SNIDER |

Embracing Mystery and the Fight Against Certainty


Editor’s note: this is part one in a series of blog posts by the Rev. Chaz SniderSubsequent parts to this series, “Seeking the Moravian Way,” will be published over the next few weeks on the Spotlight Blog and on Chaz’s blog. These additional parts will publish on Mondays, outside of the normal rotation. The normal rotation publishes Saturday and typically does not feature the same writer two weeks in a row.

If you want the rest of this series (and other future posts from Chaz’s blog) emailed to you directly, you can sign up for that here.


If you identify as a Moravian, I am sure you are familiar with the inquisitive look that you often get when you tell people that. It is more than likely going to be followed by the question, “What is a Moravian?” If they happen to be familiar with the denomination, then usually the response you get is “Oh you are the cookie people!” I cannot deny the fact that Moravians hold claim to some delicious treats.

The question “what is a Moravian?” tends to have deeper resonance when you ask it in the context of the spiritual landscape of today’s world. Church participation continues to drop and more people call themselves “spiritual but not religious” than ever before. This shift in American religion can cause us in the church to ask some healthy questions. Perhaps the best question we can ask ourselves is the same one that is most often asked of us: “What is a Moravian?”

There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality.

When I turn back to our history in an attempt to answer that question, I don’t come back with a doctrinal answer. There is not one theological issue that separates us Moravians from other Christians. What I come back with is a unique approach to faith and spirituality. When I look at our uniqueness it is not the “what” of faith that is different for us, but rather the “how” of our faith. Or to put it another way, how we live our faith is just as important to us as the content of our faith.

One of the key aspects of this Moravian way is an embrace of mystery and being ok with uncertainty. The writings of many early Moravians speak of the mystery of faith. They are not bound to the certainty of dogmatic and religious formulations but are ok with the mystery of God. These early Moravians speak of the Trinity as a family, Father God, Brother Christ, and Mother Spirit. Instead of debating the metaphysics of the incarnation they spoke of entering the wounds of Christ as a way of God inhabiting all of the human experience.

An image of the stained glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church's sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The stained-glass Moravian seal in Fairview Moravian Church’s sanctuary | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

We Moravians, like many Christians, have not always embraced these mystical elements of our heritage and for many years we have downplayed that aspect of our tradition. For much of the 20th century, faith was equated with believing something with a high degree of certainty. In defining faith this way, it became an intellectual exercise as opposed to something that required our being in meaningful community with others. Instead of focusing on how we lived in the world, faith became only believing a certain checklist of things.

When many early Moravians described their experience of faith, they did not seem particularly concerned about checking off a list of beliefs. Instead, they seemed much more concerned with how the mysterious Christ shaped the way they lived in the world.

[Zinzendorf] was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world, and was centered on the person of Christ.

So why is this important? Christians in our country today are facing a crisis of identity. We are living in a more post-Christian society each day. Churches are shrinking at a rapid pace and people seem less interested in religion. And those things scare a lot of people, especially people in churches.

Here is the really interesting thing: even though people may be abandoning religion, they’re not abandoning spirituality. Pew Research tells us that 44% of the spiritual-but-not-religious pray every day and 92% believe God exists. Perhaps there is still a spiritual need to be filled, but many religious communities aren’t meeting that need.

An image of a bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

A bust of Count Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany | Photo by Mike Riess / IBOC

The Moravian way of faith might speak to this spiritual hunger. If we look back into our own history we will find that Zinzendorf, one of the most influential Moravian leaders, didn’t have any interest in starting a new denomination or religion. He was interested in promoting a particular way of living out faith. A way that embraced mystery, made a meaningful impact on the world and was centered on the person of Christ. So maybe we should give thought to how this Moravian way might find expression in a nonreligious way.

Zinzendorf and the early Moravians were less concerned with the certainty of faith and much more interested in the mystery of faith. We live in a world today where we divide ourselves by our certainties and absolutes. It can be certainty on politics, certainty on religion, or certainty on how good or bad the new Star Wars movie was. Whatever it may be, we divide and categorize each other because we have failed to cultivate mystery, uncertainty, and unknowing in our lives.

Maybe if we turn back to our Moravian way of faith, we can focus less on preserving our institutions and our certainties, and instead embrace the mysteries of our faith in Christ.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of the Rev. Chaz Snider

Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

The Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church (AMC) in Winston-Salem, NC. Chaz was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. He is a lifelong Moravian. Chaz’s focus is helping people who crave a relationship with God but aren’t sure where to start. He has a passion for spreading the love of Jesus to everyone and is looking forward to seeing how AMC can impact our city. Chaz’s wife Michaleh is a Physical Education teacher and director of children, youth, and family ministry. They have three kids: Chris, Abby, and Sara.

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It is Enough

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BY LAURA WATSON |

Around the world, millions of people have been tuning in to the World Cup in Russia to watch their nation’s soccer team compete for the title of world champion. Tomorrow, Croatia and France will face off in the World Cup final. 

I love the World Cup (even if my country didn’t qualify to compete!). I love watching as players push themselves to go faster and harder, to persevere through pain, and to work together with their teammates for a common goal. I find myself yelling at the television….“Go, go, go!” I can only imagine what it’s like for the athletes’ families and friends.

Image of a goal being scored in soccer

Photo by Vitaly Krivosheev via Adobe Stock

We live in a culture that tends to yell at us as well….”Go, go, go!” Work harder. Climb the ladder. Go for the gold. Be all that you can be. Achieve. Shoot for the moon. Aim for the stars. You get what I mean.

Striving to be the best is important, but when is it okay to say, “It is enough.”? Especially since the “go, go, go” mindset is often paired with “more, more, more”? We’re inundated with marketing messages to get the car with more features, the phone with more storage, and the insurance plan with more coverage. And who doesn’t want more? I know I do.

When I think of myself as a steward, I have to acknowledge the need to shift my mindset. Father Andrew Kemberling of St. Thomas More parish in Centennial, Colorado, once wrote, “Stewardship is a gift from God for the conversion of a materialistic world. It is living out a commitment to be Christ-centered rather than self-centered and involves a conversion of the heart.”

This really speaks to me and invites me to acknowledge that it is enough. I have enough. God has blessed me abundantly and I am to receive His gifts gratefully and share them with others. I can’t imagine praying, “More, more, more!”, and yet that is oftentimes how I live.

Christ-centered rather than self-centered. A conversion of the heart. What an invitation.

So while I will continue to yell at my favorite soccer players as they push to fulfill their World Cup dream, I will remember that it is enough. I have enough. And that means I will live my life differently. I will strive to answer Christ’s call to renew the face of the earth. I will celebrate God’s everlasting love and that I am his. I will experience the joy and deepening faith that comes from proclaiming, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

And It Is Enough.

An image of the mountains at Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center | Photo by Andrew David Cox

The mountains at Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center | Photo by Andrew David Cox

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of Laura Watson

Photo via MMFA.info

Laura Watson is the Director of Stewardship and Development Services for the Moravian Ministries Foundation of America. Laura joined the Foundation in April of 2012. A native of Winston-Salem and member of Home Moravian Church, she has worked in the Florida school system, at Salem College, and as Assistant Director of Laurel Ridge, the Southern Province’s camp and conference center.

When she’s not busy with stewardship and capital campaign consulting for the Foundation, Laura enjoys running and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), as well as traveling with her husband, Mark. She has served on the Salem Academy and College Board of Trustees and the Salem Academy Alumnae Board and currently serves on the Triad JDRF Board of Directors.

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Mission Trips and Faith

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BY ANNA STEWART FAIRCLOTH |

It was March of 2011 and I was on a bus with my youth group from Friedberg Moravian Church. We were headed for a mission weekend in Tennessee to help repair houses. We slept in a church on cots and played cards for hours when we got back from our worksite. At the time of this trip, I was certain God had sent me because this lady really needed help with her house. But looking back, I can see God sent me on this trip also because he knew I needed friends. I came back from that trip with a bus full of friends who pushed me to be better and kept me coming back to church every Sunday. Since then, I have gone on numerous mission trips that have led me all around the world. I’ve learned that God can use anybody to change the world. All you have to do is say yes!

God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

The Lord has taught me so many valuable lessons through mission work. I was on a plane from Addis Ababa to Mombasa when I realized that I was literally going to Africa. No joke. I knew the Lord was calling me to Kenya, but why? I think sometimes Jesus puts us in situations so that we are forced to rely on him. I was scared, a little homesick, and really wanted Chick-fil-a after eating airplane food for two days. I prayed to him for comfort and to bring me peace so that I knew I was meant for this. And that’s when I felt I tap on my arm. My neighbor had been sitting beside me silently the whole trip until we hit some turbulence. He shyly asked if he could hold my hand. It was his first time flying and he was scared. I smiled and reached out my hand. I think God does the same thing to us. Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, but God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

Image: Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Another lesson I have learned from my experience with missions: anything can be a moment for ministry. I used to think going on mission trips looked like evangelizing to everyone I met and bringing them to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; we should be doing this too! But ministry also looks like sorting beans, blowing up balloons and making them into animals, and painting houses. When we humbly serve God’s children, we are reflecting Christ out into the world.

The Lord created us to be in community and family with one another. He didn’t just stop after Adam. He recognized loneliness and knew we weren’t meant to live that way. I have often heard people ask, “Why don’t you just send them the money you would spend on getting there to them?” The Great Commission tells us to go to the ends of the Earth for our brothers and sisters. Go into all the nations and baptize them into one nation, God’s kingdom. We can’t do that just by sending a check and signing our name on a card. My first mission trip to Tennessee made me want to start a relationship with Jesus. Not because of the work we did but because of the people who were there. They loved me like Jesus does, just as I am.

Image: In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy's successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy’s successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 16-20, ESV

This world needs a revival and it starts with you! How are you responding to the Great Commission? Are you living out your God-given responsibility to share the Gospel with every nation and tribe? Be the generation that fulfills the Great Commission. Put your trust in him and be spontaneous for God. All you have to do is go!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image: Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Anna Stewart Faircloth is an intern at the Board of World Mission for the summer of 2018 and is a member of Friedberg Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. She attends Liberty University and is studying Youth Ministry with a minor in Camp and Outdoor Leadership as well as a minor in Family and Child Development.

 

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Jesus Loves the Children… All the Children of the World

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BY BETH HAYES |

Children participate in an activity at one of the Children's Festivals

Children participate in activities at one of the annual Children’s Festivals | Photo by Suzy Tucker

A few weeks ago, many of us witnessed history being made at Trinity Moravian with the consecration of Carol Foltz as the first female bishop in the Southern Province. In her charge, we heard that she pledged herself to the work of children’s ministry in the Moravian Church as one of the important goals in her role as a bishop. The wonderful Logos Choir of children opened the service and warmed many of our hearts with a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” It was truly a day to remember.

It is important that each congregation in the Moravian Church share Carol’s commitment to children. The recent Southern Province Synod passed a resolution (Resolution #5) to adapt Loving Hearts United: A Moravian Guide to Family Living into a weekly email for families and educators. Work by this Synod working group and the Board of Cooperative Ministries has already begun to make this a reality by end of August when many children’s summer will end, bringing with it the beginning of a new school year. Parents, grandparents, and guardians, it is up to you to sign up to get these weekly emails and use the suggestions as part of your weekly family time together. What an impact this could make at the beginning of a new school year, and throughout the rest of the year for your families. (More info on where to sign up for these emails will be available at a later date.)

The Board of Cooperative Ministries continues to work for the children in our Province too. The fifth annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is almost here. There is a lot of interactive learning of Moravian history planned for families at Hope Moravian.

Moravian Ministry Voyage logo

The Moravian Ministry Voyage will happen at Advent Moravian in September. where Moravians of all ages, including children, will gather to learn about Moravian ministry locally and internationally, and see the first ever Southern Province performance of Irene: the Adventure Begins. Irene is a musical about Leonard Dober, David Nitschmann, and their mission work.

The Moravian BCM continues to help our congregations in the ongoing ministry with children by providing quality Sunday school curriculum options, Vacation Bible School options, and a whole host of books and resources for families to use in doing faith formation at home.

Carol Foltz at her service of consecration

The Rt. Rev. Carol Foltz shortly after being consecrated as a bishop of the Moravian Church | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

Let’s not forget Carol’s pledge to serve children and our responsibility that we accepted at children’s baptisms. At these baptisms, we pledge to guide them in faith formation in our congregations and we pledge to provide help and support to their parents.

The BCM will continue to provide opportunities like the Children’s Festival and the Ministry Voyage. There is a Children and Family Task Force that works under the Board of Cooperative Ministries. It is being redesigned at this time and we are looking for new members. For those who might be interested, it meets quarterly. If you or someone you know has a heart for children and family ministry, please let me know and we would love to have you on our team. The goal of this task force says it all: to celebrate and encourage children and families in the life of our church and support faith communities as we fulfill the promise of baptism for our Moravian families.

In closing, remember this quote from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember 

“Each generation, in its turn, is a link between all that has gone before and all that comes after. That is true genetically and it is equally true in the transmission of identity. Our parents gave us what they were able to give, and we took what we could of it and made it part of ourselves. If we knew our grandparents, and even great-grandparents, we will have taken from them what they could offer us too. All that helped to make us who we are. We in our turn will offer what we can of ourselves to our children and their offspring” (Rogers 65).

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, Sunday school teacher, or a member of a congregation, let’s band together and offer the best we can for our children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beth Hayes portrait

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources for the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries. She has been working in this role for 33 years. Before coming to the Moravian Church, she served as the director of Christian Education in several Presbyterian Churches. She holds a Master’s Degree in Christian Education from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. She is a member of Clemmons Moravian Church and regularly attends Come and Worship.


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Leaders Develop Leaders

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

Take a look around the church. Who is leading? From where I sit within the provincial organization, nearly everyone in a significant position within an agency or institution share one common life experience… they went to camp. For those of us in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, that means Laurel Ridge. In fact, many of us actually worked on the M-Staff, where as summer staffers we played guitar, guarded swimmers, led activities, and cleaned lots of bathrooms. If not M-Staff, many leaders once served as counselors or visited Laurel Ridge as a camper. Others served on the Regional Youth Council (RYC), a youth organization made up of representatives from each congregation.

Above: Ruth Cole Burcaw and Butch Sawtelle at Laurel Ridge, during their time on staff (circa 1987). Butch has gone on to provide leadership in his local congregation, on the Mission Society board, and at Laurel Ridge. Ruth serves in provincial leadership.

I know that my own Moravian leadership journey began with my service on RYC, where I served as president while in high school. I worked on M-Staff during my college years in the summers of 1985, 1986, and 1987. And while there were several intermittent years where I focused on raising my family, I never left the church. I served in leadership in a variety of ways in my local congregations. In my early 40s, I became more involved at the provincial level and was elected to the Board of Christian Education, one of the predecessor boards to the agency I currently serve as Executive Director–the Board of Cooperative Ministries.

Why am I a leader in the Moravian Church? Is it because I’m a preacher’s daughter who grew up with the church hard-wired into my DNA? Is it because I’m a somewhat ambitious, overachieving first-born child? Or is it my natural bossiness, my “take-charge” personality? Or that my parents raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to and worked hard to accomplish? Circumstance, birth order, personality, nurture. Surely these all play a role, but ultimately, I believe I am where I am today for two primary reasons: 1) my leadership capability emerged from my lived experience as a young Moravian, and 2) I had mentors who believed in me and encouraged me to use my giftedness so I might strive to become all that God created me to be.

“Transformative leaders create the atmosphere, context, and support that enable and stimulate people to generate the needed transformational change. When the possibilities and giftedness of people are nurtured and when they are invited to be part of the vision and solutions to the challenges facing the organization, it is then and only then that the culture of the organization begins to adjust and adapt.” -Gary Nelson

Let’s be honest: the Moravian Church is small. If we count our brothers and sisters around the world, we are talking about just over a million people. Put us up next to the Catholics (70 million in the US alone), the Southern Baptists (15 million), or even our newest ecumenical partners, the Methodists (12 million), and the less than 40,000 members in North America seem rather insignificant. Do the math. Given our small numbers, our capacity to produce transformative leaders is also small.

But I’m hopeful. Our church is full of Jesus-loving, faith-living, justice-seeking men and women who model the way for our young adults and children. When I think about the amazing Moravians who inspired and encouraged me throughout my life, including a few who are now pastors, professors, and even bishops, I know that we absolutely can empower and build a new generation of Moravian leaders.

Above: Butch’s daughter, Kathleen Sawtelle, is part of the 2018 Laurel Ridge M-Staff (her brother Michael is facilities director there). Ruth’s son, Jake Burcaw, is interning at camp and is believed to be Laurel Ridge’s first 3rd generation staffer. Jake’s grandfather, the late Hal Cole, was one of the first staffers (M-Boys) to work at Laurel Ridge, cutting trails with Bishop George Higgins. He served as a Moravian pastor for over 40 years.

If we desire future generations to carry on and reimagine our Moravian heritage in the coming years, we must work intentionally to develop the Moravian leaders who will emerge from our congregations and our unique programs and ministries.

Who are the emerging leaders in your congregation? Who can you support, encourage, and mentor?

What you do and say matters – be a mentor to someone in your church or at camp. Encourage them. Listen. Invite them to participate, to lead. Create opportunities. Affirm their innovation and their call. Provide them with a lived experience that they can use for the rest of their life to follow Jesus in serving the world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruth Cole Burcaw is the Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries for the Moravian Church, Southern Province and a member of Unity Moravian Church. She’s pictured above with her father, the Rev. Dr. Hal Cole.


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Nurturing Families in the Church (part one)

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BY CAROL CROOKS |

Since the family is the most important means of growing and sustaining a church community, it is important to place an emphasis on creating a healthy Christian environment that allows parents and children to grow morally and spiritually. Churches need to offer programs that will support and involve parents in the Christian education of their children. One way is to make the connection between studying the Bible as a family affair. In many churches, the children are given lessons created by the church or by an outside organization. These lessons, which are specific to the liturgical calendar, are started in church and then sent home to be completed by the family. During Sunday school or church service, the lesson is completed and the children will have something tangible to take home as a reminder of what was studied.

Photos highlight the 2017 Children's Festival and Lovefeast

Photos highlight the 2017 Children’s Festival and Lovefeast at Friedberg Moravian Church | Photos by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

Children need to be equipped with positive self-esteem and Christian values so that they can become productive Christian citizens that contribute to their community. To help build confidence and encourage positive Christian values, the youth should be an integral part of mission activities, as well as a regular part of the church service and other additional activities being promoted by the church. If an organization or a Sunday school class is having a yard sale, bazaar or making chicken pies, then arrangements should be done to include the youth (especially middle and high school) in some way.

Families with a strong spiritual base are the foundation of a growing and striving church. Groups such as men’s and women’s bible studies, single and divorced parents should be supported. Working parents must be taken into account when activities are being scheduled. As we are aware of current family situations in society, it is imperative that the church seeks to mend some of the weak links in the family. In the past young families had much more support from older and more experienced family members. Currently, there are more single and divorced parents and isolated senior citizens who desperately need a helping hand. Bringing in knowledgeable Christian professionals to help create programs geared to specific needs in the church and its community would be a good place to start. One example is a program that teaches parents about the various stages of physical and mental growth of children and positive Christian-centered methods to discipline them with. Another aspect is the ability of churches to be more open about mental and spiritual issues in communities.

Photo of mother with children

Photo by Marco Ceshi via Unsplash.com

Providing intergenerational programs will allow the younger generations to learn and respect the wisdom of their elders. These fellowship programs would involve group discussions, exchange of emails and/or telephone numbers with the intention of forming relationships. Ideas for the aforementioned programs could be solicited from the congregation. Some ideas that seem out-of-the-box should be at least given some consideration and not be marginalized, because sometimes that is how creative and effective programs are born. Knowledgeable staff and trained volunteers should be available to guide the various programs and projects. A safe and secure environment is paramount in these activities. To prevent abuses or misunderstandings about what is appropriate behavior, training and screening of all adults who work with children should be mandatory.

Children should be an integral part of church activities and therefore, when planning any new endeavor we must always be cognizant of how it might also impact the younger generation. Children activities should have as much parent involvement as possible and input from parents should be welcomed. We must remember that the future of the church is in the hands of the upcoming generations, so let’s faithfully prepare them to carry on the Lord’s work. We should be a beacon of support and nurturing behavior in our society and be more engaging to those needing a spiritual home.

Photo of a family picnic

Photo by John-Mark Smith via Unsplash.com

 


 

Carol Crooks, of New Philadelphia Moravian, served as a member of the Family Nurture Working Group. The working group was a part of the Community Committee at the Southern Province’s 2018 Synod. This blog is a part of a series of BCM Spotlight Blog posts written by members of the Family Nurture Working Group, focusing on their conclusions and findings, as outlined in Resolution #5: Sharing Moravian Best Practices with Southern Province Families.

 


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Seven Reflections on Synod 2018

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Seven Moravians, both clergy and laity, from seven different congregations, reflect on the Southern Province Synod of 2018. Read their reflections below. You can find the official Synod 2018 summary from the Provincial Elders’ Conference on MCSP.org.

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Synod 2018 podium | Photo by Andrew David Cox / Moravian BCM

 


 

–1.–

My first Synod. I was excited, nervous, almost burdened by the responsibility of what lie ahead; but I was ready. You see, we had been preparing for Synod for over two years. Our days at Synod were exhausting, beginning with communion at 7 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. or later. Exhausting but wonderful, because God was present in small and in big ways. I was assigned a roommate who had graduated from the same small college as I had, both of us with the same major and many of the same experiences. What are the chances? A small thing, and yet…

Then there were the big things: a sense of community, that we were brothers and sisters in Christ, and we were greeted that way. There was evidence of the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we reached consensus on hard issues. “And in all things love…” was shown to our brothers and sisters, even those with whom we disagreed.

I’ll conclude with Jeremiah 29:11, a promise God made to his people Israel, but also a promise that the Moravian Church can claim even today: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Thanks be to God.

Judy Albert, Mizpah Moravian Church, Rural Hall, NC 

 


 

Photo of Synod by Andrew David Cox

The Rev. Andrew Heil, Rev. Tony Hayworth, and other Synod delegates worship at Synod 2018 | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–2.–

My attendance and participation at Synod 2018 was the first of this kind since my transition from the Baptist denomination. Being able to have participated was a great opportunity, as I got firsthand experience of the mode of operation of a Moravian church business meeting of this magnitude. I learned so much over the three day period, and I am confident that what I have learned will aid in my development as I seek to serve God and my fellow brothers and sisters.

The high points of Synod for me were the worship sessions and the small group meetings. The worship sessions were thoroughly orchestrated and worship was intentional. The small group meetings allowed for bonding with each other as we shared in one common discussion. Although we may not have all agreed on a particular subject, there was mutual love and respect which was essential to the theme of Synod, “Living the Essentials With Courage for the Future.” The essentials of course are faith, hope and love. Additionally, to see a female being elected bishop was just an amazing thing for me.

My hope is that as the church moves forward, she will seek to hold the banner of Jesus Christ high, be the salt and light of this sinful world, and will not compromise the word of God.

Evette Campbell, Palm Beach Moravian Church, West Palm Beach, FL

 

Photo of Synod 2018 by Mike Riess

The Revs. Carol Foltz and Tom Shelton embrace after Rev. Foltz is elected bishop. Rev. Shelton would also be elected bishop later that afternoon. | Photo by Mike Riess / Moravian IBOC 

 


 

–3.–

Synod 2018 was my first Synod experience as a pastor and member of the Moravian Church in America, Southern Province. I was overwhelmed by the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit I felt and experienced through delegates’ personal testimonies and statements, as they shared on the floor in vulnerable and intense moments.

It also resonated with me watching Moravians of different congregations and backgrounds join around the table at meals and talk as if they had known each other their whole lives. As I traveled home from Synod 2018, I felt a sense of humility and compassion for the young adult delegates who began to find their voice and speak up. As a young person and young clergy, it can be hard at times to find a appropriate way to speak my thoughts, feelings, and desires on topics that could be different from those around me in the church. We often say we want the voices of the young people, but then when their voices do not line up with those in the church, the sense of wanting their voices suddenly becomes a faint memory.

The voices of the young adult delegates and the reception received from older delegates has given me more hope and excitement for the future of the Southern Province. Synod 2018 left me with the reminder that we can accept the differences age and opinion bring. With Christ at the center of our faith, nothing can stand between us as we move forward together with hope for the future of the church. Synod 2018 was a memorable experience in my first year of ministry and I look forward to being part of Synod for many years to come.

The Rev. Victoria Lasley, Associate Pastor, Fairview Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 

The Rev. Victoria Lasley helps lead closing worship for Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

 


 

–4.–

“The Lord is risen!” These familiar words from the Easter Morning Liturgy were the first words spoken at the 2018 Synod. It seemed fitting that we began our time together by praying this Moravian confession of faith. As we stated, in one voice, our shared belief in God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the church, we heard stories of how different Moravians live out their beliefs with faith, love, and hope and were challenged to consider how we do the same.

As the Synod did the work of examining and overseeing the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Province – electing new leadership, calling bishops, and considering proposals – the essentials of faith, love, and hope were very evident. Although we had many differences of opinion, we were able to share those differences while remaining united in our love for our Savior and our love for each other.

“The Lord is risen indeed!” These familiar words from the Easter Liturgy were part of our closing worship for Synod. It was appropriate that we began with the Easter Morning Liturgy and ended with the Easter Liturgy, for these two prayers encompass all of our faith, they share our love, and they proclaim our hope. My prayer since Synod has come from the words of that closing liturgy: “For we are convinced that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Rev. Joe Moore, Associate Pastor, New Philadelphia Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


 

IBOC Executive Director, Mike Riess, and Southern Province clergy play music during a free moment at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–5.–

It was a great learning experience for not only the business side of our Synod, but also the spiritual side of my life. We not only got a lot of work done for the Southern Province, we also had a lot of powerful worship services involving some wonderful pastors and leaders from all over the Moravian Church.

Our work actually started last fall when I was assigned to the leadership committee and during some of those meetings, we spent a lot of the mornings and afternoons trying to streamline processes. I also learned how incredibly busy it is as we went from worship services to committee meetings and back to Synod-wide business meetings where proposals are voted on and passed.

It was fun to be a part of several such proposals that made it to the floor of Synod, to get to read one such proposal aloud on Sunday, and watch as it got voted on and passed. This really sends a powerful message to all of us. We are listened to when we are sent as representatives of our respective churches and that we have a strong voice in the PEC and the Southern Province.

John Nelms, Board of Trustees member, Clemmons Moravian Church, Clemmons, NC 

 


 

–6.–

This year’s Synod, my first Synod, was a time of anxiety for me. I knew of the pressing issues and the contentious conversations that would likely take place. I did what I could to prepare myself for committee and plenary session and was certainly witness to some challenging moments.

What I did not expect to see was the Spirit at work throughout the entirety of our time together. It began with the warm sense of welcome I felt upon my arrival, continued through the election of our newest bishops, and was most apparent during the most stressful times.

Despite our differences, moments of disagreement were regularly followed by outpourings of love. This showing gave me solace and stands as an example of how we as Moravians are called to share our message by living out the essentials we proclaim.

Our church is not defined by the differences we sometimes find in one another, but rather it is defined by the unity and the brotherhood we share in Christ.

With most of my anxieties at bay, I returned home with a renewed confidence in our church. As we work to discern our mission in this world, may we continue to listen to the moving of the Spirit.

The Daily Texts for the day following the conclusion of Synod, April 23, summarized my experience appropriately: “Cast out all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Zach Routh, Grace Moravian Church, Mt. Airy, NC

 


 

Newly re-elected PEC President, the Rev. David Guthrie, offers closing remarks at Synod 2018. | Photo by Andrew David Cox / BCM

–7.–

I left Synod 2018 with two overwhelming feelings: exhaustion and hope. I knew the weekend was going to be a long one, and I expected many tough discussions to come before the delegates. Truthfully, I was preparing for the worst. In the end, the final decisions (and especially the process to get there) made the sometimes-endless meetings worth it.

There were a lot of emotions, a lot of tears, and certainly some disagreement along the way. But through it all, the words spoken by our brothers and sisters were spoken with love and respect. We were constantly reminded that, even though we have different views, we have one incredible thing in common: our love of Jesus Christ. It was this essential, the one that Moravians speak of so often, that allowed us to move forward in unity. I certainly don’t take that for granted.

One important observation I had – something that surprised me throughout was the number of young people representing their congregations and agencies. We hear a lot of talk about the average age of our membership (not often in a positive way). This Synod was a reminder that we have great leaders, including a lot of active and committed young people, who are willing to challenge the church and lead us into the future.

This gives me hope.

Eric Vernon, Calvary Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

 


See the official Synod 2018 summary from the PEC at MCSP.org [LINK]


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