Ending Poverty In All Its Forms

Sunnyside Ministry BY DAVID HOLSTON |

“Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.”
Ground of the Unity, #9

We live in a world of great opportunity, where you can enjoy a long and happy life. We also live in a world where the idea of a long and happy life to some is merely a dream.

I think a lot about the word “poverty.” Merriam-Webster provides this as a simple definition of poverty: “the state of being poor, a lack of something.” A lack of something. What is it that people are lacking? It should be easy to see and to bring an end to material poverty. People need something; we just give it to them and we have fixed the problem. It should be that simple. People are homeless; give them a home and the problem goes away. Right?

This world would be a different place if it were that easy to end poverty. After World War II, the World Bank worked on poverty alleviation in third world countries, but without much success. They asked over 60,000 people about poverty, and the results were published in a three-volume collection entitled “Voices of the Poor.” Here are some of the responses:

“Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.” — Jamaica

“Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.” — Georgia

“If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi (poverty).” — Nigeria

“A better life for me is to be healthy, peaceful and live in love without hunger. Love is more than anything. Money has no value in the absence of love.” — a poor older woman in Ethiopia

“When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior.” — a woman from Uganda

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” — a blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova(1)

reception

Sunnyside Ministry

Notice that none of these people described poverty as simply the lack of food, housing or money. They describe poverty as “the lack of something” bigger, in most cases — a sense of power over one’s own life. A sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency enables people to repair and improve their lives and that of their families. The phrase “a hand up, not a hand out” has been used by different non-profits for decades, so long that the original source seems to be lost. And while this rolls off the tongue, it is a difficult message to put into practice. But it is what we must do if we truly believe that part of our mission is to improve the lives of others.

A lack of something.

Do we see the poverty that is in our neighborhoods, offices, schools and yes, even our churches? You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in my office; our salaries enough for our employees to live on. You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in our neighborhood; it is full of nice homes. You may say to yourself there is no poverty in our church; we are a good church with nice families and everyone is well off.

I had a distant cousin that passed away in the 1990s. She was nearly 100 years old and still lived alone. She lived for decades as a widow after her husband was killed in a farming accident. She did not drive. Other cousins took her to church, to the grocery store. She was not wealthy, but had income from land leased to other farmers. She gardened and canned vegetables she grew. Now I realize that she suffered from social or isolation poverty. When I was about 10 years old, I mowed her small yard, which didn’t take long. She would sit and visit with me, asking about vacation or school, and this made her very happy. These conversations were a source of poverty alleviation for her, as they filled that “lack of something.”

“I like money and nice things, but it’s not money that makes me happy. It’s people,” says one woman in the World Bank survey. She’s not alone: research has found that social integration is more important for well-being than income, and also decreases poverty. Loneliness, conversely, can be deadly: one study found it did more damage to health than smoking.(2)

My cousin lived a long life. As I think of her, I remember a woman alone, in a house with a parlor never used. If more people had taken the time to visit her, how would her life have been different? If I stopped by and visited her more often, how would our lives have been different? Would those later years have been less of a struggle? What could I have learned from her? Is that not a part of what church is or should be — caring for others, seeking to find and fill the need that is lacking?

First we must examine our own poverties, whatever they are: hunger, poor health, addiction, loneliness, mental health or illness and so on. Then we look to move ourselves out of the poverty that grips us, by seeking the help of our own congregations, our fellow Jesus followers. We as the people of Christ, who are the Church of Christ, must welcome, uplift and empower each other out of our own poverties. And then as a church through the command of Christ in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunnyside Ministry has a financial literacy program called Gaining Control. I recently asked one of the graduates what they got out of this program. She responded, “You all gave me back my self-esteem, and made me feel like I could really change my life. I wish that I could do that class all over again, it made me feel so good.” I like to think that our work helped her regain her innate sense of self-worth and equipped her with skills to take control of her life and move herself and her family out of poverty.

I believe that what will bring an end to poverty is simply this: empowering people to greater self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency, so that they are able to be independent of assistance. And through this improved sense of self, they are able to enter into rewarding relationship with their neighbors, enact change in their neighborhoods and beyond and live without the stress that accompanies any type of poverty.

Taking care of each other in our poverties is what Christ calls us to do. When we lift each other out of our individual poverties, we open our lives to the rewards offered in the Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Questions? Or want to learn more about Sunnyside Ministry or possibly volunteer? Contact David Holston at david(AT)sunnysideministry.org.

David Holston is the Director of Sunnyside Ministry under the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 


(1) Listen to the Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20612465~menuPK:336998~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992~isCURL:Y,00.html

(2) With a little help from my friends. (2015, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21653680-poverty-about-who-you-know-much-what-you-earn-little-help-my

Images via Sunnyside Ministry.

 

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Eight

BY TIM BYERLY |

If you’ve read the previous posts in this series about Living Faith, thank you for staying with me on this. If you haven’t, you can find themhere (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). I hope you will check them out.


You will need a little background information for this post to make sense. If you aren’t familiar with how the Moravian Church is organized, you need to understand that the Southern Province of the Moravian Church in America is governed by a body called a Synod which meets for about four days every four years. This Synod consists mainly of the pastors and educators who are serving churches along with elected representatives from the member congregations.

Something happened at the last Synod which was held two years ago in the spring of 2014 which could bible image alter the future of our Church. I’m not saying it will, just that it could. A resolution was passed calling for the establishment of Manna Ministries–or maybe a way to recognize Manna Ministries–to be overseen by the Provincial Elders’ Conference (PEC) or by an entity designated by the PEC. This was not so much about creating a new “department” in the church or even about creating a new ministry. It was about recognizing “new and emerging ministries that do not otherwise fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” There seemed to have been a lot of interest and energy among the delegates over this concept. It reflects the belief of some that the church’s ministry–or a portion of its ministry–needs to move in an innovative, non-conventional direction if it is to be relevant to our current culture.

One of the exciting things about Living Faith is that it looks in two directions. It connects with the past by using the model of Moravian prayer bands (see blog post 6), and it connects with our present and future by connecting us with each other and with God in a time when it’s easy to become disconnected. It capitalizes on the dynamics of spiritual unity and fellowship more fully than most of us are currently experiencing. It offers to invigorate our faith and our congregations through a practice that is a part of Moravian heritage but which is rarely found in Moravian congregational life today.

When I heard of the adoption of the Manna Ministries resolution, I sensed in that action an eagerness to do something innovative, something non-conventional, not just so we can say that we are being innovative, but to search for something that offered to make our experience of Christ more powerful and life-changing. And I sensed a desire to find a way for our church to have a more profound impact on our world.

Not always, but many times when I’m describing Living Faith, I hear responses that reflect some of this eagerness to make our congregational life more transformative. That’s what I’ve sensed in many conversations.

I’m not sure Living Faith fits the vision of Manna Ministries the way it was conceived at Synod. I wasn’t there. And Living Faith is intended usually to begin within a congregation’s fellowship rather than something apart from a congregation. But I do see some of the same characteristics that one might find in a ministry that doesn’t “fit into the existing models and categories of ministry.” Our existing way of “doing church” doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on spiritual growth. It’s offered, it’s presented as a good thing, but not as a major priority for the entire congregation.

Coupling spiritual growth with outreach is another unique quality of the Living Faith model. Outreach doesn’t usually grow out of spiritual growth as it occurs in small group fellowship. They seem to be done independently of each other. Let me hasten to add that I’m not suggesting that they are never joined in this way in our churches. It just doesn’t seem to me to be the norm as it is in Living Faith.

I’m excited about this yearning for a deeper church life that impacts our lives and our world. This is what I sense in this resolution on Manna Ministries. I believe it’s something we need. Living Faith can enable our congregations to move beyond themselves in ways they are not currently doing. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.


Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

Moravians and the Responsibility of Citizenship

 

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BY RUTH COLE BURCAW |

flag-bible“I’m just not going to vote.” “There are just no good choices out there.”

I hear these sentiments often during this tumultuous campaign season. When we are overwhelmed with the negativity, frightening rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and mean-spirited debates, it seems easiest to check out of the process all together. And yet, I am aware that this year, more than ever, my Christianity, and in particular, my Moravian Christianity, will inform my responsibilities as a citizen.

It’s especially appropriate that Moravians are in the process of observing the August 13th spiritual renewal, where our ancestors of the 18th century felt the uniting presence of the Holy Spirit after months of sharp and divisive arguments. Earlier that year (1727), they adopted a covenant guiding their lives together and as individual Christians living in the world, named “The Brotherly Agreement.” Today, we call this document the Covenant for Christian Livingand in the section entitledThe Witness of a Christian Citizen,” it lays out clear guidelines for how we as Christian Moravians are to engage as citizens:

  1. Recognition of Civil Authority: We will be subject to the civil authorities as the powers ordained of God, in accordance with the admonitions of Scripture (Rom. 13:1) (I Peter 2:13-14) and will in nowise evade the taxes and other obligations which are lawfully required of us (Rom. 13:7).
  2. Responsibilities: Considering it a special privilege to live in a democratic society, we will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of our citizenship, among which are intelligent and well-informed voting, a willingness to assume public office, guiding the decisions of government by the expression of our opinions, and supporting good government by our personal efforts.
  3. A Higher Loyalty: Through giving our loyalty to the state of which we are citizens, we do recognize a higher loyalty to God and conscience.  (Acts 5:29)
  4. Peacemakers: For the sake of the peace, which we have with God, we earnestly desire to live peaceably with all people and to seek the peace of the places where we dwell.

Pay special attention to #2. “Intelligent and well-informed voting?” polling stationHow are we supposed to do that as we wade through our news feeds and contrasting media reports?

Know what you believe. The election provides an opportunity for us to revisit our convictions. What are our own, personal non-negotiables? How can we balance our passionate opinions with a search for truth and fact-based learning? What do we want for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our world? How do our prioritized convictions align with our faith? Our citizenship? If we want to live like Jesus and build others up in faith, love, and hope, how does that inform our voting?

Do your homework. Use reliable sources. Contrary to what you might find on social media or television, there are still many out there, for example:

  • Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan website dedicated to “reducing the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The website analyzes and reports the accuracy of claims or statements made by influencers in politics. This includes the monitoring of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
  • Votesmart.org is another nonpartisan resource for voters, offering lots of information on candidates and elected officials in addition to different political issues and systemic concerns. Find detailed descriptions of politicians and candidates such as their biography, legislation history, top campaign contributors, and stances on the issues, as well as voter registration and polling schedule information. Their VoteEasy research tool lets you see which candidates match most closely to your own stances on various issues.
  • MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization, runs a website which explains to voters the influence money has in the political system. The website has information about campaign contributions and who has donated to political candidates on a federal, state, and local level.
  • Preview your ballot by visiting your county’s Board of Elections website. (NC voters – this page shows you registration information and leads you to sample ballots for upcoming elections.) Once you know who all the candidates are, you can begin specific candidate research.
  • Visit political party websites for the latest campaign statements and to check candidates’ stances on the issues, on the national, state, and even local level. For example, NC voters can visit the NC Republican party, the NC Democratic party, and even NC Green and Libertarian parties’ websites. These sites often contain hard-to-find info on local candidates or at least, links to local information.

Cultivate civility. The root of civility is “civil,” which most often means “polite and courteous.” But, civil also means “of or relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns.” What are your neighbors’ concerns? Why do they feel the way they do about a certain candidate or issue? Take the time to LISTEN. Hear their stories without thinking of your next sentence. Remember Proverbs 18:15 – “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Knowledge comes to us in many ways, especially if our ears and heart are both open.

We do not live in a perfect world. But we do follow a risen Lord! This gives us hope for ourselves, our neighbors, and this imperfect world. Consider the Ground of the Unity, our doctrinal statement adopted by the Unity Synod of the Unitas Fratrum in 1995, which provides some wisdom for us as we contemplate worldly issues:

Jesus Christ maintains in love and faithfulness His commitment to this fallen world.  Therefore we must remain concerned for this world.  We may not withdraw from it through indifference, pride or fear.  Together with the universal Christian Church, the Unitas Fratrum challenges humanity with the message of the love of God, striving to promote the peace of the world and seeking to attain what is best for all.  For the sake of this world, the Unitas Fratrum hopes for and looks to the day when the victory of Christ will be manifest over sin and death and the new world will appear.

 

rcb at fourRuth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director of the Board of Cooperative Ministries. She and her family are members of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC. Here she is when her daddy was the preacher at Grace Moravian Church in Mount Airy, NC. 

 

Meditation for August 13 Communion

Home Moravian Church, August 7, 2016 

By GINNY TOBIASSEN |

 I like to call it “the summer of love.”

It was the summer of 1727 in Herrnhut, Germany, the small village composed of religious refugees on the estate of Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf. And although it became a summer of love, it was preceded by several seasons of discord. Herrnhut had grown rapidly in the five years since its founding, as many people in the lands around the village were seeking a home for their religious practice. The problem, for Herrnhut, was the variety of practice. The villagers argued over forms of worship and religious doctrine. Worst of all, in 1726 a charismatic preacher named Kruger had shown up in Herrnhut preaching a separatist message that drew many away. Even Christian David, once Zinzendorf’s greatest admirer, had moved outside Herrnhut, built himself a hut, dug himself a well, and settled down to wait for the end of the world, which Kruger had predicted would come at the hands of Zinzendorf, whom he called “the beast.”

WaspWhat came instead—at the hands of Zinzendorf—was the Brotherly Agreement of 1727. Zinzendorf hadobserved the discord in the community. He was not inclined to pursue religious conformity, especially not by means of external regulations. But he did want peace, and to that end he introduced a list of 42 rules that concentrated not so much on what the people of Herrnhut should believe as how they should behave. Some of the rules came straight from the gospels, including “judge none” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

On May 12, 1727, the community’s pledge to abide by this Brotherly Agreement began the summer of love. In the months that followed Herrnhut experienced a significant spiritual revival, with many meeting in small groups for increased fellowship and devotional practice. By creating peace, the Brotherly Agreement seems to have cleared the way for grace; and grace opened the doors of Herrnhut to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

From the Herrnhut diary of 1727: The profound and highly uplifting Communion was held on August 13. Beforehand, as we were on our way to church, everyone was talking with each other and here and there pairs were found among the Brethren, willing to unite. The church service started with the hymn: “Deliver Me, My God”… Afterwards Pastor Rothe, supported by the congregation, bestowed a true apostolic blessing upon the two confirmands. Then the congregation fell down before the Lord, and started to cry and sing at the same time: “My Soul Before Thee Prostrate Lies.” One could hardly tell whether we were singing or crying, but it happened with such grace that the officiating minister … was also totally perplexed by it. After the hymn was finished some of the Brethren prayed with divine power, laying before the Lord the plight of the congregation… We also prayed childlike and modestly, that He should teach us the true nature of His church and how to live and walk in His law; that we remain unsullied and inoffensive, so that we don’t become solitary but fruitful, and neither violate the loyalty and obedience sworn to Him and His Word nor injure the common love through trivialities. We prayed that He would fully bestow on us the holy order of His grace, and not allow our souls to be led from the blood-and-cross theology, on which our sole salvation depends. …Afterwards, as a great anointment flowed over us and we felt not far from Him, we prayed in faithful assurance …. Following the absolution, communion was held with humbled and strengthened hearts, and each of us went home, feeling quite beside ourselves. On the way back to Herrnhut a wasp flew at … [Zinzendorf] with rage and stung him hard on the hand just as he was in the process of trying to win over a separatist. We spent this day and the following in calm and joyful composure and learned to love. [1]

I have heard this story many times, in various retellings, but this week was the first time I read it translated from the Herrnhut diary itself. And you know what? It’s the first time I heard about that wasp.

Now that I have, I can’t stop thinking about it. How joyful Zinzendorf must have been on the one-mile walk back to Herrnhut. Filled with the spirit, having just seen so many brothers and sisters reconciled, he wanted to keep that good energy going and draw in every possible soul. So he stopped along the way to talk to someone who had separated himself from the congregation. That’s when the wasp stung him. Presumably, he kept on talking; but was that hard for him? Did the annoyance of the wasp threaten to overwhelm the joy of the day?

I think I understand why the diarist at Herrnhut included the wasp. In their intense religious devotion, our 18th century brothers and sisters could sometimes veer into something close to superstition. They might well have seen the wasp as an evil spirit, a devil enraged by the success of the communion service and now trying to distract Zinzendorf from his holy business. I’m more inclined to see the wasp as just a wasp; but still, the wasp has given me something new to think about.

I’m thinking about how quickly the events of our daily lives can distract us from even the most powerful religious experiences. Had we been present at Berthelsdorf on August 13, how long would the experience have focused our minds, determined our choices, and guided our steps? Would we have been permanently changed? Or would we lose our religion, so to speak, at the first wasp sting?

When we experience the holy as palpably present, how long do we sustain that feeling, and how does it affect our behavior? Can the effect on our behavior persist even after the sense of the spirit dissipates, as it must, and we are back in our ordinary lives, where we are so often surrounded by annoyances, and disappointments, and rudeness, and wasps?

As much as I love the story of August 13, I love even more what happened afterward: which is that the brotherly community in Herrnhut grew, and went out on mission, and eventually became the Moravian Church, which persists to this day. I guarantee you we have experienced our share of stings; and I can also guarantee that each of us has said and done things in response to those stings that we might not have done in the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit. To be reshaped by faith to conform to the will of God is an ongoing process. The trick is to keep it ongoing.

We do that best by continual return to what renews us: the table. The sacred meal. The presence of Holy Spirit in the elements of bread and wine. The presence, also, of our brothers and sisters at this same table. Always we come from our seasons of discord, seeking the summer of love. We offer to one another the right hand of fellowship, a symbol of our desire to live in peace with one another, that peace may clear the way for grace, and grace may open the door for the Holy Spirit.

 


 [1] http://www.moravianchurcharchives.org/thismonth/11_08%20August%2013.pdf

The Rev. Ginny TobiassenThe Rev. Ginny Tobiassen is the Associate Pastor at Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. 

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Seven

BY TIM BYERLY |

This is the 7th post in this blog about Living Faith, a model of congregational life that has been developed by the Board of Cooperative Ministries of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. If you’ve been sticking with me throughout this discussion, thank you. If you haven’t, you can find the previous posts here (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).


How many times have you participated in a worship service—and then left with a sense of transformation in your life? Not necessarily a conversion experience, but definitely a moment of growth or transformation? When you were different in a good way than when you arrived at the service? And the difference did not fade away as life’s challenges distracted you from a good and holy experience? How recent was the last time you felt something like this?

In the first post in this blog about Living Faith, I wrote about my belief that God calls the Church to be involved in three basic activities:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling, or could be grouped under one of these three callings.

Most of this blog has focused on how to encourage spiritual growth in our congregations. That’s the main objective of Living Faith. However, in post #3 I described how outreach fits into the Living Faith model. One thing that I haven’t discussed is the inter-relationship between Living Faith and worship. They have a profound impact on each other.

Since I am a pastor, it may surprise you to learn that I think the power of worship to bless us and Living Faith Small Group Ministrytransform us is not dependent on a good sermon or worship leadership. Musicians may be troubled to find that I would say the same about music. Don’t misunderstand me–these are critical to good worship. They enable us to draw near to God in worship and to experience and express our faith. If this is happening, then you will wonder what else I want out of worship. I want to be transformed; I want to be blessed in ways that will stay with me when I get to Monday, and to Wednesday, and to days that are darkened by my burdens. Great sermons and music aren’t enough for me. Nor are liturgies and prayers and even Scripture readings. All of these are essential. Without them, worship is not worship. But I need something more to make worship transformative.

I need the bonds of fellowship with those who sit with me in worship. Not friendliness, but fellowship. I need something more than the smiles and handshakes exchanged before and after we worship. I need to be in worship with those who’ve shared life with me, who know me, and I them. Living Faith enables relationships like this to flourish. This happens as people walk together in faith in Living Faith groups. Then it happens as these small groups reach out to impact the world in ways they feel the Spirit guiding them. In such fellowship we learn about each other, and we love each other just as we are. We do this not with excessive emotion but with strong bonds of friendship.

I am imaging sitting in worship near three or four people I know well. We’ve become friends that talk through our thoughts about faith with each other and have encouraged each other. We’ve done projects together in service to Christ. We’ve learned give and take in our relationship. There may be 500 other people worshiping with us, but the other 495 don’t affect me as much as those few that I know so well. As we worship, I see their faces; I hear their voices. I’m recalling conversations and experiences that we have shared. The service progresses, and I feel a sense of unity with these who know me as we seek God’s presence together. This makes worship transformative. I am lifted to God by worshiping with those who’ve shared sacred experiences with me. And these experiences come from our times of fellowship and service as one body.

That’s what happens when we come together in a small gathering like a Living Faith group. Who would like to help develop such a community of faith? I would love to hear from you.


Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

Reflections Of An Interim Pastor

By KEITH COPELAND |

The Lutheran Church is celebrating 500 years of the Reformation in 2017. I usually tell my brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church that I have been hanging out with our older sister. As the Moravian Church prepares to celebrate 600 years, I have been blessed to be a part of the Unitas Fratrum while in this interim journey with Peace Moravian. As I prepare to follow God’s call to serve as the interim pastor of St. Armands Lutheran Church in Sarasota, Florida, here are some reflections on my journey with the Moravian Church.

The Moravian Church seems to have a powerful way of instilling a sense of identity unlike what I have seen in other denominations. The closest I have seen in this identity formation comes from those who are Jewish. This identity lays claim to all of life including activity far removed from the church. I can’t help but think that this is because of the ADC - 5508emphasis on community in the Moravian church and not over-emphasis of doctrine. When identity is not an idea but a relationship, it seems to be much deeper and enduring. In a survey done at Peace Moravian, the biggest reason given for remaining with the church is the Moravian heritage and the relationships. The youth and children also show a strong connection not only to the congregation but an identity as Moravian. This is truly something that can and should be celebrated and built upon.

Heritage and history are both a blessing and a burden for the Moravian Church. As the joke goes, “How many Moravian’s does it take to change a light bulb. None, because Moravian’s don’t change!” We pray as the Lord taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Moravian Church has the pan, recipe and means to make bread. Sometimes, however, it is easy to forget it is daily bread. It should be made fresh every day. The challenge of heritage and history is how to use it to make the gospel new and fresh every day, rather than trying to survive on the memory of what used to be. How can the heritage and history become the vessel that serves to mold the new bread into that which can feed the world?

There are some wonderful gifts that I will take with me wherever I go. One of those gifts is the collegiality and hospitality that was shared with me on this journey. The Moravian Church has always been a leader in ecumenical conversation. This was evident in the representation of the Moravian Church at all the different ecumenical gatherings. The PEC has always graciously responded to each invitation. Even with
the strong Moravian identity, there was never a time that I felt excluded or devalued as a colleague and servant of Christ. It seems the Moravian community always has room for more. Even those at Peace who were not lifelong Moravians now identify themselves as one. This could only happen if they were welcomed. This hospitality is something that has inspired me.ADC - 4783

The motto of the Moravian Church is also a gift that I will treasure. “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” This is what keeps the Moravian Church grounded and yet unified. The essentials are common to all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The essentials create the body. The non-essentials are the movement. Love is the skin and character of the body of Christ. It is love that holds it all together. Love is not merely emotional. Love is behavioral. Love is not practiced or promoted by the culture and world around us. Therefore, the church needs to not just say they value love. The church needs to practice love. One great tool for this practice is the Moravian Covenant for Christian Living. This document, however, is only helpful if it is practiced. It will not work if only pulled out in conflict. It must be practiced and applied within not only the life of the church but the living out of the Christian life. I end every service with this dialogue. “Who are you?” The congregation responds, “I am a child of God.” Then I call on them to act like it. How can we apply this document to social media? How can we apply this document to political conversation? How can we apply this document to dialogue and life within families and congregational life?

It has been an honor and privilege to serve within the Moravian Church. Sometimes the church focuses too much on where God is not. Imagine how much stronger we would all be if we paid attention to where God is. I have seen God powerfully present in this journey with Peace Moravian Church. Even as I prepare to leave, I see God’s Spirit leading Peace into new life that only God could have prepared. My prayer for Peace Moravian and the Unitas Fratrum is to use the gifts that God has given you to draw closer to the presence of God and each other, in order to be a witness of the presence of God for the world. Thanks for allowing me to journey with you as we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

kcopelandThe Rev. Dr. Keith Copeland is completing an interim pastorate at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte, NC. He was ordained in 1992 into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He previously served as pastor in four congregations within two denominations.  Trained in Intentional Interim ministry in the PCUSA, he has served nine congregations in times of transition.  He received his D Min at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC, in 2010, where he did a project on congregational visioning and renewal.