Living Moravian Traditions

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BY THE REV. CORY L. KEMP |

Incomprehensible Orchestration is about faith as a verb.

Every morning I honor three familiar Moravian traditions: Reading the Moravian Daily Texts, writing in my personal journal and drinking coffee.

I love that these traditions, devotional study, personal reflection on God’s activity and fellowship with a favorite beverage, have been part of our community for generations. Each one offers a steadfast reminder of God’s love over the course of time. More so, they are avenues of grace, vital practices that cultivate my faith. They assist me in knowing, loving and serving God in the life I am living now.

Daily Text cover

Learn more about the Daily Texts here.

As I sip my coffee, I often think of God as Great Mystery, which requires me to pay attention and listen as a disciple. A wonderful Roald Dahl quote hanging on my refrigerator helps point me along this path of deeper awareness: “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it.”

Moravian lovefeast

Compassion, kindness, generosity of spirit and forgiveness, these are all first nurtured by observing the way Jesus interacted with people, then seeing how people responded to Him. That is God’s grace in action. Its fluidity and beauty isn’t magic, but it surely feels like that when we trust ourselves, God and the very human examples we are privy to in so many of our daily readings, that are also still so relevant in our own relationships.

God’s wisdom is unconventional, and it takes intention and practice to experience the full power of its richness in this unfolding plan. Even within a basic routine, I don’t know what the day will bring. But Great Mystery teaches me to see everything as being done for me, not to me, and always in ways that make sense to me.

These daily verses you and I share, and the reflections I write in response to them, have taught me several important life lessons.

One lesson is that how I talk to myself matters. Harsh criticism rarely helps and often hinders. The prophet Jeremiah, sharing God’s message with those experiencing the Babylonian exile, wrote, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). My internal fluency is improving.

Another lesson is to hear other people’s words without attaching how I feel to what I am hearing. Taking a deep breath, asking a question when I don’t understand or need more information are helpful in discerning what someone meant, or didn’t mean, in how they used their words.

This lesson’s close cousin is to remember that each of us thinks in our own way, and usually not the way that I think. It is here that I am called to claim the full truth of God’s equal and abundant love for each of us. To stay in this stride is to always do my best to pay attention for and respond to God’s activity in my life.

Mininalist shot of coffee cup

As I continue to sip my coffee, copying the weekly watchword, daily verses and my own watchword for the year, I also write about the intricate weaving of conversations and events that reveal God as Incomprehensible Orchestration all around me. I love catching onto what God has done, how I have welcomed my own participation, and, sometimes, how my fears may have kept me on the edge of a great step forward.

Incomprehensible Orchestration is about faith as a verb.

Faith is risk and with risk comes fear. But making the effort to understand how God has worked makes seeing God in action much easier. And with that ease comes greater trust the next time the chance comes to act. This is the greatest lesson my morning devotional time has taught me: perseverance proves out in the end when I trust what I know to be God in action.

Although my devotional time is private, I’m pleased to spend time with people you know too.

Remember Lydia? We visited earlier this summer. She was a purple cloth dealer from Thyatira and a worshipper of God. She listened intently, eagerly, to what Paul had to say, having allowed God to open her heart. Fellowship is something that we Moravians hold dear. Lydia is someone I want to have coffee with again soon.

Reading the Daily Text, keeping journals and drinking coffee in fellowship with one another are beautiful Moravian traditions. They remain fresh as powerfully rich transformational resources. They are custom tools by which we shape ourselves, grow our community, by God’s grace in action among us.


 

Cory Kimp

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom and joy.

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Table and Light: A Reflection on Charlottesville

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BY THE REV. CHAZ SNIDER |

As I watched the events unfold last week in Charlottesville, VA, I experienced a mix of emotions. There was anger, there was fear, there was sadness, and there was heartache. There was anger that people would promote hate and racism. There was fear that this violence would spread. There was sadness for the injuries and loss of life. And there was heartache that we are still fighting the battle against bigotry, hatred, and racism.

As Sunday morning came closer I began to wonder how we could address what happened as a community of faith. I did not believe it was something that could be ignored. Two Sundays ago at our church, Ardmore Moravian, we had communion in remembrance of the August 13th revival of the Moravian Church.

As these two things sat in my mind, the image of the communion table came into focus. When the Moravians experienced conflict and disagreement 290 years ago, they came together around the communion table.

At the communion table there is unity, there is togetherness, and there is peace. At the table, the well-being of all is the utmost priority.

We as Moravians hold dear the concept of unity in Christ. And that is why the table is so important: because there is only one communion table. There is not a black table and a white table. There is not a Republican table and a Democratic table. There is not a rich table and a poor table. There is one table, where Christ’s body was broken and blood poured out for all humanity.

But unity is not some fluffy concept that sounds really good on a bumper sticker or some unattainable utopian ideal. To truly say we come together in unity despite our differences, is to also say that certain things are not welcome.

When we gather at Christ’s table, hate is not welcome. When we break bread and pour wine in remembrance of what God has done, racism is not welcome. Violence and bigotry have no seat at this table. True unity means urgently resisting the ideas of hate, bigotry, and racism.

Lovefeast candles

Last Sunday night my wife and I attended a vigil for unity in response to the Charlottesville events. At a park in downtown Winston-Salem, a variety of people gathered. It was organized by local Republican and Democratic groups to inspire unity. At the end of the vigil, we all held up candles to honor those who were harmed and to stand in solidarity together.

My wife and I stood there with our Moravian lovefeast candles. A familiar symbol to anyone who has been to a Moravian Christmas lovefeast. It is a candle I have held probably hundreds of times in my life. Although this setting was very different from where I usually have held this candle up before, the meaning behind why we hold that candle up is the same.

The flame of that candle proclaims that God is not distant, far away, or absent. It proclaims that God has come to dwell in the midst of our world despite it continued brokenness, violence, and hatred. My hope for us as Moravians, is that we can live into our traditions of unity and that those traditions will empower us to resist any forces that wish to promote hate and division. Holding that beeswax candle with its red trimming is a radical statement of love no matter where you are.

 


Photo of Chaz Snider

Rev. Chaz Snider is the pastor at Ardmore Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC

Statement on Charlottesville by the PECs of the Moravian Church in America

Moravian seal

Moravian Church in America

Northern Province
1021 Center Street, PO Box 1245
Bethlehem, PA 18016-1245
610.865.3137
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth D. Miller, president

Southern Province
459 S. Church Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
336.725.5811
The Rev. David B. Guthrie, president

August 15, 2017

A Joint Letter from the Provincial Elders’ Conferences Southern and Northern Provinces

Dear brothers and sisters,

We write with a deep sense of sadness and concern over the violent and tragic events that happened in Charlottesville, VA last Saturday, August 12. We join in the prayers of people across the United States and our provinces over the deaths of Heather Heyer, and Virginia State Troopers H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M. M. Bates. We also join in gratitude that, in response to a request from the National Council of Churches, at least one Moravian clergy, Sr. Sue Koenig, was present to offer a peaceful, inclusive witness.

We condemn in the strongest terms the racism, hatred, and intimidation that were on public display by members of such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and other white supremacist groups, which erupted in violence, and which resulted in the loss of three lives, the injury of at least 19 others, and untold anxiety and fear among the citizenry of Charlottesville, and the nation.

Twenty years ago, both of our Provincial Synods affirmed the following: “The Church must declare that racism is a sin.” Racism contradicts the known will of God expressed in teachings of Jesus that we are to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). We acknowledge our complicity in perpetuating this sin, both now and in our history.

Let us remind ourselves of how we are called to live as a church through such statements as these:

“…We are called to testify that God in Jesus Christ brings His people out of every ethnic origin and language into one body, pardons sinners beneath the Cross and brings them together. We oppose any discrimination in our midst because of ethnic origin, sex or social standing, and we regard it as a commandment of the Lord to bear public witness to this and to demonstrate by word and deed that we are brothers and sisters in Christ.” (Ground of the Unity, para. 7)

“We will not hate, despise, slander or otherwise injure anyone. We will ever strive to manifest love towards all people, to treat them in a kind and friendly manner, and in our dealings with them to approve ourselves upright, honest, and conscientious, as becomes children of God.” (Moravian Covenant for Christian Living, para. 29)

“Because we hold that all people are God’s creatures (Gen. 1:27) and that he has made of one blood all nations (Acts 17:26) we oppose any discrimination based on color, race, creed or land of origin and declare that we should treat everyone with love and respect.” (Moravian Covenant of Christian Living, para. 33)

Enclosed [see link below] is A Statement on Racism and the Church, which was approved at our 1998 Synods. As we, the Provincial Elders’ Conferences, read these words from two decades ago we are especially struck by the following found in our statement:

  • “The Moravian Church, despite sound biblical teaching and clear statements of belief, has, from time to time, demonstrated the values of the surrounding world and thus has denied the very affirmation it professes. It has been affected by the very racism that is contrary to our beliefs.
  • The absence of widespread dialogue on the issue and the resulting congregational inaction to overcome the effects of racism in our society
  • The church of Jesus is called to be salt and light:
    •  To set an example and show the way for a society which cries out for racial healing;
    • To match our fine statements with worthy deeds;
    • To confess the sinfulness of our failure to practice what we preach about discrimination;
    • To examine our personal and corporate life and repent; and,
    • Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to turn from our racism and take a new direction in keeping with the teachings of God in Christ Jesus.”

We encourage you to provide opportunities for prayer and conversation among the members of your congregation or fellowship. You may also want to lift up in prayer during worship services what has happened and the vital issues, questions and concerns it raises. We commend our Intercessions in a Time of Crisis (MBW, page 117) as a resource that contains several helpful petitions.

In the coming weeks we will be praying about and reflecting on the specific steps we may take in our Provinces, as congregations, and individuals to truly live into the values we hold and profess, so that we may faithfully “bear public witness” to a world sorely in need of the reconciling love of God revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sincerly,

Elizabeth D. Miller

David Guthrie
Enc.


Access this statement in PDF form:
Statement on Charlottesville by the PECs of the Moravian Church in America

Read the 1998 statement on racism here:
A Statement on Racism and the Church

Download the purple graphic above:
JPEG

Zechariah and the Day of Small Things

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BY RUSTY RUSHING |

“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Zechariah 4:10 ESV

Earlier this week, a pastor that I follow on Twitter tweeted out this verse of Scripture. He offered no explanation or elaboration on the verse, no context or story; he simply posted the verse. And as I read it, it just spoke to me.

Admittedly, this is a pretty obscure verse of Scripture. In fact, it might even be one that you’ve never read or have simply glossed offer hundreds of times. But, whatever the case, I think it’s a significant verse for us to consider given where we are as a congregation.

This verse is included in a vision that God revealed to the prophet Zechariah during the period when the Jews were just returning to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile. [1]

At first, there was great joy and hope among God’s people as they returned home and, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, began to rebuild the temple. They laid the foundation of the temple, but, despite the decree of King Cyrus of Persia which granted them the freedom to return and rebuild the temple, the rebuilding project suffered tremendous opposition from people in and around Jerusalem.[2] In time, in the face of this opposition, enthusiasm and hope waned. Fears grew, as did frustration and discouragement over the lack of building progress. Despondency set in and faith faded, leading the people to lose heart for the mission and abandon the rebuilding efforts…Though they had been freed from the physical exile and were allowed to return home, those that returned to Jerusalem were still experiencing a sense of spiritual exile, wondering whether they were still part of God’s plan or whether they had been abandoned.

Many years passed and only the temple foundation remained built. Then, in approximately 520 B.C., God spoke to the people through Zechariah, encouraging them to resume rebuilding the temple. [3] And it was within this context, a call to God’s people to resume rebuilding the temple, that God spoke the words, “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (ESV). These were words of assurance to God’s people that though the rebuilding project looked small and insignificant to them, by the power of His Spirit, He would work through Zerubbabel to ensure the temple was rebuilt. Perhaps even more importantly, however, these were words of assurance to God’s people that His presence was still with them and working for and through them, and that He still had a plan to bless them.

And, just as God assured the people would occur, in 516 B.C., the rebuilding of temple was completed.[4] Through this experience God’s people learned a valuable lesson of faith: though new beginnings may look small and insignificant from our perspective, and though we may face opposition from others and progress may be slower than we want, that does not mean that God’s presence is not with His people, working in and through people of faith to accomplish great tasks, blessing them, and providing them opportunities to rejoice as His plan of redemption moves forward.

Great story, huh? But what does this have to do with us here at Peace? Well, I think a great deal.

Photo of Peace Moravian Church outside of Hawk Ridge Elementary for worship on Easter, 2017

The Peace congregation gathered outside of Hawk Ridge Elementary for worship on Easter, 2017.

Over the last year as Peace has attempted to start over as a church we’ve gone from worshipping in the Moravian House to worshipping at Hawk Ridge Elementary. As we did, I shared statistics showing that new churches that worship in public places, especially schools, have higher worship attendance. And, so as we set out for Hawk Ridge, we did so with great hope and even enthusiasm.

In our short time at Hawk Ridge, we’ve begun serving the community there, collecting school supplies for them and becoming reading buddies at the school, attempting to serve the students and faculty of Hawk Ridge and begin to build relationships with them. In July, a number of us met with the principal of Hawk Ridge to discuss even more significant ways we can serve them and further integrate ourselves into their community next school year.

In addition to our move to Hawk Ridge, we’ve also relocated our offices to Greylyn Business Park. And, Joyce Vance, Peace’s Director of Christian Education, and I have been dreaming about ways our new space can provide us with additional opportunities to connect with one another and the community where we now find ourselves. In particular, I am personally very excited about exploring potential partnering and service opportunities with the Community Culinary School of the Carolinas (CCSC) which is located in Greylyn. CCSC is a wonderful ministry that provides “workplace development” for “adults who face barriers gaining long-term successful employment.” They provide job training, counseling, and assist in helping people develop life skills. CCSC is nourishing the community helping those they serve transform their lives. And, we have begun dreaming about ways we might be able to join them in nourishing the community by being agents of God’s peace.

But, as we look back at our efforts over the past year and the progress we have made, I will be the first to admit that our progress has been much slower than I or any of us would have desired. Securing office space and moving took far longer and required far more time and energy than I would ever imagined.

I also realize that if we examine our efforts and what we’ve accomplished thus far it would be easy for us to be frustrated and discouraged and to begin to lose heart at these “small things,” questioning whether we are still part of God’s plan and whether He has a plan for us. It would be easy for us to abandon the mission and “despise the day of small things.”

However, these things had to happen before we could begin to move forward and discover who and where God is calling us to be. New beginnings often appear to be “small things,” but they set the stage for development, growth, and maturation. Now, with these moves behind us and new relationships with Hawk Ridge and CCSC beginning to develop, we are set to get down the hard work of discipleship, growing as disciples individually and as a community, and joining God in His mission. And that is going to be our focus going forward. It’s going to be hard work, filled with twists, turns, and uncertainties. But if we are willing to become the disciples Jesus calls us to be, one day we will look back on “the day of small things” and rejoice at what God has done in and through us. And I for one am excited about the journey.

This piece was originally published in the June 2017 edition of the Peace Moravian Church newsletter.

Footnotes:

[1] New Bible commentary: 21st century ed. (Leicester (GB): Inter-Varsity Press, 1997)., 863.

[2] Ibid, 863.

[3] Ibid, 863.

[4] Ibid, 864.

 


Photo of Rusty Rushing

Photo by Patti Smith

Rusty Rushing is a provincial acolyte and student pastor at Peace Moravian Church in Charlotte, NC

 

 

 

 

 

How to Grow Our Faith

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BY THE REV. TIM BYERLY |

Like most of us who grew up in the church, during my childhood and adolescence my faith was simple and innocent. Untested, and thus undeveloped, might be a better description. I listened to sermons and Sunday School lessons about God, the Bible, and my faith. I thought a lot about what I heard and liked believing in Christ. I confirmed my faith and was glad when I did that.

When I left home to attend college, almost everything changed. That included my experience of faith. I still attended church when I stayed on campus for the weekend, and I often attended the daily, evening vespers led by the Baptist Student Union (Wingate is a Baptist school). But these didn’t change my experience of the Christian faith. They pretty much just added to what I was already doing on Sundays back home.

Picture of cross

But there was one other thing that I started doing that made a dramatic difference in my experience in faith. It not only changed the way I looked at faith. It invigorated it in a major way. It changed my life.

This other experience which was new to me and which made such a change in how I lived my faith was interactive gatherings of small groups of Christians where we had the opportunity to talk about our spiritual journeys and the Scriptures. We did this frequently, probably two or three times each week. It was like being at Laurel Ridge Senior High Camp, but for an entire academic year. During the summer I found a similar group back home.

In each of these settings, I was engaged in an exploration of what it’s like to live in Christ. I wasn’t just sitting and listening. All of the members of the group found an openness to their questions and to their stories about their spiritual journeys. I found myself growing in my faith. I discovered gifts of service which I used in those small communities. Others in these communities noticed and affirmed these gifts, and I became aware of gifts in others and affirmed these.

Over the ensuing years, my conviction has only grown stronger that interactive groups of four or five who gather to share their spiritual journeys are essential to spiritual vitality and growth. The church can’t thrive without them.

For decades this need was met through Sunday school classes. They thrived and blossomed. Congregations emerged from them, including several in the Southern Province which were organized in the first half of the 20th century. The Sunday school movement has lost this impact over the past few decades. This isn’t because any shortcomings of this model that served so well for a long time. I think it has more to do with societal changes.

cross picture

Somehow we must find a way to offer opportunities for close, heartfelt interaction about our faith in groups of four or five persons. Peter, James and John were a group of three with which Jesus worked. I suspect that he worked with the others in similar settings. Many of the events in Acts seem to have been informal discussions in groups of only a few. Similar  groups were a precursor to the August 13 experience. And similar bands were a foundation stone for John Wesley’s work that became the Methodist Church. This approach to spiritual life and growth is just as necessary now as it was in each of these examples.

Now, a few questions—

  • Have you ever been involved in a group of four or five, or more persons in which you shared your experience of walking with Christ? If so, what impact did–or does–it have on you?
  • If not, did you ever have such an opportunity? and Why didn’t it work out for you to participate?
  • A lot of people agree that we need this but can’t find the time to make it work. Are you one of those persons? What change would be necessary for you to open up time to do this? Do you think you would gain enough through this experience to make the difficult changes in your schedule worth the effort?
  • What happens next?
    • Read this and move on to something else?
    • Read this and think about it?
    • Read this and do something about it?
  • How can BCM help to make this happen for you?

Questions? Comments? Contact the Rev. Tim Byerly at TLByerly1971@gmail.com

Tim Byerly

The Rev. Tim Byerly has worked with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries as a Project Coordinator for the Living Faith Small Group initiative.