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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The Unity Board Responds to President Trump’s Derogatory Comments

The Unity Board of the Worldwide Moravian Church

Lindegade 26, DK-6070
Christiansfeld, Denmark.
Tel. +45 40361420.

Rev. Dr. Cortroy Jarvis
President of the Unity Board

Rev. Dr. Jørgen Bøytler (PHD)
Unity Board Administrator

Statement on Derogatory Statements Made by President Trump

Christiansfeld, January 15th, 2018

We greet you in the name of Jesus the Christ, our Chief Elder.

The Moravian Church has followed with dismay, the derogatory statements made by President Trump about the 54 African countries, El Salvador, and Haiti. We condemn in the strongest terms those statements and lift up the people in these areas as honorable, decent and respectable persons who were created in the image and likeness of God like we have all been.

We are not certain what motivated President Trump to have uttered those statements, but he belittled people of color everywhere. As a church, we stand in solidarity with our churches on the African Continent, Central America, Haiti, and the people in general. The Moravian Church worldwide abhors the way our brothers and sisters have been relegated to nothingness.

The Moravian Church consisted from the beginning of people of many ethnical backgrounds, and is known for respecting and embracing ethnic and cultural diversity. In the very core of Moravian understanding of humanity, the God-given equality of all people is fundamental. We can therefore not remain quiet, when derogatory utterances on any ethnic group or any country are made, no matter who makes such statements.

The Unity Board of the Worldwide Moravian Church - January 15 2018 statement (graphic)

As the second country in the Western Hemisphere after the United States to have gained independence in 1804, we believe that Haiti has a lot to teach us all. They have been a resilient and strong people who continue to defy the odds. They have been a people who have always been fighting to maintain their sanity and equilibrium. In like manner, the people of Africa and Central America have been a strong and resilient people. We bless you Haiti. We bless you Africa. We bless you Central America. You will rise, for the God, who has begun a good thing in you, will see it to completion.

Today, 50 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are reminded of the dream of Dr. King that all men be brothers. This dream can only come true, when all human beings are respected as what we are, humans, created in the image of God. May God make the dream come true.

Rev. Dr. Cortroy Jarvis President of the Unity Board

Rev. Dr. Jørgen Bøytler (PHD) Unity Board Administrator

Lindegade 26, DK-6070 Christiansfeld, Denmark. Tel. +45 40361420. boytler@ebu.de

Access this statement in PDF form:
Statement on Derogatory Statements Made by President Trump
The Unity Board of the Worldwide Moravian Church

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Total Commitment

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BY JUSTIN RABBACH |

The Church as a Community of Service: Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. From this, His Church receives its mission and its power for its service, to which each of its members is called. We believe that the Lord has called us particularly to mission service among the peoples of the world. In this, and in all other forms of service both at home and abroad, to which the Lord commits us, He expects us to confess Him and witness to His love in unselfish service. (The Ground of the Unity)

“If you want things done right, do it yourself.” That is a common phrase, and I admit describes how, at times, I have a hard time completely handing off projects. This is true when I have a particular vision and a particular way I think something should be done. Still, in my experience, this phrase usually is a reflection of not allotting ample time to adequately prepare the people I am asking to help me. And not a reflection of their ability to complete a task to my satisfaction. In these instances then, this phrase becomes an excuse. I have to do it all, if I want it done in time. Or, maybe I just don’t want to invest the time to help prepare someone with less experience, as in the short term that would be more work.

Do you ever experience this feeling? Or, do you ever witness this attitude in the church? Has someone taken on a role in the church, and then held onto it forever? Does that help the next person in line? More importantly, does that fit into the value of discipleship held strongly within the church?

As I begin work in a new role in the church (Executive Director of Board of World Mission), I find myself reflecting on those who have come before me, and how grateful I am for the ways they have helped prepare me. There actions remind me that we aren’t expected to take part in the great co-mission (note the “co” part of that) without God, and without one another!

In college, I led my first international mission team to Nicaragua. I had called up a bunch of camp friends to see if they would join me in doing some hurricane relief work, and when they all said yes, I was on the hook to actually make it happen! Well, we did, and it was a great trip, and I was invited to speak about it in several different Moravian Congregations. One of those congregations was Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Minnesota. As I got ready to give my message, I must admit that it was going to be one of “Look at the new thing that is happening! Look at the example these young adults are setting, and collectively you, as the church, should come get on board with this whole mission work thing!”

Well, it turns out the person introducing me that day was Rev. Lorenz Adam, who had not only served as a missionary in Central America for many years, but had been the Pastor at my church since I was born, and had baptized me. My parents still had some of his old missionary barrels (basically the equivalent of moving boxes for missionaries back in the day) stored in a building on their farm! On top of that, Lorenz chose that day to present, as a gift to the congregation, a somewhat famous painting (in Moravian circles) of David Zeisberger preaching as a missionary to the Native Americans in Ohio during the 1700s.

Image of David Zeisberger

Image of David Zeisberger. Public domain image via Ohio Historical Society/Wikipedia.

Talk about being hit over the head with irony. I was going to speak about the “new thing” I was helping to start, following a presentation clearly demonstrating the long history of the thing I was about to claim to have started.

I had to change my message (and my thinking) on the fly that day, and it stays changed to this day when I speak on missions. Instead of looking for support of the new thing that is about me, I work hard to remember that it is about God’s story, and the deep honor it is to be a part of it.

Come full circle, and at an event organized by the Board of World Mission in 2016 to help engage young adults in mission, I was able to be the one making the introduction of another speaker. At this event where I was trying to live out the call to help disciple to those who come after us, I was able to introduce a very special woman who came before me: Nora Adam.

For all the ways we worked to try and make the event relevant to young adults, to incorporate technology and up-to-the-minute breakthroughs in group facilitation theory, the most powerful moment was a simple speech by the wife of the pastor Lorenz I mentioned earlier. Nora was given free reign to share whatever story was on her heart, and she choose to speak on the theme of “total commitment.”

To speak with authority on this topic, you cannot have anyone guessing if you yourself were totally committed. She spoke with authority by speaking of the way she lived her faith, shared her love, and lived a life filled with hope.

Watch her presentation yourself, and see how powerful her words are, shared from a lifetime of experience.

My prayer for you, and for me, is that as we undertake God’s mission for us, we can take it on with total commitment. That and may our commitment be a witness to others, as we invite them to join in as well!


Questions? Comments? Contact Justin at Justin@MoravianMission.org

Image of Justin Rabbach

Photo via Justin Rabbach

Justin Rabbach is the Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife Jessie, and dog Lambeau. Justin has spent the last decade immersed in Moravian Mission work through the BWM, starting as a short -term volunteer, Antioch servant, Director of Mission Engagement, and now Executive Director. He is excited to help carry forward the work of so many who have come before him. 


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Sacred Music: Sing On

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BY LYDIAN AVERITT |

Painting of George Fredick Handel

Thomas Hudson (English, 1701-1749). “Georg Friedrich Händel,” 1741. Oil painting. | Public domain image

It’s the most performed piece of classical music in the world: George Frederick Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah. Almost a Cliff’s Notes of the Bible, the piece tells the story, in orchestral and vocal form, of Jesus Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. Composed in 1741 and almost immediately a hit, the piece has never gone out of style: in 2010, according to the web site Classical Net, there were enough productions of Messiah worldwide to hold two a day, nearly every day of the year.  That’s more than twice as many as the next-closest competitor, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Although Handel didn’t envision Messiah as a Christmas work–he actually wrote it for Easter–most of these performances will be compressed into this very season: the weeks between the November 1 and December 25.

I sang the piece recently in the Mozart Club’s community chorus in Winston-Salem, NC at the urging of my mother, a 30-year veteran of the chorus. “I’m telling you,” she said, matter-of-factly. “It’s glorious.”

The chorus from the Mozart Club’s 2010 presentation of the Messiah in Winston-Salem | Photo by Phil Averitt

As mothers often are, mine was right: the experience was transformative. The beauty of the music. The power of the orchestra.  The sheer emotion of being in the center of a swirling vortex of sound, retelling, as conductor James Allbritten described it, “the greatest story ever told.”    

Naturally, I recruited my own then-19-year-old daughter to join us the next year, and the piece hooked her as well. So much so that, when I asked for her thoughts, she replied with the exaggerated patience that only a teenage girl can muster: “Mom. You have no idea how much I love to do this.”

And she wasn’t alone; the members of the chorus were as diverse as a group could be, with black people, white people, men and women, students, parents, grandparents. All could agree on the joy of being a part of the stirring performance–the club’s 80th, no less.

At this time of year, as musicians everywhere start their seasonal rehearsals, the question arises: What is it about the Messiah, or about spiritual music in general, that has such power to move us and draw us back, a cross-section of humanity, again and again? Is it its familiarity? Is it the tradition?

The First Moravian, Greensboro flute trio, playing Christmas carols at the church’s Candle Tea. The author, Lydian, is in the middle; her daughter Caroline is on the right; the flute player on left is Cleo Dimmick | Photo by Phil Averitt

According to the Rev. Will Eads, a clinician with CareNet Counseling, a community-based care organization affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, it’s a matter of a term called “hymnody.”

Literally meaning “the collective hymns of a specific religion, place or period,” hymnody more broadly refers to the shared musical experiences of a community of people, singing commonly known, ecclesiastically-based music.  Amazing Grace. Be Thou My Vision. Silent Night. Even the Messiah’s famous Hallelujah chorus.

“Sacred music is transcendent as far as time. It resonates with us, and it’s relevant to us today,” Eads says. “Many people can relate, and have related, to this music in the same way, and have done so for a long time. That’s what makes the difference.”

Sacred music is not the only music that can draw people together as a community. Rock, jazz, pop, and country songs can all do it. The difference, according to Eads, is that rock or jazz or country songs are usually based on emotion, and they speak to one individual, or to a group of people that can identify with the emotion that the songwriter is conveying.

“The composer has said, ‘How do I personally feel today?’ and whatever one group of people may be going through enables them to relate to the song equally emotionally,” Eads says.

For a piece to have hymnody, it has to affect us in, literally, more ways than one.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

“There’s a collective consciousness that sets hymns and pieces of sacred music apart. They are based on group knowledge; they are emotionally transcendent. They have an ecclesiastical embodiment. And they are able to reach most of us psychologically, wherever we are. They are bio-psycho-socio-spiritual. They speak to us on all four levels.

“Sacred music is almost sacramental. It’s is a tangible, physical way to connect to the divine.”

Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf got it. The composer of more than 2,000 hymns, the Moravian church leader revived and extended the hymnody tradition in his assembly of the first provincial Moravian hymnal, published in German in 1735.1 His philosophy in organizing that hymnal is still stated in the first pages of the current one: “The hymnal is a kind of response to the Bible, an echo and an extension thereof. In the Bible, one perceives how the Lord communicates with people; in the hymnal, how people communicate with the Lord.”

And, George Frederick Handel got it. According to legend, he wrote the music for the slightly more-than 3-hour Messiah in just 24 days, working steadily under divine inspiration. “I did think I did see the whole heaven before me, and the great God himself,” Handel is said to have marveled, at the end of his writing marathon. “Whether I was in my body, or out of my body, I know not. God knows.”2

As instruments tune, choirs assemble and the season to sing out gets under way, people everywhere can know again the power of a shared, sacred musical experience, whether or not they are Moravian–“The singin’-est people I’ve ever met,” declared a friend after attending a lovefeast for the first time.

“Hymnody is the rock in the river,” Eads says. “As we feel lost and adrift, we can reach out and grab it and feel connected to something larger than we are. “

For that, we can all sing, “Hallelujah!”


 

  1. Farrell, Michael. Blake and the Moravians. Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.
  2. Schonberg, Harold. The Lives of the Great Composers. W.W. Norton and Company, 1997.

 


Photo via Lydian Averitt

Lydian Bernhardt Averitt is a freelance writer and editor, and is the coordinator of the family financial planning certificate program at North Carolina A&T State University. She is an amateur musician and a lifelong Moravian who attends First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC. Contact her at Lydian@triad.rr.com.


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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.