Hinge 23:1_The Modern Self in 18th Century Moravian Memoirs

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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Modern Self in 18th Century Moravian Memoirs by Dr. Douglas H. Shantz

With responses by: The Rev. Rick Beck Dr. Giselle Mettele Dr. Paul Peucker The Rev. Carol Reifinger The Rev. Dr. Riddick Weber The Rev. Hilary Smith

Vol. 23, No. 1: Fall 2017


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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Volume 23, Number 1: Fall 2017 The Hinge is a forum for theological discussion in the Moravian Church. Views and opinions expressed in the articles published in The Hinge are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or the official positions of the Moravian Church and its agencies. You are welcome to submit letters and articles for consideration and publication. One of the early offices of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was that of the Hinge: The office of the Hinge requires that the brother who holds it look after everything and bring troublesome factors within the congregation into mutual accord without their first having to be taken up publicly in the congregational council. —September 1742, The Bethlehem Diary, vol. 1, tr. by Kenneth Hamilton, p. 80. The Hinge journal is intended also to be a mainspring in the life of the contemporary Moravian Church, causing us to move, think and grow. Above all, it is to open doors in our church.


1 Notes from the Editors When my mother died in 2009 I was teaching theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. For several of my colleagues it was their first experience of a Moravian funeral. They were surprised that there was no sermon. Instead the pastor read the memoir that I had written for my mother. Writing the memoir was an especially meaningful experience for me as I put into words who my mother had been and how we as a community of faith would remember her. Through the years I have attended many Moravian funerals, and each time the memoir helped me know my brothers and sisters better than I had during their lifetimes. The big difference I see between modern Moravian memoirs and the Lebensläufe discussed by Dr. Shantz are that the 18th century memoirs included discussions of people’s religious doubts and spiritual struggles. In this issue of The Hinge, Professor Doug Shantz examines the history of the Moravian funeral memoir (Lebenslauf) and proposes that the practice of writing one’s own life story contributed to the modern sense of self in Western countries. Tens of thousands of Moravians in the 18th and 19th centuries wrote their own memoir and many more had a pastor or family member write it for them. These memoirs are different from the famous Puritan “conversion narratives,” which were read when a person joined a congregation. The Moravian Lebenslauf is instead a final testimony given at the funeral and preserved for future generations to read in the archives. Historians have long valued these memoirs as windows into history provided by ordinary people, but Shantz argues they are even more than that. They are a record of the development of modern consciousness and self-reflection. Many of our respondents propose that this practice should be more widely used in the Moravian Church today. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Moravian Theological Seminary began using the Lebenslauf as a spiritual practice. Students were required to compose their own Lebenslauf, not for their funeral but for discussion in class. In the 1990s the Southern Province developed the Gemeinschaft spirituality program, which included writing a Lebenslauf. I have written (and presented) my Lebenslauf several times. It is a difficult

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Notes from the Editors [Continued from previous page] but rewarding process to reflect on the many twists and turns of life from the perspective of our relationship with God. For me, the Lebenslauf tradition retains an aspect of memento mori (remember death). It is a sobering thought to ask what you want others to know about you or remember about you when you have to be in the company of the saints above. I have heard that people in other religious traditions are discovering the value of writing your life when facing terminal illness. Your Lebenslauf can be a great gift to your family and others who love you.

The editors hope that this issue of The Hinge will help you better appreciate this unique aspect of Moravian spirituality and pastoral care. The editors are grateful to Dr. Shantz and our respondents for sharing their research and thoughts with us. -- Craig Atwood

Teaching & Learning Across Continents Continuing the legacy of bringing students from across the Unity to Moravian Seminary MAKE A GIFT TO THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP FUND Rev. Dr. Chris Nelson, Dir. of Advancement • 610.625.7908 • nelsonc@moravian.edu

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The Modern Self in 18th Century Moravian Memoirs Dr. Douglas H. Shantz is professor emeritus of classics and religion at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In recent months, I have been working on a new research project that I call “Making the Modern Self: Culture, Identity, and Autobiogra­phy in Eighteenth Century German Pietism and Enlightenment, 1700 to 1790.” I am studying the rise of modern individualism by examining the setting, features, and mutual influence of German Pietist and Enlightenment autobiogra­phies. This project on “Making the Modern Self ” attempts to integrate religious autobiography into the discussion of the rise of modern individualism in the West. As part of my research, I spent a month in fall 2014 working in the Moravian Archive in Herrnhut, Germany, reading 18th century Moravian memoirs, or Lebensläufe. Among early Moravians, writing a memoir was a valued spiritual practice. The Lebenslauf, literally “Lifewalk,” was the individual’s memoir of his/her life, with special emphasis on its spiritual dimensions. The Moravians were encouraged to compose a memoir which would be read aloud at their funeral liturgy. In this article, I consider what Moravian Lebensläufe can tell us about the rise of a modern self.1

Autobiography as a Defining Practice of the Modern Age Autobiography has long been recognized as one of the defining cultural practices of the modern period. After 1600, autobiographical practice becomes one of the central features of the modern way of life. As Foucault wrote: “[Autobiography] is a way to display myself as the product of my own choices: the author as the hero and originator of his heroism.”2 In recent years there has been a growing scholarship around “Ego documents,” the kinds of writing in which early modern and modern individuals express their subjectivity: diaries, journals, travel notebooks, memoirs, letters, conversion narratives, and autobiographies. In the 16th century, neither Luther nor Calvin wrote anything that can be considered a precedent for modern spiritual autobiographies. So why did this new, modern practice of life-writing arise in the 17th and 18th THE

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Habermas argues that private autonomy becomes self-conscious within the family. The family was a kind of training ground for the growth of the private individual and his or her critical reflections. Personal autonomy was expressed in terms of freedom to act and think, to develop one’s mind and abilities in a setting of family love. In this setting, the individual “unfolded himself in his subjectivity” through letter-writing.5 The 18th century has been called “the century of the letter.”6 The highest density of correspon­dence net­works was in northern Germany, especially Saxony, the same region in which the Moravian movement began under Count Zinzendorf.

In Germany the 18th century was also the century of autobiography. Richard van Dülmen called “ego documents,” such as autobiography, the special genre of modernity.7 Autobiography was the preeminent genre of both German Pietism and the German Enlightenment. Pietists valued autobiography as an edifying form of discourse, illustrated by the famous collection of biographies and autobiographies compiled by Johann Henrich Reitz in The History of the Reborn (1714). Autobiography was also a favourite genre of the German Enlightenment, portraying the fashioning and education of the individual.8 The evidence suggests that today we are living in “the age of memoirs.” An online course holds out this promise: “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” Linda Joy Myers, who started the National Association of Memoir Writers eight years ago, says that most who enroll in this memoirwriting seminar are in their 50s and 60s. Wendy Salinger, who conducts a summer memoir writing course at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, says retirees make up a substantial portion of her classes. We are living in “the age of memoirs,” according to Salinger. Self-publishing has made it easier for individuals to write about their past and share it widely. For many, memoir writing is therapeutic.9

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centuries? Jürgen Habermas, a prominent scholar of the history of modern freedom and auton­omy, speaks of the social-historical development and context of personal autonomy: “auton­omy emerges as a result of contingent historical processes, both within the life history of the individual and within the development of societies, in processes of mod­erni­zation.”3 Personal autonomy is nurtured in a social setting, in inter-action with others. Other factors that help to account for the rise of individual self-consciousness include rising literacy, urbanization, travel, exploration, improved communications, science, technology, and the arts, all of which “devolved more weight upon the individual as a creative volitional agent who stood apart from nature and the community.”4


In fall 2014, Huffington Post’s website for older adults, HuffPost 50, held a nationwide memoir contest for those age 50 and above. The entrants had to submit a 5,000-word memoir synopsis. Their stories “ran the gamut, from spouses who came out of the closet to domestic violence, to struggles to lead independent lives.” Myrna Blyth, editorial director of AARP media, said she expected 300 entries, but got close to 3,000.10 Simon & Schuster is releasing an e-book or printed book of the winning memoir.

Memoir writing is not just for seniors. Moravian College has offered a course on “Memoir for Peace and Justice” as part of its Peace and Justice Program. In this course, writing a memoir offers students an opportunity to reflect on the connections between their own life story and experiences and the larger questions and practices of peace and justice studies. As students struggle to articulate the meaning of their life experiences they gain a sense of ownership in addressing “difficult, ambiguous and deeply important elements in their lives.” Memoir “provides the space where students can creatively address any tensions between their own purpose and values, and the values and realities of the social, cultural, and political world in which they live.”11

Over the last few years, Christianity Today has run a popular backpage feature entitled “Testimony,” in which people recount their spiritual journey. A CT editor remarks, “One of our most popular features, it has offered stories from ex-atheists, ex-Muslims, and ex-bank robbers, from football stars, to LDS Church escapees, to media pundits visited by Jesus in a Taiwan hotel. We celebrate both the dramatic and the nor­mal, day-to-day ways Jesus reaches us.”12 This interest in memoir-writing in our day connects us to the Moravians of the 18th century and their spiritual practice of life writing. The rest of this article proceeds in four steps: first, I consider how the Moravian practice of recording their spiritual journey developed, and what they typically included in their accounts; second, I describe some things I discovered about Moravian life writing; third, I look at some examples of Moravian life writing, especially by women, that illustrate my discoveries; and finally, I consider why Moravian life stories are important for us today. My argument is that 18th century Moravian memoirs reveal people who are much like ourselves. these memoirs have great value for us as early historical sources for the modern self, and as a practice from which we can benefit.

The Moravian Lebenslauf: its Beginnings and Main Elements For over 250 years, the Herrnhut community has encouraged its members to write an account of their spiritual journey, especially noting how they THE

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The memoirs fulfilled five functions for the Moravians. First, a ritual function, offering praise to the Saviour for his leading and guidance; second, a historical function, as a unique spiritual history of the community; third, a prac­tical function in the context of funeral commemoration of the deceased; fourth, a commu­nicative function in sharing personal life experience with the community; and fifth, a peda­gogical function and benefit as the texts are read aloud in the community. Moravians placed importance on members of the community sharing with one another concerning their spiritual experience.14 The practice of believers recording their inner experience was supported from the text of Psalm 103:2: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” These autobiographical reflections, read aloud at the gravesite of Moravians, functioned as edifying instruction concerning God’s work in the life of the deceased. Biographical details were only included when they served this purpose. Moravian Brother Johann Friedrich Stach (d. June 15, 1812) reflected on his dual reason for sharing his life journey “as my own end draws near.” First, he noted “the great blessing my heart received in hearing the brief autobiographi­cal accounts of my brothers and sisters in the faith being read aloud.” Second, he reflected that “it is right that we express our thanks and praise to the Lord, our God and Saviour, before the whole community, for the great love, grace, faithfulness, patience, and mercy he has shown towards us.”15 Moravian Sister Ida Louise Steenshorn (1810-1863) described how the practice impacted her faith: “This beautiful custom at the community’s burial services, to share something of the outer and inner experiences of the deceased, was often a great blessing to me, especially when the account was from the person’s own hand.”16 Members of the Herrnhut community are still encouraged to write an account of their spiritual journey before their passing. Moravian funeral liturgies in Herrnhut include a time for reading aloud from the Lebenslauf of the deceased. In cases where members have not left behind a Lebenslauf,

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came to faith and became members of the Brüdergemeine. The Moravian practice of recording their life journey, their “way through time,” can be dated to June 22, 1747 in Herrnhaag. The communal diary records that, on this day, Count Zinzendorf decided that the memoir of the deceased should be read aloud at the song service on the day of burial as a way for the deceased to bid farewell to the community, and for the community to bid farewell to the deceased. “In future, during the Singstunde, a short account of the brother or sister who had passed away should be shared with the community, as a farewell gesture to those who had passed on.” This marks the beginning of the Moravian practice of composing their own “Lebenslauf,” or “faith journey.”13


spouses, children, or friends in the community assume responsibility for composing one.

The majority of Lebensläufe follow a model that includes the following elements: First, the author reflects on his or her purpose in recording their life journey; second, they distinguish between an outer life story and an inner journey; in contrast to most eighteenth century autobiographies, the Moravians focused upon religious experience – states and processes of the soul and God’s providential leading in a person’s life;17 third, the life accounts are recorded chronologically; fourth, a large proportion of the account is devoted to the individual’s parents and background, including the character of the par­ents, the father’s trade, and religious practices within the family; fifth, a break or turning point comes when the individual becomes a member of the Brüdergemeine; and finally, the period between the end of the individual’s own record and their death is filled in by someone else, with a description of the course of the individual’s illness and suffer­ing, and events from their last days. Most Lebensläufe are divided into three parts: childhood and education; life up to joining the Brüdergemeine; and last days and death.18

Moravian memoirs typically indicate if the memoir is by a member’s own hand, or composed by someone else. In many cases, there is a notation in the memoir, “So weit er selbst” (thus far [written by] himself ), or “So weit sein Aufsatz” (thus far his composition). In one memoir we read: “So weit kam der selige Bruder mit seinem Aufsatz. Seine Mitarbeiter in Bethabara fügen bey” (the blessed brother came to this point with his composition. His colleagues in Bethabara are adding the rest.)19

Over the years, Moravian memoirs have been carefully preserved so they remain accessible to any who may wish to read them.20 It is estimated that the Moravian archive in Herrnhut (Unitätsarchiv), established in 1764. holds some 30,000 Lebensläufe, representing ten generations of Moravians. The majority are handwritten, and have never been published.21

Things I Discovered About Moravian Life Writing While working at the Unitätsarchiv in Herrnhut, I examined life stories from the eighteenth century that were published in the Moravians’ monthly publication, Gemein-Nachrichten [Community News].22 During my reading, I observed the following recurring features and characteristics of Moravian Lebensläufe: 1.

Some express intellectual skepticism, and doubts about the Christian faith. For example, one of the early Moravian founders, Christian David, expressed his doubts as a young man about whether

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Some experienced the Bible as a closed book, that they cannot understand. Only later in their spiritual journey did it become an open book. Henriette Sophie von Miltitz writes: “God’s Word was for me a closed book,” shut up and locked up. J.G. Ehrhardt recounts the day when “the Bible for me was truly unlocked, opened up.” Some were given books to read by friends, in hopes that they would offer guidance to a true understanding of God. Ehrhardt explains how Moravians in Strasburg “gave me the Berlin speeches of Count von Zinzendorf to read. In reading them, a new light came on in my inward being…” Many recount both outward and inward experiences, with special focus on spiritual developments in their “inward being.” Christian David wrote, “According to my inner man I was doing very well, and would gladly have died; but according to the outer man, things were going very badly.” Marie Luise von Hayn wrote: “No one knew what was going on in my inner self…”

Some tell how they protected and kept secret their deepest thoughts and feelings. Matthäus Stach wrote that when he experienced the love and mercy of Christ, “I guarded this treasure carefully, and told no one what had taken place with me.”23 In many cases there is a monitoring of the senses, feelings, and emotions. Henriette Sophie von Miltitz wrote that when she gained assurance of deliverance from the guilt and penalty of sin, and of God’s love for her for the sake of his son, “my disposition became more and more happy, and I was no longer bothered by doubt.” Many describe a migratory life, homelessness, and compulsive traveling. Numerous early Moravians lived a life of perpetual wandering. Christian David writes, “In the year 1717 I went for the first time to Moravia, and then continued wandering for four years.”24 Zinzendorf referred to the Moravians as a “pilgrim community” – the “Pilger-Gemeine.” The Moravians were able to call upon a wide-ranging network of friends and corre­spondents throughout much of Europe. Johann Leonhard Knoll was surprised to learn from friends that a Moravian community could be found in Strasbourg.

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Jesus was God’s son, and whether the Bible was God’s Word. He attended a Jewish synagogue out of curiosity and to determine if perhaps Judaism was the true faith. Another 18th century Moravian, Gottlieb Oertel, expressed similar doubts.


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Many Moravian Lebensläufe reflect a strong degree of independent consciousness or personality. Marie Luise von Hayn, for example, longed to join the Moravian community in Herrnhaag, but met with strong opposition from her parents. She soon realized, “I would never be able to go to the community without deeply distressing my parents, whom I loved.” Confronted by Jesus’ words, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy to be my disciple,” she set out for Marienborn.

10. In the case of women writers, the Lebensläufe often illustrate the special status of “the free-as-a-bird woman” in a male world—the unmarried, the orphan, the girl, the widow, and the wife who questions her faith. These women “leave behind gender roles, parents and family, husbands, and class for the sake of their souls.”25

These aforementioned features are consistent with modern notions of agency and individualism. The historiography of the last fifteen to twenty years suggests that features of the modern self appear in religious literature before they appear in secular literature. A new understanding of Enlightenment in Germany and Britain sees it occurring within religion, rather than against it.26 Jane Shaw notes: “Religion was shaped anew in the Enlightenment, and it was central to the whole project of modernity.”27 This picture of religion and Enlightenment differs from that of Katherine Faull and her contention that relations of the self in Moravian memoirs go against Enlightenment notions of the self as autonomous.28 I begin with a different notion of Enlightenment, and end with a different understanding of Moravian memoirs and their relation to it.

Examples of Moravian Life Writing From the beginning of the Pietist movement, women were involved as leaders of conventicle gatherings in homes and as authors of autobiographical accounts. Johanna Eleonora Petersen, a leader in the Saalhof community in Frankfurt, wrote one of the earliest Pietist autobiographies in 1689. Johann Henrich Reitz put together a famous collection of life stories entitled History of the Reborn (1698). His collection includes 54 stories of women’s spiritual experience, and 54 stories of men’s. In the introduction, Reitz reflects that women possessed a special faculty and gift for humble devotion to God, more so than men.29 Count Zinzendorf likewise considered women to be more receptive to God than men. Women, he observed, “are more delicate than men because they have been formed not from clay, like Adam, but from flesh and blood.” They are “stronger than men in that they are more faithful, more responsive, and more watchful.”30 Within the

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The Gemein-Nachrichten (Community News Reports) are full of memoirs written by women. In what follows, I consider three Moravian women’s Lebensläufe, followed by one by a male author. In every case, I look for evidence of the features noted above, including skepticism and doubt; independent reading of the Bible and other books; outward and inward experiences; careful monitoring of the senses, feelings, and emotions; a migratory life, homelessness, and compulsive traveling; and a high degree of independent consciousness, personal freedom, and autonomy. Marie Luise von Hayn (1724-1782)

Marie Luise von Hayn was born on May 22, 1724 in Idstein, a small town in the county of Nassau. Her father, Georg Heinrich von Hayn, came from the lower Lausitz region; he became master of hunting and hounds to the Duke of Nassau. As a small child, Marie Luise experienced tender feelings of love towards Jesus. When someone gave her a Herrnhuter children’s book of Christian teaching, she would kiss it and not let the book out of her sight. As a young woman she began reading the writings of Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf, and found them to be a source of great comfort and blessing. She became fascinated with the Moravians, and was excited to hear that they were building a new settlement in Herrnhaag, in the Wetterau, not far from where she lived. Despite the scornful mocking of Herrnhuters that she often encountered, she felt a deep affection for them. She sensed that these were her people, and she had a deep longing to one day live among them. How­ever, Marie Luise met with strong opposition from her parents. She soon realized: “I would never be able to go to the community without deeply distressing my parents, whom I loved.”

One day in 1744, confronted by Jesus’ words “whoever loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy to be my disciple” (Matthew 10:37), she rushed to her room and composed a letter to her parents, explaining her decision to set out for Herrnhaag. She felt God’s call in her heart, and could no longer ignore it. In her memoir she wrote: “I left a pair of loving parents, but here it was as though I found a hundred fathers and mothers all at once.” Zinzendorf intervened on her behalf, promising her parents that he would care for her as his own child. Enthralled with the peace and communal spirit at Herrnhaag, von Hayn was accepted into the single sisters’ house and soon became a teacher in the girls’ school. She received her first

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Moravian community, women held a variety of offices, including Eldress, Choir Helper, Deaconess, Choir Worker, Acolyte, and Servant.


Moravian Communion in Herrnhaag on January 30, 1746. In 1748 she was ordained a deaconess, and in 1750 assumed care for all the girls in Herrnhaag. On October 6, 1766, she became the leader of the single sisters’ choir in Herrnhut, a post she filled for sixteen years “with remarkable blessedness.” Marie Luise describes how, despite all the blessings she had enjoyed, she felt a certain longing, in the innermost being of her heart, for a deeper fellowship with the Saviour. In 1751 she attended a presentation by Count Zinzendorf concerning the new birth, becoming one spirit with the Lord, and true sanctification and holiness. A light went on in me, and I saw clearly what I was lacking. Now a new work of God began in me. This was the first time that I had a heart to call upon and cry out to Jesus. I felt as if all the angels in heaven cried out to me for joy…But I told no one, not even my closest friends, about what was happening in my inner being.31

Maria Luise found that each new revelation lead to “a new melting of my heart, a new feeling of my misery, and new tears.”

Fourteen of Maria Luise’s hymns appeared in the 1767 Moravian hymnbook; 44 hymns in whole or in part appeared in the 1778 hymn book, including her most well-known hymn, “Weil ich Jesu Schäflein bin,” based on Psalm 23. The hymn was originally composed as a seven-stanza poem for the birthday of her friend, Christina Petersen, on August 1, 1772. It was translated for the 1789 English Moravian hymnal as “Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice” by Frederick William Foster (1760-1835). The Foster translation from 1789 runs as follows: Jesus makes my heart rejoice, I’m His sheep, and know His voice; He’s a Shepherd, kind and gracious, And His pastures are delicious; Constant love to me He shows, Yea, my very name He knows. Trusting His mild staff always, I go in and out in peace; He will feed me with the treasure Of His grace in richest measure, When athirst to Him I cry, Living water He’ll supply.

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The Lebenslauf of Marie Luise von Hayn is an example of an independent heart and mind, of a life marked by a deep inner experience, often kept secret from those around her. There is a strong literary aspect to her story, both in the books she read and in her role as a hymn writer for the Moravian community. Maria Höth (1737-1770)

One of the most fascinating Lebensläufe I have encountered is by Maria Höth. At age 11 she emigrated with her parents and siblings from Lichtenberg, Germany to Philadelphia. Her parents sent her and her siblings to the school run by the Moravian brothers. They eventually settled “over the blue mountains” in the small town of Nazareth. There they were visited by Moravian brothers who offered the family homilies on their need to know the Saviour and receive from him forgiveness of sins. Maria felt a longing to experience the fellowship of the Moravian community in Bethlehem. At age 18, she obtained her parents’ permission to visit Bethlehem. She found herself so happy there, “in body and soul,” that she sought permission from the Moravian commu­nity and her parents to live there. Her parents agreed, on condition that she remain in Nazareth with her pregnant mother until the baby was born.

In 1755, upon her return to Nazareth from Bethlehem, the family received news of the out­break of Indian wars (Indianerkriege). Maria begged her parents to flee and to stay with the Moravians in Bethlehem. Her father replied that he had only shown kindness to the Native Americans, so they would certainly inflict no suffering on their family. Then news came of an attack in nearby Mahony that left nine men and women dead. Full of fear that she and her family would be murdered, Maria begged her father to leave, but he continued to refuse. A few days later, at dinnertime, they heard shooting. Maria’s father went to the door, looked out, and was grabbed and killed on the spot. The family sought to escape out the back door, but her mother and youngest sister were shot and killed; Maria and two other sisters were dragged away. Maria describes her feelings during this incident in vivid language:

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Should not I for gladness leap, Led by Jesus as His sheep? For when these blest days are over, To the arms of my dear Saviour I shall be conveyed to rest: Amen, yea, my lot is blest.


What I felt in my heart in seeing my dearly beloved Mother and my sister murdered before my eyes, and finding myself in the hands of the fierce Indians, no words can express. Fear and hellish anxiety overcame me when I considered my situation.32 Maria and her sisters were forced to walk with the Indians (Indianern), enduring bad weather and mistreatment, until they finally arrived, exhausted and miserable, in Diaogu, an Indian village.

Maria was separated from her two sisters and given to an older woman as her child, with great ceremony and celebration. The woman treated her as if she were her own daughter, and the woman’s son treated her as a sister. One of her sisters was given to a Frenchman to marry and lived in Fort du Quesne. The Native Americans entreated Maria to marry one of them and threatened her with death if she refused. She left the village to live in the bush for eight days, enduring the snow and cold weather, and praying to God for help and mercy. Her Indian mother visited her often, begging her with tears to return. The Indians finally took her back by force and threatened to burn her alive if she continued to refuse marriage. When she remained obstinate, they bound her to a tree, laid firewood around her, and set it ablaze. As the wood began to burn, and the smoke filled her lungs, she finally changed her mind and agreed to their request. With great exultation they immediately untied her and brought her back to her Indian mother, who was thrilled to see her again. She was then brought to her Native American groom and their marriage was celebrated with a great wedding feast. She wrote that her husband was “good-natured; he loved me and treated me well.” She soon gave birth to a son. Still, Maria continued to hope that God would provide a way for her to escape from the Indian camp. Her husband planned to build a house in Goschgoschünk, and to move the family there. When she refused to move, he moved there anyway. She then went to live with her Indian mother. She soon found a way of escape. While on a typical trip to the fort for supplies, she and her son joined a supply wagon under military guard. They went with the supply wagon to Lancaster, and finally to Bethlehem. There she and her son joined the Moravian community. Maria recounts her feelings as follows: How can I describe the unspeakable joy I felt when I found myself with my child in midst of the Moravian assembly! I will never forget the love with which they accepted me, and with which God cared for me during a trying period of my life.

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Maria’s story is marked by deep inwardness and strong emotion as she describes “what I felt in my heart.” Henriette Sophie von Miltitz (1728-1787)

Henriette Sophie von Miltitz was born on April 17, 1728 in Wetzlar, in Hesse. As a young woman she became despondent and plagued by doubts. She describes her experience in these words: The more I battled with my doubts, the more I was unable to put them out of my mind. I was plagued by the thought, how can you pray as long as you do not believe in Christ?

In 1766 a friend of the family, Herrn Lande­shauptmann von Schönberg, noticed her unhappiness, and gave her some books to read. He encouraged her to turn to Christ, and to seek him in his word, the Bible. But the Bible was for her a closed book [ein verschlossenes Buch]. The friend assured Henriette Sophie that the Lord had obviously begun to work in her heart, and would not leave his work incomplete. She derived great comfort from these words, and devoted herself to praying for true faith.

Upon hearing of the Moravian community, Henriette Sophie read books to learn more about them, including Cranz’s History of the Moravians and Count Zinzendorf ’s Lebenslauf. In August 1777, at the age of 49, she, along with her sister, visited Herrnhut for the first time.

The day came when, with tears, she experienced what it meant to be redeemed by Christ and delivered from the power of Satan. Assured that God had accepted the sacrifice of his son as the price for her redemption, and that all her sins were wiped away, Henriette Sophie was freed from the guilt and penalty of sin. God loved her; and this love formed an unbreakable bond between her and God. God would give her strength in weakness, and restore her to his image. Henriette Sophie concluded: “My disposition became more and more cheerful, and there was no more doubt.” On January 17, 1779, at age 51, she was received into the Moravian community.34

Henriette Sophie von Miltitz illustrates many of the features that belong to the modern frame of mind: struggles with doubt, reading and study, investigating matters for herself, and deep personal experiences of suffering and joy.

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Maria died on April 15, 1770 in Bethlehem, at the age of 33. She concludes the account by writing: “To you, my Saviour, be eternal thanks and praise for the countless evidences of your grace and faithfulness during the entire course of my pilgrimage!”33


Johann Georg Ehrhardt (1717-1803)

Johann Georg Ehrhardt was born on February 7, 1717 in Schiltigheim, near Strassburg. As a child he was greatly influenced by his grandfather, “a truly pious man, who seemed to have something of the spirit of the Reformation about him.” He read the Bible with great zeal and sang the old Protestant hymns from memory. Johann Georg’s mother died when he was just ten years old; his grandfather died two years later. From then on, his Christian nurture suffered greatly. As a young man Ehrhardt became increasingly disillusioned with the Christian church and its clergy. I thought, what a miserable mess there is in the matter of the world’s religions. Christians, Jews, Turks, and heathen all think that they alone hold the correct belief. And yet, as far as I had seen and heard concerning their various parties, they were all the same in their corrupt behaviour and dealings with others.

As for Christianity in particular, he wrote: “I found no one whose character resembled the children of God as the Bible describes them.” Johann Georg soon found himself in a state of complete unbelief, and knew of no one whom he respected enough to sit under his instruction. He had no respect for Christian clergy; he was annoyed and disillusioned by what he observed of their way of life. Overwhelmed by anxiety, he despaired of the grace of God, and was tormented by the thought that he had repudiated God and his word. The doubt that especially disturbed him had to do with the foundation of the Christian faith in the second article of Luther’s catechism: belief in our redemption through Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, our Lord. Johann Georg asked himself, “Do I stand firmly in this faith?” His heart answered: “It is sin that rules over you.” He remained in this condition for two years, trying to reason his way to faith.

Johann Georg recalled passages of Scripture that offered comforting promises: “Call on me in your need, and I will hear you, and you shall praise me.” Through these readings, he began to hope that God would hear him in his misery and provide his heart with the certainty he needed to believe. In 1738, when he was twenty-one years old, Johann Georg’s father died. In the aftermath, he became focused on discovering some true Christians, the true children of God. About this time, he began to hear much discussion about the Pietists and Herrnhutters. The Lutheran preachers in Strasbourg spoke negatively

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Still, he was not entirely satisfied by what he found among the Pietists. In January 1742 in Strasbourg, he heard a sermon in which the preacher brought harsh accusations against Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf. It was the first time in his life that Johann Georg had heard the Count’s name. This encounter led him to visit a group of Herrnhuters in Strasbourg, where he was welcomed into their fellowship. They suggested he read the sermons of Count Zinzendorf, and the result was life-changing: As I read the book, a new light went on in my inner being. I received a taste of the truth in this writing, with the result that I immediately surrendered everything I had thought up to that time. The Holy Spirit showed me clearly what I had lacked up to then, that I did not yet know the Saviour, because I had not yet experienced him in my heart as the propi­tiation for my sins. Now everything I had thought about Christianity up to that point was thrown out. Despite all my efforts and striving, I had been a slave of sin and of Satan.35

This was in February 1742.

Johann Georg prayed for Christ’s grace and deliverance. In his mind he went to Golgotha, and it was as if Jesus were saying to him: “This I did for you, unworthy sinner. Simply accept the blessing for yourself!” From then on, he saw himself as a redeemed child of God, and when he read the Bible, the meaning was clear and open to him. He often visited the Moravians in Herrnhaag and Neuwied, and received great blessing. Johann Georg is a modern Christian seeker. Full of doubts and confu­sion as he considered the variety of world religions, he sought out different Christian groups and read a variety of books before arriving at a place of contentment and conviction.

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concerning them, portraying them as a dangerous sect, but Johann Georg recalled Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you when people revile you and speak evil concerning you.” Johann Georg thought: “Perhaps these are the people whom I sought for in vain up till now.” He determined to seek them out, and soon met up with some Pietists. They recommended he read Johann Arndt’s book, True Christianity, and some writings by August Hermann Francke. He read these materials with eagerness, and received much blessing from them.


Conclusion There are two main conclusions to this study. First, Moravian Lebensläufe reveal people who are much like ourselves – people who make the kinds of decisions that we make about faith, career, place of residence, and spouse. These Moravians were surprisingly well-traveled. They did not fly to their destinations, or stay at the Sheraton or Hilton, but they had intense crosscultural experiences. Many of the Moravians were well-read, demonstrated a good deal of intellectual curiosity, and knew what it was to encounter other world religions and to have religious doubts. Their memoirs are valuable sources for revealing the making of the modern self.

Second, these Moravian memoirs deserve more than academic interest. There is a practical wisdom and life experience in these writings that can benefit us today. They invite us to consider the benefits that derive from writing a memoir. An addictions program notes that “a type of healing occurs with this type of writing, which is why it can be therapeutic for people recovering from addiction.”36 The act of writing a Lebenslauf or memoir is clearly an exercise worthy of our consideration. These memoirs have great value for us today, both as early historical sources for the modern self, and as a practice from which we can benefit. v

Endnotes 1 The article is based on the author’s lecture at Christ Moravian Church in Calgary, Alberta, March 9, 2015. 2 Bruce Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University, 2005), 6, 20-22

3 Joel Anderson, “Autonomy, agency and the self,” in Jürgen Habermas: Key Con­cepts, ed. Barbara Fultner (Durham, UK: Acumen, 2011), 102f and Maeve Cooke, “Habermas, autonomy and the identity of the self,” Philosophy & Social Criticism 18 ( July 1992), 288. 4 Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative, 16-32. He writes: “Evangelical conversion narratives [in particular] appeared on the trailing edge of Christendom and the leading edge of modernity,” 32.

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5 Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerliche Gesellschaft (Darmstadt/ Neuwied: Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, 1962), 64-66. Habermas’s book first appeared in English in 1989: The Structural Trans­formation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989).

6 Helga Schultz, “Networks of Correspondence in the German Enlightenment,” TRANSACTIONS OF THE NINTH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON THE ENLIGHTENMENT (1996), 420. 7 Richard van Dülmen, Historische Anthropologie, 2. Auflage (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2001), 47, 76-80.

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9 Elizabeth Olson, “Appeal of Writing Memoirs Grows, as Do Publishing Options,” The New York Times (New York, NY), Oct.10, 2014. See: http://nyti. ms/1xy7QQQ 10 Olson, “Appeal of Writing Memoirs Grows.”

11 Kelly Denton-Borhaug and Daniel Jasper, “Memoir as Contemplative Practice for Peace and Justice,” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy Vol. 5 No. 2 (2014), 115f, 122.

12 See the December 2014 issue of Christianity Today.

13 Christine Lost, Das Leben als Lehrtext: Lebensläufe aus der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine (Herrnhut: Herrnhuter Verlag, 2007), 8f. See also Katherine M. Faull, “Introduction,” Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820 (Syracuse: Syracuse University, 1997), xxxii. 14 Lost, Das Leben als Lehrtext, 12.

15 Ulrich Herrmann, “Geistliche Vergemeinschaftung: Funktion und Botschaft der Herrnhuter Lebensläufe,” in Christine Lost (Hrsg.): Das Leben als Lehrtext. Lebensläufe aus der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine (Baltmannsweiler, 2007), x- xvi. 16 Walter Hinck: Selbstannäherungen. Autobiographien im 20. Jahrhundert von Elias Canetti bis Marcel Reich-Ranicki (Düsseldorf/Zürich, 2004), 11. 17 Vogt, “In Search of the Invisible Church,” 297.

18 Lost, Das Leben als Lehrtext, 29-31.

19 “Lebenslauf des verheiratheten Bruders Abraham van Gammern, heimgegangen zu Bethabara in der Wachau im Jahr 1765,” [Gemein-Nachrichten A 450 1830, I], 780. 20 Lost, Das Leben als Lehrtext, 13f.

21 Lost, Das Leben als Lehrtext,22f.

22 Register der in den Nachrichten aus der Brüdergemeine enthaltenen Reden und Lebensläufe vom Jahr 1818 bis Ende des Jahres 1882 (Unitätsarchiv Herrnhut). 23 “Lebenslauf des ersten Missionars aus der Brüder-Gemeine in Grönland Matthäus Stach,” 1860 I, 8 [GemeinNachrichten.A 548 1860, I], 725-737.

24 “Lebenslauf Christian David’s, des Zimmermanns, bis in’s Jahr 1722, nach seinem eigenhändigen Aufsatz,” 1821 I 3 [Gemein-Nachrichten.A 414 1821, I], 464475.

25 Jeannine Blackwell, “Herzens­gespräche mit Gott: Bekenntnisse deutscher Pie­ tistinnen im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert,” in Gisela Brinker-Gabler, ed., Deutsche Literatur von Frauen, Erster Band (München: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1988), p. 289.

26 See Jane Shaw, “Religious Experience and the Formation of the Early Enlightenment Self,” in Roy Porter, ed., Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 61-71; Jonathan Sheehan, “Enlightenment, Religion, and the Enigma of Secularization: A Review Essay,” The American Historical Review 108, no. 4 (October 2003), pp. 1075, 1076; Douglas H. Shantz, “Religion and Spinoza in Jonathan Israel’s Interpretation of the Enlightenment,” in Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic, edited by August den Hollander, Alex Noord, Mirjam van Veen & Anna Voolstra (Leiden: Brill, 2014). pp. 208-221. 27 Jane Shaw, Miracles in Enlightenment England (New Haven: Yale University, 2006), p. 17.

28 Faull, “Introduction,” Moravian Women’s Memoirs, p. xxxv. 29 Douglas H. Shantz, An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 197f. 30 Faull, “Introduction,” xxvii.

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8 Mara Wade, “Enlightenment SelfFashioning in the German Vernacular: Salomon Maimon’s Autobiography,” Lessing Yearbook 29 (1997), 175.


31 Maria Luise von Heyn, “Lebenslauf der ledigen Schwester Marie Luise von Hayn,” 1846 I 4 [Gemein-Nachrichten A 514 1846, I] 599-611. 32 “Was mein Herz dabey gefühlt hat, meine zärtlich geliebte Mutter und meine Schwester vor meinen Augen ermordet und mich selbst in den grausamen Händen der erbitterten Wilden zu sehen, das vermögen keine Worte zu schildern. Furcht und Höllenangst umgaben mich, wenn ich meine Lage betrachtete.”

33 “Merkwürdiges und seltenes Schicksal der zu Bethlehem in Amerika im Jahre 1770 entschlafenen Schwester Maria Höth,” Nach ihrer eigenhändigen Erzählung, 1819 I 5 [Gemein-Nachrichten A 406 1819, I], 793-798. Höth’s account is in Katherine Faull’s collection, Moravian Women’s Memoirs, 90-94.

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34 “Henriette Sophie von Miltitz,” 1846 I 5 [Gemein-Nachrichten A 514 1846, I], 770789. 35 “Lebenslauf des Societäts-Bruders Johann Georg Ehrhardt,” 1846 I 6 [GemeinNachrichten A 514 1846 I], 943-959.

36 A program for people with addictions observes: “Memoir writing provides an opportunity to examine life and describe what happened from a personal point of view. By the time the writer has finished the manuscript, they usually know themselves much better. There is a type of healing that occurs with this type of writing, which is why it can be therapeutic for people recovering from addiction.” See: http://alcoholrehab. com/addiction-recovery/benefits-of-memoir-writing/

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Response: Rick Beck The Rev. Rick Beck is pastor of Good Shepherd Moravian Church in Calgary, Alberta. Like so many Moravian pastors, my first experience of a Lebenslauf was in reference to my application to seminary. I found it a very meaningful experience which I have had reason to revisit on occasions since. This was reinforced during my wife Wendy’s and my first call to Bruderheim Moravian in Alberta, Canada. The members there were still in the habit of writing their Lebensläufe, which were read at their funerals, similar to what Douglas Shantz described. We had thirteen funerals that first year of ministry, which cemented this tradition in my psyche. I later included this practice in the confirmation program of subsequent churches in which we served with varying degrees of success. The writing of a Lebenslauf requires an ability to reflect on our past life, and some youth simply haven’t achieved the level of maturity necessary to accomplish this beyond a superficial recollection of events. On the other hand, there are youth who have a clear sense of God in their life and share profoundly meaningful stories. In either case, this is a valuable exercise as it invites individuals to pause in the course of their daily lives to consider where God has been journeying with them. In reading Shantz’s article, I found it interesting that he speaks of the Lebenslauf in light of developing personal autonomy, yet his focus remains mostly on how the sharing of it impacts the community, while only lightly touching the reflective process and personal growth of the individual who is writing. This may reflect a natural and healthy response to the heavily individualized “me first and only” mentality that plagues our society today. We may be moving into a new era or returning to an earlier mysticism, but there seems to be a movement to strip away false self-images so that we might realize our true image; the image of God within. Writing a Lebenslauf is a first step in intentionally acknowledging the images we have created in order to know ourselves in society, so that we might begin surrendering them and know ourselves in God. Does the belief that “personal autonomy is nurtured in a social setting, in interaction with others” assume that if we encourage everyone’s personal autonomy the world will be a better place? (Steel sharpens steel.) Society believes in striving and succeeding with the goal to become something. This fails to acknowledge that we are already something…perfect as

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God made us. I see Lebenslauf as a way of reflecting on the movement of God in life. It is not about me but about God in me. It is not autonomy but relationship in the one life that is Christ. The writing and sharing of a Lebenslauf is the celebration of one person’s experience of that life; one verse in the Divine story which is only and always a gift rather than an achievement. It may be perceived as a slightly narcissistic focus on life, but it is meant to be a bridge to a deeper understanding of our participation in what Paul aptly calls the Body of Christ.

Shantz’s article points out that the change in 18th century culture, due to transportation and enlightenment, influenced the Reformation experience of life. It is a reminder that self-expression and the power to change one’s life was not part of the pre-reformation experience. We may not be completely beyond this mentality. It was only a few generations ago that girls were expected to be wives and mothers, and boys were expected to follow in their father’s career. It would have been considered presumptuous for a person to assume that they could break out of the mold which society had created for them. Breaking from the authority of the Catholic Church may have set a precedent for exploring freedom and autonomy. Writing one’s memoirs was the natural venue for this exploration.

Shantz also makes note that the writing of memoirs has currently become popular among older adults. This should not be surprising, as older adults have reached the point in their lives when there is more life experience behind them than in front of them. It is at this time in our lives when our focus on the spiritual richness of life begins to replace our concern for material security. We reflect on where we have come from and the places where God has interrupted life, while pondering what might lie ahead so that we might experience the present moment more fully. As mentioned above, the first assignment I give Confirmation students is to write their Lebensläufe. They struggle with this in part because they feel nothing of any great significance has happened in their life. For them, life is about acquiring the “things” of life and, depending on the individual, pondering possibilities for the future (which in our present world situation doesn’t always seem very hopeful to them). The transition from youth to adult includes the awakening that God is not simply some divine presence beyond our reach; our life. It may take a lifetime for some to realize that the distinction between Creator and created doesn’t actually exist, which is what Jesus expressed in his teachings and life, and what Paul calls us to celebrate as the “Body of Christ.” The reflective practice of writing our Lebensläufe creates sacred space for God to reveal deeper truths about the human/Divine relationship. [Continued] THE

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One hurdle to writing a life story is overcoming the belief that the storyline must be sensational. Somehow people feel that testimonies must be dramatic. We certainly come from a “bigger is better” society. If our life isn’t a best-seller we believe it isn’t worth sharing. If the focus on writing a life story were primarily on what would be read at one’s funeral, and the influence of presenting a story that is “worth reading” tugs at the heart of the writer, then the question of honesty arises, which becomes one more element for spiritual reflection. But as mentioned above, the purpose for writing isn’t solely about sharing one’s story. Equally valuable is what we learn about ourselves and God when reflecting on our life story. Most people lead simple lives and this simplicity often reveals God in the everyday experiences of life.

The functions of the memoir that Shantz points out are a good reminder that our faith is not strictly between ourselves and God, but meant to encourage others about the faithfulness of God, and to function as a witness to our common union in the Body of Christ. Our story, although personally meaningful, is not ours alone. The dark side of autonomy is individualism. Just as the focus of the Hebrew Scriptures is the establishment and salvation of the nation of Israel, so, too, our lives are intended to focus on a much larger story.

The writing of the Lebenslauf is a tool for realizing one’s autonomy; one’s unique place in the Kingdom of God. Rightfully, Shantz uses the word “autonomy” to speak not of personal power, but of grace which stands in opposition to, or at least in contrast to, law, doctrine, tradition, and church authority. His examples of doubt and faith-questioning suggest the human need to break from a prescribed image of self in order to re-evaluate one’s self image, and return to community with a deeper and truer image of self in God. v

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Although writing is a powerful tool for self-discovery and selfrealization, it alone is not enough. We cannot overlook the role of the Moravian choir system. Deeper truth is realized when this sacred space is supported by an individual or community who holds the person and their story without a hidden agenda; a community that trusts God is at work in the individual’s life.


Response: Gisela Mettele Dr. Gisela Mettele is Professor of Gender History at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany and the author of a book on the history of Herrnhut: Weltbürgertum oder Gottesreich? Die Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine als globale Gemeinschaft 1760-1857. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2009. The connection that Doug Shantz makes between the Moravian memoirs and the practice of memoir writing that is popular today is a new idea for us to consider. Whether you find in the past similarities to life today (“reveal people who are very much like ourselves,” as Shantz puts it) or even find value in the past, it is certainly a historiographical question as to how one works out the differences between the thoughts and actions of people of different ages. The examples that Shantz presents are interesting, and it would certainly be worthwhile to consider them in relation to the Moravian memoirs; however, this should not obscure the differences in memoir writing in different contexts. Religious memoirs written in the American evangelical context have a high degree of continuity in terms of patterns, topics, and events to memoirs written by Pietists and Methodists in the 18th century. But even then, not all cats are gray, so to speak. Whether today’s non-religious practice of memoir writing exhibits similar patterns and topics is an interesting question that could be answered by a careful analysis of representative samples from each. This would certainly be a good research project! The thesis of the therapeutic effect of memoir writing is worthy of consideration and should be precisely fixed to the sources. Still, I find Shantz’s methodology questionable. He does not give serious consideration to recent research on personal testimony and autobiography. Much has been written about the relationship between the Enlightenment and Pieitism, but the old view of an antagonistic relationship is long gone. I think it would be important to start from the latest research, such as that of Ole Fischer and Adam Struensee. I find the remarks on the relationship of Moravian memoirs and the development of the modern self to be rather superficial, and lacking critical evaluation of the essence of the Moravian memoirs. The list of his gleanings from the memoirs seems arbitrary. There are important scholarly topics, such as gender differences, the time of printing, differences between the published and unpublished versions, and so forth that are not examined. Allow me to call the reader’s attention to my book that deals with these matters: Weltbürgertum oder Gottesreich: Die Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine als Globale Gemeinschaft 1727 – 1857 v.

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Response: Paul Peucker

Memoirs are a fascinating genre among the records in Moravian archival collections. Beginning with Katherine Faull’s selection and translation of eighteenth-century memoirs written by women, interest for Moravian memoirs in the English-speaking world has increased.1 The Moravian memoir is part of Douglas Shantz’s research project on culture, identity, and autobiography in eighteenth-century German Pietism and the Enlightenment.

Autobiographical writing and biographical reflection played an important role among eighteenth-century Moravians. In their pastoral care, Moravians focused on the individual person and their individual faith experiences. Central to their ideas was a personal surrender to Christ, whose suffering and death on the cross were to touch the heart of the true believer. Zinzendorf taught that each believer was to be touched in his or her heart by the love of God shown in Christ’s humanity, and was to achieve a personalized relationship with Christ the Savior. During one’s life, each person made their own experiences with their faith, experiences that were to be shared with others. Each person was encouraged to continuously examine the state of their heart, sometimes prompted by the guiding questions of a choir helper. Listening to memoirs written by fellow Moravians during the funeral service was an important element in the discourse of the congregation. These memoirs served as models and tools for other Moravians to reflect on their own lives and to learn from the experiences of others. Thus, Moravians were able to frame their personal biographies in the context of their religious journey within the Moravian community. The memoir collections at the various Moravian archives around the world contain thousands of memoirs. Archivists have come to understand that not all of these Lebensläufe were written to be read at the funeral service, and that not each biographical text in the memoir collection was in fact a funeral memoir. Some of these texts appear to be very similar to the funeral memoirs, but they were in fact written for other purposes. Recently, Thomas McCullough, assistant archivist at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, pointed out that autobiographical texts also played a role much earlier during life.2 From the 1750s on, Moravian elders encouraged their members to relate their faith’s journey and write down their biography. These accounts were used in the pastoral care of each individual and collected in each congregation’s archives. McCullough argues that

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Dr. Paul Peucker is Northern Province archivist at the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


“the earliest memoirs played a significant role for the living,” similarly to the life-writing practices in the twenty-first century that Douglas Shantz writes about. It is important to realize that not all of the memoirs in Moravian archival collections were in fact funeral memoirs; some of them were written not for the purpose of being read at one’s funeral service but much earlier during one’s life.3 Future research on the Moravian memoir needs to take into account that Moravians wrote (auto-)biographical texts for different purposes and that not all memoirs are funeral memoirs. I think this point will strengthen Shantz’s argument that we today can benefit from the practice of writing a memoir.

Nevertheless, Moravian memoirs remain rich resources for the study of the eighteenth century. When reading these memoirs we have to understand that people in the eighteenth century are fundamentally different than people today. Shantz states his argument “that 18th century Moravian memoirs reveal people who are much like ourselves.” This is where I would like to differ from the author. People in the eighteenth century were not the same as people today. They had very different life experiences and expectations. Words and concepts that may appear similar to our own, often had a different meaning, significance, and semantic value. Religion is a constantly changing phenomenon. Mainstream Christians of the twenty-first century are very different from their counterparts during the nineteenth century and have little in common with the radical-Pietist Moravians of the first half of the eighteenth century. One needs to be aware of these differences when reading Moravian memoirs of the eighteenth century. I believe the Moravian memoir of the eighteenth century (unfortunately, the practice largely disappeared in large parts of the Moravian world during the nineteenth century) can teach us about the self understanding of the Moravians and how they saw themselves in relation to others. Moravian memoirs are rich resources and offer wonderful insight into Moravian life in the past. It is unfortunate that writing a Lebenslauf is not a common Moravian custom anymore. Reading the memoirs from the past and hearing Shantz’s plea for the beneficial effects of biographical reflection may encourage people today to write their own Lebenslauf. v Endnotes 1 Faull, Katherine M., Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750-1820 (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997). 2 Thomas J. McCullough, “The Most Memorable Circumstances: Instructions for the Collection of Personal Data from Church Members, circa 1752,” Journal of Moravian History 15/2 (2015): 158-176. 3 Some of these earlier autobiographies later became part of the funeral memoir, if the deceased had not left a memoir for their funeral. In that case, other biographical texts were combined, often with an ending by the minister, choir helper or a relative about the last moments of someone’s life.

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Response: Carol Reifinger

Brother Shantz presents his readers with evidence that Moravians in the 18th century took seriously the task of writing their own spiritual memoirs. Although the outer details of a person’s life were included as context in these memoirs, it was clear that the inner, spiritual dimension of one’s life was the most crucial element. It seems to me that Moravian memoirs today are slightly different from the ones that Brother Shantz describes in two ways. First, modern memoir writing itself has been, practically speaking, the task of the clergy. When an individual dies, the pastor visits with family members to offer support and care and to speak with them about their loved one’s life journey. Along with factual information, their conversations deal with the person’s closest relationships, with his or her career, accomplishments, travels. The perceptions and conclusions of the family and friends remaining are the ones that weave their way into the memoir, typically not the actual words of the deceased. As a pastor, in close to thirty years of memoir writing, I was aware of only two individuals who had written their own extensive memoirs in advance, which were intended to be used as background information for the memoirs that I wrote for them. Interestingly, they were both men! In any case, my responsibility as pastor was to summarize, prioritize, share anecdotes, and to somehow capture the essence of a person’s life story with warmth, empathy, and many times, unavoidable humor! The second difference is that in many of the memoirs that I have written or have heard as a listener, there was not necessarily a strong emphasis on the person’s deep spirituality, or on the other hand, an attempt to explain that although a person was not overtly “religious,” he or she was certainly quietly “spiritual.” While family members commented generally on the value of faith and the church to their loved one, more frequently, the focus was on the person’s activities in church: as a member of a social or service group, committee, or board. In a more subtle way than in early memoirs, the telling of the story of the life journey itself was the witness to the person’s faith, or at least, a witness to the providence of God in that person’s life, recognized at the time or not.

Although modern memoirs might be constructed differently, their most valued gifts to the community are certainly similar to the ones mentioned in the article. Memorial services and memoirs , draw people together to begin to heal, to learn life’s lessons, and to recognize their shared struggles and their shared hope as people of faith. v

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The Rev. Carol Reifinger is a retired Moravian pastor from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


Response: Riddick Weber The Rev. Dr. Riddick Weber is assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I am grateful for this article and the interest it might generate regarding the practice of writing the Lebenslauf. Shantz’s interests in the practice range from the historical and philosophical – how it relates to concepts of the self and modernity – to the practical – how it might benefit the church today. The article focuses far more on the former, and thus makes a more compelling case for it, but I believe the latter is also true.

All of Shantz’s examples come from the 18th or early 19th centuries. The authors were people who chose to join the Moravian Church, often after periods of intense doubt or soul searching. These examples make for fascinating reading, partly because they help us understand why women might want to join a community based on the choir system. In an age when marriage was virtually an economic necessity for most women, and most marriages were based on the social or economic interests of the parents, Marie Luise von Hayn was able to live her life joyfully and productively within the Moravian Church as a member and leader of the Single Sisters’ choir. This contrasts the forced marriage that Maria Höth endured following her capture, which would not have happened in a Moravian community. In some ways, however, these interesting examples undercut Shantz’s argument about how similar our forebears are to us. I heartily agree with Shantz’s second concluding point: that memoir writing would be of benefit to us today. Though he mentions its value for addictions programs, it also has value in many other more broadly reaching areas. At Moravian Theological Seminary, all incoming students write and share their Lebenslauf, and at the end of their time of study, all Master of Divinity students rewrite the Lebenslauf to see how their study here has informed their understanding of their spiritual life and helped them grow. It might be helpful to find a way to share some of these Lebensläufe, or the numerous Lebensläufe, that have been written by Southern Province Moravians as part of the Gemeinschaft program. Many of these Lebensläufe differ in one fundamental aspect from the examples Shantz offers. Many, though certainly not all, of these newer Lebensläufe were written by Moravians who grew up in the Moravian Church. For them, their story is less about coming into the Moravian Church as a result of the spiritual searching, but a matter of growing up with an ongoing sense of relationship with God, or finding God from within the Moravian tradition. Some

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In addition, we should also share modern stories of those who have come into the Moravian Church. Telling their stories may give lifelong Moravians new appreciation for the church. Having these stories to share may also help us realize what we have to offer to those outside the church who are struggling on their journey. I hope these thoughts may supplement the reasons behind Shantz’s wise suggestion that writing the Lebenslauf is a practice worthy of our consideration. v

Response: Hilary Smith The Rev. Hilary Smith is a retired pastor in the British Province and serves as archivist of the Fulneck Moravian Congregation in England. Douglas H Shantz has given me a new, helpful insight into the writing of the Lebenslauf. I had previously seen it as a unique genre which gave voice to the ‘unheard’ of the 18th/19th centuries, i.e. women, children, ordinary working people, the poor and illiterate. After reading the paper, I reviewed the 18th century memoirs I have already transcribed, and was astonished to discover that only 23 out of 165 were written personally, and 2 more dictated to a scribe. This suggests that the practice did not really take root in this Province, and it is not a practice undertaken today. In commenting on the paper, I am only using the 25 above-mentioned memoir-writers, 18 of whom are sisters, 6 brothers, and one a great boy aged 16. I don’t recall any instance of memoirs being read at the graveside usually it was during a lovefeast following the burial. I comment only on those features which I found in these memoirs:

1. One brother speaks of his mind being “perplexed” through reading “unprofitable books” and a sister of “being brought into confusion;” others mention being drawn away from the faith through being “indifferent,” “wild,” “growing up in a careless manner” and “without religion.”

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of the modern writers likely experienced doubts and questions similar to those experienced by the writers mentioned by Shantz, yet somehow found answers in the Moravian Church or by returning to the Moravian Church. I believe their stories could be very helpful for Moravians who experience struggles in their faith and wonder about the implications or ultimate ends of those struggles.


2. None speak of being given books, but four mention finding help in books, which they “took,” “came across,” or “asked for,” three of these being hymn books and one “a spiritual book.” A labouress recalls: “at aged 9 she wanted to read religious books,” which made a deep impression on her. However, two sisters speak of being persuaded to hear preachers; another was impressed by a friend praying for her; and a brother was drawn into a society through the testimony of his daughter. A sister, who dictated her memoir, was taken to see a picture in the brethren’s house, which greatly affected her. 3. Three single sisters speak of a “dream” or a “vision” they had of the Saviour, which made deep impressions on them.

4. A seafaring brother traveled extensively; another brother during his travels was press-ganged into the War of the Spanish Succession and took part in various battles around Europe; and a sister, left homeless at the age of six after her father’s death, was dragged around the countryside for about ten years by her mother. For others moving around was either just in the locality, or in Moravian church service. 5. The above three persons and four others, three of whom were labouresses, all expressed a strong degree of independent consciousness.

Two other features which stand out for me in these memoirs are first, the death of a parent and/or sibling was experienced at an early age by thirteen of the writers. Second, many encountered traumatic experiences. One sister speaks of being “terrified as a child by nightmares;” the seafarer speaks of shipwreck, terrible hardships getting to safety, “falling overboard into a strong current,” capture and imprisonment; one sister mentioned that she was “pushed into water by another child” and soon afterwards “knocked down by a horse at full gallop,” both at the age of five; another sister speaks of slipping into the water from a boat as a child; the press-ganged soldier speaks of numerous traumatic incidences during his war experiences. Many of the differences mentioned above are perhaps because a number of the writers are from the lower echelons of society with only a limited degree of education and little experience of the wider world. v

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Douglas Shantz Responds to His Readers:

I enjoyed reading Hillary Smith’s comment on the 25 memoir writers that she had encountered in her editing work. She notes some features that contrast with those I highlighted, especially the death of a parent and other traumatic experiences, and the strong emotions that go with them. She too observes “a strong degree of independent consciousness” in the memoirs she has worked with. Riddick Weber notes the life experiences of von Hayn and Höth, and suggests that they tend to undercut my argument about how similar our forebears are to us. But while their 18th century circumstances are certainly different from ours, including the Indian wars, their response to their circumstances reveals a high degree of initiative, agency, and independence. I think Riddick is right to suggest that we consider contemporary modern memoirs by those who have come into the Moravian Church, as well as stories by those who have grown up in the Church. I am grateful for the insights offered by Carol Reifinger, based on her experience as a pastor for some 30 years. She highlights two ways in which Moravian memoirs today differ from those in the 18th century that I describe. I wonder if she would see any advantage in people writing their own memoir, rather than depending upon a pastor to write it, and if she thinks the practice could be revived in our day.

I appreciate Paul Peucker’s observations about 18th century memoirs, and his comment that they were not just written for the funeral service. Peucker notes that Moravian elders encouraged members to write down an account of their faith journey, and that these were used in pastoral care of individuals. These memoirs, therefore, played an important role for the living. This point, as Peucker notes, serves to strengthen my argument that we can benefit from the practice of writing a memoir today. I take Peucker’s point that these 18th century Moravians are different from us in many ways. I am not arguing that they are the same as we are; I am arguing that 18th century Pietists and Moravians are different from the Medieval and 16th century Christians who preceded them, and this difference lies in their remarkable self-consciousness about their faith, and their sense of agency in their spiritual journey. In this key respect, they

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I am grateful to the six readers for taking the time, first, to read my article, and then to write a reflection on it. Their comments have confirmed my conviction about the value of memoir writing; they have also encouraged me not to gloss over the many differences that separate the 18th century context from our own.


are modern, and prepare the way for the western culture of our day and the burden of responsibility we face. Charles Taylor observes that while our ancestors lived with faith “naively,” we moderns must live it “reflectively.” The modern world is a pluralist one in which many forms of belief and unbelief jostle, unsupported by social structures. Religious belief in the modern age is marked by the experience of being cross-pressured, prone to doubt.1 The 18th century Moravians knew what it was to live in a world with a plurality of religious options. Gisele Mettele offers some challenges to my methodology, specifically to my suggestions on the relationship of Moravian memoirs to the development of the modern self. She finds my list of gleanings from the memoirs somewhat arbitrary. She is right that my paper on Moravian memoirs is suggestive at best, not a final or cogent argument. My best answer to her challenge will be the project I am currently working on. I have developed a catalogue of 90 Pietist and Enlightenment autobiographies from the 18th century.2 Many of these I will translate in whole or in part. I hope that this collection of testimonies will buttress my argument. Finally, Rick Beck has written an insightful reflection that focuses on the issue of personal autonomy in these memoirs. I enjoyed his insights into the challenges faced by young people in writing a memoir of their spiritual journey, compared with people in their later years. I appreciate his comment that “Writing a Lebenslauf is a first step in intentionally acknowledging the images we have created in order to know ourselves in society, so that we might begin surrendering them and know ourselves in God.” Finally, I agree with him when he writes that breaking away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the authority of state supported Evangelical churches, provided the context in which many Pietists and Moravians explored personal freedom and autonomy. v Endnotes 1 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), pp. 13f, 25, 530-533. 2 This number does not include Moravian Lebensläufe. They will have a separate section in my book of translations.

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6th Bethlehem ConferenCe on moravian history & musiC

Call for Papers October 11-13, 2018 This conference explores Moravian history and music from the fifteenth to twenty-first centuries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

We are now accepting proposals for individual papers, panels or lecture recitals on any topic related to Moravian history and music. Please submit a proposal of 300 words or less, accompanied by CV, by April 15, 2018 to: www.moravianconferences.org/submit-a-proposal/ The program committee will notify accepted applicants by May 11, 2018. A limited number of grants for housing and travel costs is available. We encourage submissions from undergraduate students for whom there may be special panels and poster sessions.

Visit our website for more information and updates:

www.moravianconferences.org Sponsored by the Moravian Archives, Moravian College, and the Center for Moravian Studies, in partnership with the Moravian Music Foundation, Moravian Historical Society, and Moravian Theological Seminary. Dr. Hilde Binford, Conference Chair Department of Music Moravian College hbinford@moravian.edu

Moravian College seeks to provide an accessible and hospitable learning and working environment for all, while ensuring full compliance with federal and state regulations. Our community welcomes and encourages persons with disabilities to participate in our programs and activities as faculty, staff, students, and as visitors to the College. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided for an event on our campus, please contact the event sponsor at least two weeks in advance of the event.

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