Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st-Century Choir System
according to age, gender and marital status; each choir had a leader (a choir helper) that cared for the spiritual welfare of the group. Each choir’s main leader was an elder. The minister was responsible for the married men (i.e., only one choir—not the entire congregation) as well as the overall ministry of the church, allowing him more time for evangelism, creative ministry and general leadership. The minister’s wife was usually in charge of the married women. She and the choir helpers served as acolytes: men and women officially confirmed for a specific office or role in the church. They were lay leaders officially recognized and anointed by the church to be responsible for a specific ministry. Eighteenth-century Moravians believed strongly that everyone was endowed with spiritual gifts (not just the minister), and these gifts should all work together in the name of Christ. For example, the Moravian congregation in London included the following in their Brotherly Agreement: “We will according to the gift which souls find among one another, one attend the teaching, another the admonishing, a third the inspections or overseeing, the fourth the serving in general, etc. and prepare ourselves in quietness to further the cause of the Saviour amongst others.”6 Furthermore, each choir was divided into smaller prayer bands that would pray and worship together during the week. The prayer bands delivered individual and small group pastoral care through a complex network of lay leadership, which served every member of the congregation. The prayer band leader (sometimes with an assistant) organized and cared for a group of 5 to 10 people. Consequently each choir was divided into even smaller fellowship groups, ensuring that each member of the congregation—young and old, infirm and healthy— “had the goal to confer in mutual sincerity about all things of life and faith in order to encourage each other to follow the Lord.”7 We will speak and converse childlikely8 and simply with one another, and to that end come once or oftner in the week together, at which times we will do nothing but pray, sing and read the scripture, and edify ourselves simply by that, without bringing up the least matter out of which dispute or strife may arise. We will speak our hearts quite uprightly to one another and will not seek to hide ourselves with our failings and transgressions, that no one think more or better of another than he is.9 What is notable about the prayer bands is that their activities were restricted to those that provided spiritual enrichment only: prayer, singing, scripture reading, and heartfelt conversation, in an atmosphere that was above all honest, humble and without pretense. Also notable is that prayer bands were always groups of peers, arranged according to gender, age, and station in life (e.g., single, married, widowed). Children were also divided into bands led by an adult. Peer grouping naturally supported an honest and open atmosphere, providing an authentic space, so to speak, where people of like circumstances could comfortably open their hearts to each other.
International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church