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The HINGE International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st-Century Choir System Notes from the Editors..........................................1

Lanie Graf...............................................................2 Responses James Lavoy...............................................................13 Lisa Mullen................................................................14 Brian Dixon...............................................................16 Sarah Graves .............................................................17 Matthew Knapp .......................................................19 Maggie Wellert .........................................................20 Bevon White .............................................................21 Jill Vogt .....................................................................23

Vol. 18, No. 3: Summer 2012


The HINGE Volume 18, Number 3: Summer 2012 The Hinge is a forum for theological discussion in the Moravian Church. Views and opinions expressed in 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 for publication. One of the early offices of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pa., 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 congregation 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. The Hinge is published with the assistance of the Center for Moravian Studies of Moravian Theological Seminary, 1200 Main St. Bethlehem, PA 18018, and all rights are reserved. Recent issues of The Hinge may be found at www. moravianseminary.edu/center/hinge.htm. Articles in The Hinge may not be republished or posted on the Internet without the express permission of the author and the editor of The Hinge. Articles may be duplicated according to “Fair Use” rules, which allow for discussion in church classes and similar forums. The hinge illustration was provided by Todd Tyson of Kernersville, NC. Cover design was provided by Colleen Marsh of Bethlehem, PA.


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Notes from the Editors Our previous issue of The Hinge, featuring the 2011 Moses Lecture by Katherine Faull, considered the Moravian choir system of the 18th century as a framework for pastoral care. Attendees at those lectures, and respondents to Faull in The Hinge, were inspired to think about what we might learn, and use, from that part of our Moravian history. As Judy Knopf wrote in her response: “How can the choir system provide a model for Christian community in the 21st century? How can a church that lived together and shared every aspect of life together inform a 21st century Moravian congregation?” As it happens, other Moravians were asking those questions well before Faull arrived in Bethlehem to deliver her lectures. In 2009, Eastern District president Dave Bennett asked Lanie Graf, assistant archivist for the Northern Province, to develop some ideas about how today’s church might benefit from a “modern Moravian choir system.” In this issue of The Hinge, Graf presents those ideas as our lead article. Responding from many points in the world—America, Jamaica, Ireland, Germany—and many perspectives, Moravian clergy and laity expressed their curiosity and enthusiasm about the proposal. At the same time, respondents note the need to restructure the choirs for today’s very different world, where realities like divorce and same-sex relationships complicate what once seemed a simple picture of “married men,” “single women,” and so on. The Renewed Moravian Church was born of thirst. From the arrival of the first refugees on Zinzendorf ’s estate in 1722, the Herrnhut settlement grew to a population of some 300 within five years. As other settlements were established, people filled them just as quickly. They flocked to the Moravians in search of spiritual satisfaction; and those who came thirsting were refreshed and energized to do the work of God in the world. This is still a thirsty world. We thirst for community; for relationship; for someone to listen. In this issue of The Hinge, Lanie Graf and the respondents invite Moravians to search our past for a possible source of refreshment, running beneath our history like a forgotten spring. Consider, too, what Moravians as a refreshed people might once again do for the world.


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Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st-Century Choir System Lanie Graf After comparing modern church practices with those of 18th-century Moravians in a presentation for the Eastern District’s “Heart of Ministry” workshop in 2009, I was asked by our District President, Dave Bennett, to consider what a modern Moravian choir system might look like. The following article is based on a presentation I gave on this subject at the Eastern District’s most recent conference, “Reflect Renew Respond,” held July 21–24, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pa. The research is based on archival records, Zinzendorfian ideals, published research on the Moravian choir system and prayer bands,1 and my own experience in the modern Moravian church. The result is a proposal for a new choir system that relies on the revival of the small-group prayer bands that deliver pastoral care to all church members through highly active lay leadership. As assistant archivist of the Moravian Archives–Northern Province I am privileged to investigate our church’s history on a daily basis. What I find fascinating is the “nuts and bolts” of the 18th-century Moravian Church, exactly how Moravians “did” church in the past. Sadly, this information is lacking in many of our publications, overwhelmed by the “glorious forefathers” tales that tend to make up the history books. In their attitudes towards Moravian history, today’s Moravians seem divided into two groups. Either they are obsessed with nostalgia and traditions, or they are repulsed by what they see as nostalgic hero-worship, believing that our history is irrelevant for today’s ministry. This latter group tends to look outside the Moravian church for models of success, but in doing so, they are throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need not look any further for role models; 18th-century Moravians were highly effective Christians later likened to an evangelistic “volcano.”2 Successful modern churches often employ techniques used by 18th-century Moravians, especially in terms of lay leadership and pastoral care. This article will explore techniques involving the prayer bands and the choir system. As our denomination faces the sobering reality of decline (the Northern Province has lost roughly 1/5 of its membership in the past six years),3 perhaps we can find inspiration for the present by taking seriously the Moravian practices of the past. Healthy denominations grow. They do not consistently lose members year after year. The health of a denomination is directly linked to the spiritual health of individual members. If our members are not spiritually healthy or experiencing personal spiritual growth, the denomination as a whole will remain stagnant or decline. The renewed Moravian Church evolved as part of the Pietist movement that stressed the development of one’s personal relationship to Christ, as opposed to ritualbased religions and the earlier Reformation that focused on the “correct” formulation of faith. Our church continues to stress one’s personal relationship to Christ, but how


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do we promote individual personal growth? What consistent opportunities are offered for members to articulate their spirituality, the state of their souls, and specifically their personal relationship with Jesus Christ? The church is filled with “Martha” activities (those that involve work and learning): boards, committees, mission groups, choir, Sunday school,4 and so on. But when it comes to “Mary” activities (those that offer pure spiritual enrichment), we offer very few outside of worship and scattered prayer groups. As a church we are good at engaging believers—we have sound theology, rich liturgies and beautiful music; we’re friendly; we’re open to everybody—but what’s missing is a system of ongoing spiritual care for all members. While our Martha activities give us the opportunity for active service, they don’t necessarily address or ensure spiritual growth. Too many such activities can even lead to burn-out, making church feel like a job rather than a spiritual experience. The truth is, although we say we want members to develop their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we in fact offer very few opportunities for members to examine and articulate their spirituality. We may have Gemeinschaft or Cursillo opportunities, but these affect a small, select group of members. Over the course of 250 years we have lost our spiritual vocabulary: the ability (and the comfort level) to talk openly about Jesus, to talk about how Jesus is working in our lives, and to talk to others about Jesus. Just as we sometimes distance ourselves from our history, we have distanced ourselves from this spiritual vocabulary. Many Moravians think people who talk about Jesus a lot are fanatics, in part because we may disagree with their political or social views. Today most of us are timid or awkward expressing our feelings about Jesus. Even though many of us have felt the personal touch of Jesus Christ in our lives, we do not talk openly to each other about it. This is in stark contrast to the 18thcentury church, whose members verbally expressed their relationships with Christ (at least) weekly in prayer bands and monthly during private self-examination (known as “speaking” or Sprechen5) with their choir leaders in preparation for communion, as well as through correspondence, art, hymn writing, and composing a spiritual memoir, or Lebenslauf, which would be read at their funerals. Through a highly developed system of pastoral care provided through the prayer bands and choir system, Moravians of old were kept on their spiritual “tippy toes” through constant spiritual self-examination, which ensured individual spiritual growth as well as congregational health and vitality. Today we can’t expect people to grow spiritually if we never ask where they’re at or where they want to go. In other words, the sheep don’t move if they’re not prodded. Or they wander off where the spiritual grass seems greener.

Church structure and leadership

To understand how prayer bands and the choir system served church members, we must first examine 18th-century church structure and leadership, and realize that our modern church functions in a completely different way. Our modern church essentially operates as a “top down” ministry (Fig. 1). Jesus serves as our Chief Elder. We have trustees who pay the bills and take care of property, and elders who act


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as spiritual advisors to the minister and congregation. In our current system, trustees and elders essentially act like advisory boards, which serve in a more general sense on behalf of the interests of the entire congregation. No one on these boards is directly responsible for the spiritual care of members. Basically the minister is the only person in the congregation directly responsible for ministry and spiritual care of members. Many church members today believe that the minister is the only one in the church “qualified� to minister to others. The minister may or may not have a spouse, and the spouse today is not responsible for any ministry, and in some cases may choose not to attend or be involved in church at all. In terms of spiritual enrichment, participation in Sunday school, prayer and/or fellowship groups is not required and only a small percentage participates. The result is a congregation comprised of perhaps hundreds of people with vastly differing spiritual needs and experiences—all shepherded by one person, the minister.

Figure 1. 21st-Century Moravian Church Top-Down Ministry

In this impossible, Herculean role the minister simply cannot meet the spiritual needs of every single member, and consequently the only people in the congregation who receive individual pastoral care from the minister are either a) those in crisis, or b) the sick and shut-ins. The sick and shut-ins are the only people who get to talk to somebody (in this case the minister) about the state of their souls and their relationship with Jesus Christ on a regular basis. They are the only ones who get a


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time of personal introspection with a spiritual counselor who will also try to address their physical and emotional needs, pray with them and perhaps offer communion. It is no surprise that the shut-ins are often recognized as the most faithful group in terms of financial giving and seem to exhibit more personal faith than many in the congregation. On the surface it may appear that they are getting the “least” the church has to offer in terms of worship and program variety, but actually they are getting the highest quality, most individualized spiritual care the church has to offer. They express a strong relationship to Jesus Christ in part because they are regularly talking about this relationship and its development with someone else. Imagine if everyone in the congregation received this type of regular pastoral care. In the 18th century, such care was provided through the highly evolved system of lay leadership formed through the “bottom up” ministry provided by prayer bands and choirs (Fig. 2). This system of leadership functioned in stark contrast to the “top down” model of today. Although Jesus Christ was established as Chief Elder and trustees functioned much as they do today, elders played a very different role in church life. They served not as a general advisory board, but instead as a group of lay spiritual mentors known as the choir helpers, each one responsible for the pastoral care of everyone in his or her choir. The 18th-century church divided membership into choirs

Figure 2. 18th-Century Moravian Church Bottom-Up Ministry


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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.


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Zinzendorf keenly understood 18th-century notions of societal constructs and power. During the formative years of Herrnhut in the 1720s and 1730s Zinzendorf “observed that people of like circumstances quite naturally encouraged awakening and conversion in each other” and believed that “the nature of two genders was different and that Christian nurture should be tailored to each of them.”10 These beliefs, coupled with the groundswell of desire for fellowship and unity during this period of spiritual awakening, led to the development of the prayer bands and the choir system. Zinzendorf and the early Herrnhuters would have acknowledged that a 20-year-old woman, for example, was much more likely to have an open, unhindered conversation about her personal struggles with a peer than with a 60-year-old man, and vice-versa. Today we accept gender division on a private level—for example, we acknowledge the need for a “girls’ night out” or a “man cave”—but when we bring gender division into the public sphere, the practice feels quaint, discriminatory or outdated, and we reject the concept.

A 21st-century choir system

How can the church deliver quality pastoral care to all members in a way that is palatable to our modern sensibilities? We must first recognize the spiritual care and growth of our members as our top priority in maintaining congregational vitality, and commit to ensuring an opportunity for individual and small group spiritual care for each man, woman and child in every congregation. The pastoral care we give to our sick and shut-ins must be available to everybody, in all stages of life and health. Eighteenth-century Moravians knew the health of their church was directly linked to the spiritual health of each individual, and they cultivated this health in small group and individual conversations. They believed that open and clarifying pastoral conversations were critically important for the creation and preservation of a trusting atmosphere, on which the spiritual growth of a religious community depends.11 Rather than depending on the minister to provide pastoral care for everyone, we must acknowledge the spiritual gifts in our own congregations and empower lay leadership to engage in prayer and spiritual conversations with others, taking care not to get bogged down with too much official training and “qualifications.” This isn’t rocket science, but rather active listening. It’s not counseling or evaluation, but simply listening to other people’s stories and helping them to articulate their spiritual journeys. The qualifications for an 18th-century prayer band leader were pretty straightforward: The band leader’s task should be to pay attention to the state of souls, to visit them even outside the bands, to inquire after every soul in a special way and to make everything brief; not to divulge things but carry them on their heart, to teach in a very private fashion; to be a blessing and example at public worship and general prayer time. 12


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These are simple traits and abilities: intuition, visitation, brevity, privacy, spiritual leadership. In addition Peter Zimmerling has noted the band leaders delivered pastoral care distinguished by “fatherly or motherly love”13—warm, accepting, and mature. Besides the minister and elders we must identify people in our congregations willing to talk about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ in this manner and help others do the same through prayer and by asking simple, open-ended questions, for example:

• How do you know God? How has God worked in your life up to this point? • How do you feel about your current relationship with God? • Where did God work in your life this week/month? Where is God leading you? • What obstacles this week/month hampered your relationship with God? • What will you do to handle these obstacles and draw closer to God this week/month?

In reading 18th-century memoirs we know that choir leaders did not act as problem-solvers by offering specific advice and solutions, but rather directed people to turn to Christ in prayer in times of need. Like the 18th-century choir system, a modern choir system would encompass smaller prayer groups (or “bands”) composed of 5–10 people led by a peer lay leader. This pastoral care should be delivered by peers in an “authentic space”—one that is honest, open, confidential and entirely without pretense, so that people can bare their souls. What defines a “peer” group these days? Natural divisions in our congregations—perhaps according to gender, age, with or without children/spouses, geographic divisions according to neighborhood, or simply natural groups of friends. It is vital that the sense of authenticity in conversation be preserved. If people are not able to share honestly, the “band” will lose its purpose and effectiveness and devolve into another obligatory “Martha” activity. In some churches bands may already exist in the form of “cells,” “circles,” men’s and women’s fellowship or prayer groups. A new choir system would have to serve as a strictly spiritual activity (a “Mary” activity) that is purely reflective and non-judgmental. Meetings should involve only prayer, devotions, personal witness, spiritual conversation and perhaps singing; no work, learning, committees, or fund raising. After I presented this concept at our last Eastern District Conference, a friend approached me afterwards and said, “Lanie, I’m a Martha. I keep signing up for more and more activities hoping to find a deeper spiritual meaning, but I end up just feeling more swamped and wondering why I signed up for this or that committee in the first place. I don’t even like some of these committees! Something is missing—I need more Mary activities! Let’s talk!” Eighteenth-century Moravians were very conscious of member burn-out and knew it led to spiritual death if members overworked themselves while neglecting their own spiritual enrichment. Zinzendorf likened it to a spring that flows and flows until it runs dry.14 To minimize burn-out, we may try to balance member participation in


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“Mary” and “Martha” activities, perhaps requiring participation in a prayer band for those employed as teachers, committee members, and so on. The prayer bands should encourage conversation using spiritual vocabulary, so that members can practice articulating their spirituality. That means talking about how the Trinity has personally touched our lives—a thought that makes many squirm in their seats. We are not comfortable doing this, and even if we are it happens infrequently. At some point over the course of 250 years Moravians have come to equate a “personal” experience with God with one that is “private” and should not be shared with others. The evangelistic volcano of the 18th century has been buried under a bushel basket, and although we talk about Christ in a general sense in many of our church activities, we rarely make personal witness a regular activity among all of our members even though it is the most touching, motivating and effective tool of evangelism. Zinzendorf likened it to “listening to a sermon.”15 Eighteenth-century Moravians had a highly evolved spiritual vocabulary and were comfortable engaging in spiritual conversations, from children on up. Moravians must reclaim this vocabulary and use it our way, in our church, in a non-threatening way that makes others feel comfortable about talking about God so that we can grow spiritually. Again, members can’t be expected to grow spiritually without tools, vocabulary and opportunity to assess growth. In the 18th-century prayer bands, meetings were frequent—at least once a week—and brief, lasting about an hour.16 Band leaders were encouraged to keep sessions brief and focused on spiritual matters.17 My own minister, Terry Folk, tells me that he tries to limit pastoral visits to about an hour. After an hour, he says, visits tend to “turn into something else” (i.e., lose their spiritual nature). So it would seem that modern prayer bands would also be most effective in brief sessions not longer than an hour. Knowing that ministers will inevitably say it will be impossible to get people to come to church for “one more thing,” I would suggest incorporating prayer bands at first into meetings that already exist rather than trying to impose something new on the congregation. Carving a period of time for spiritual introspection (15–20 minutes) from Sunday school, worship, choir or committee meetings would not be impossible, and would probably be well received by people already actively seeking more spiritual enrichment and church participation beyond regular worship. For example, if choir normally meets Thursday nights at 7:00, how about meeting instead at 6:30 for small group prayer and reflection, dividing a large group up into smaller units? Eventually such meetings could stand on their own. In keeping with the old Moravian concept of acting as spiritual “yeast,” these small groups of people would grow in their spirituality and serve as the leaven to invigorate the rest of the congregation. In her address to the last Eastern District Conference, Susan Nienaber of the Alban Institute stressed the power of small groups. She exhorted us not to underestimate their effectiveness, stating that change best comes about through relationships and networks established by groups of 2–3 people.18 Furthermore, we should remember that prayer bands and the choir system evolved from an earnest desire from individuals to band together, pray and encourage each other. They became widespread when Zinzendorf formally


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organized practices that were already occurring naturally within the Herrnhut community. How do we get a new choir system started? Who does the initial set-up? The minister and elders, as the spiritual guides of our congregations, must be willing to participate and actively model prayer band activity. The spiritual revival in Herrnhut in 1727 happened only after Zinzendorf had spent months talking individually with each member of the fractious Herrnhut community. He “softened them up” spiritually, so to speak, by asking them to search their hearts in prayer and self-examination. The bands naturally formed and renewal took place only after people started doing this in earnest. A modern example exists. At the beginning of their ministry at Schoeneck Moravian Church, Terry and Julia Folk invited each member of the congregation to their home in small groups over a period of several weeks, giving all members the opportunity to express themselves and articulate what they loved about Schoeneck. Although time-consuming and a lot of work, the effort paid off: The sense of warmth and intimacy engendered at these initial meetings knitted us into closer fellowship and set the tone for Terry’s ministry at Schoeneck. Susan Nienaber has pointed out that characteristics of growing churches today include an atmosphere of warmth, intimacy, and authenticity in which members can rediscover the gift of spiritual discernment and also take risks.19 This description aptly captures the atmosphere surrounding 18th-century Moravian churches. In response to David Schattschneider’s inaugural article in The Hinge regarding church renewal, Betsy Miller wrote: “If we as hierarchy, clergy, and laity could be honest and vulnerable with one another—cry and pray and share our ultimate pain—then we could die to self individually and corporately. Then we could rise to new life, empowered not by the past, nor mottoes, nor directory statistics, but by the Holy Spirit.”20 Although clergy have been calling their congregations to prayer, honest sharing and spiritual renewal for years, there has been little provided to effect this change beyond earnest exhortation. Again, we say we want people to grow spiritually, but how are we helping them to do this? What is our system, our mechanism, our apparatus to effect change? Prayer bands and a new choir system are great ways to channel the Holy Spirit and bring about this spiritual renewal in our denomination. Prayer bands can also be helpful in dealing with conflict. Susan Nienaber has stated that having strong personal bonds and a sense of purposefulness in a congregation decreases the likelihood of conflict.21 Although prayer bands should not serve as the forum for hashing out difficult issues, the strong personal bonds forged by prayer bands would help us be more respectful of each other when difficult conversations arise by making it harder to objectify others with different points of view.22 When we share our personal experiences with Jesus Christ, we must then truly acknowledge that Christ indeed lives in each of us, and does not only appear to a select few. With prayer bands we can prepare ourselves to overcome serious difficulties in our denomination. This would be especially helpful as we begin to address the ordination of homosexuals over the next few years in our church, an issue that threatens our


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core unity due to strong, culturally divergent opinions on the subject. Heartfelt conversations in the prayer bands would help us to look across the aisle and see not a stranger in the pew, but Christ. In this way 18th-century Moravians overcame cultural differences in order to bring Christ’s message to the people of six continents. The success of their community-building, expansion and ability to negotiate conflict rested on their individual spiritual health: the ability to spiritually care for each and every member. We are now challenged with creating a modern system that will help members make an honest spiritual inventory and then set them on a path of spiritual growth, with a deeper relationship with Christ as the ever-present goal. Our unity and the future of our denomination depend on it.

Guidelines for a 21st-Century Choir System

A modern choir system: • must provide individual and small group spiritual care • involving lay leadership • and delivered by peers in an “authentic space” • with strictly spiritual activities (“Mary” activities— speaking, listening, praying, singing, devotions) • and using our spiritual vocabulary • through sessions that are frequent (weekly, or at least monthly) • and brief (at least 15 minutes, but not more than an hour). • This is a purely reflective activity. • This is for children and adults. • This is not Bible study, Sunday school or some other “learning” activity. • This is not a committee, mission or some other “work” activity. • This is not large-group worship. • Each group or individual session must give a person an opportunity not merely to think about, but to articulate in words the state of his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.

Consequences • • • •

The individual will develop his or her spiritual relationship with Christ. The individual will deepen fellowship with his or her peers. Active lay leadership will allow minister more time for creative ministry and vision. The entire congregation will be reinvigorated by small groups of highly motivated Christians.


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Endnotes 1. Although some research has been done on the 18th-century choir system and prayer bands, a thorough, modern history of this subject is needed. Current sources include Peter Zimmerling, “Pastoral Care in the Community: Zinzendorf and Pastoral Care,” TMDK 11 (March 1997), 53–67; Arthur Freeman, “Gemeine: Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf ’s Understanding of the Church,” Brethren Life and Thought 47, no. 1–2 (Winter– Spring 2002), 1–17; Beverly Smaby, “Forming the Single Sisters’ Choir in Bethlehem,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994), 1–14; Gottfried Schmidt, “Die Bander oder Gesellschaften im alten Herrnhut,” Zeitschrift für Brüdergeschichte 3 (1909), 145–207. 2. Hans-Walter Erbe, “Herrnhaag—Tiefpunkt oder Höhepunkt der Brüdergeschichte,” Unitas Fratrum 26 (Hamburg: Friedrich Wittig Verlag), 45–46. 3. Statistics regarding total membership found in Directory and Statistics: Moravian Church in North America, Northern and Southern Provinces (Bethlehem: Interprovincial Board of Communication). For example, 2009 Northern Provincial total membership published in the 2011 directory was reported as 21,822; 2003 Northern Provincial total membership published in the 2006 directory was reported as 26,213. Steady decline can be traced back to the 1980s, at least. 4. Although these activities can be spiritually enriching, they don’t necessarily lead to or guarantee spiritual enrichment. When fellowship groups focus on prayer and talking to peers about spiritual matters, they serve as excellent spiritual enrichment. However, if they devolve into work committees while neglecting spiritual enrichment, they completely defeat the purpose. Furthermore, one can attend years of Sunday school and spend considerable time learning about the Bible without ever having to examine oneself spiritually. Sunday school is learning, an intellectual activity, which is still mental work: we learn about scripture, Moravian history, etc. Sunday school should not be considered a substitute for pure meditation and spiritual introspection. In his article regarding Zinzendorf ’s ideas on education, Peter Vogt has shown that Zinzendorf warned against “head scholarship” (Kopf-wissenschaft), which could in no way substitute for the living faith of true Christian believers. For more on Zinzendorf ’s ideas on this matter, see Vogt’s article, “‘Headless and Un-Erudite’: Anti-Intellectual Tendencies in Zinzendorf ’s Approach to Education,” in Self, Community, World: Moravian Education in a Transatlantic World, ed. Heikki Lempa and Paul Peucker (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2010), 107–126. 5. For more information on the process of “speaking,” see Katherine Faull, “Girl Talk: The Role of the ‘Speakings’ in the Pastoral Care of the Older Girls’ Choir,” Journal of Moravian History 6 (Spring 2009), 77–100. 6. Minutes of the Fetter Lane Elders’ Conference, June 29, 1744 (C/36/10/3), Moravian Archives, London, England (hereafter cited as MAL). Emphasis in original. The London records are excellent sources for English speakers who are unable to read German.

7. Zimmerling, “Pastoral Care in the Community,” 58–59. 8. Innocently; without pretense. 9. Minutes of the Fetter Lane Elders’ Conference, June 29, 1744 (C/36/10/3), MAL. 10 . Beverly Smaby, “Gender Prescriptions in 18thcentury Bethlehem,” in Backcountry Crucibles: The Lehigh Valley from Settlement to Steel, eds. Jean Soderlund and Catherine Parzynski (Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 2008), 74–103 (78). 11. Hans-Christoph Hahn and Hellmut Reichel, eds., Zinzendorf und die Herrnhuter Brüder: Quellen zur Geschichte der Brüder-Unität von 1722 bis 1760 (Hamburg: Friedrich Wittig Verlag, 1977), 259: “Offene und klärende seelsorgerliche Gespräche waren für ihn [Zinzendorf ] von entscheidener Wichtigkeit für die Schaffung und Erhaltung einer vertrauensvollen Atmosphäre, auf die das geistliche Wachstum einer Gemeinschaft angewiesen ist.” 12 . Zimmerling, 61–62, quoting the Herrnhut diary, November 19, 1735, as cited in Gottfired Schmidt, “Die Banden oder Gesellschaften im alten Herrnhut,” in Zeitschrift für Brüdergeschichte 3 (1909), 145–207 (176). 13 . Ibid., 61. 14. Zinzendorf, Homilien über die Wundenlitanei 1747, 384, quoted in Hahn and Reichel, Zinzendorf und die Herrnhuter Brüder, 267. “Ein Zeuge sein ist recht gut, aber sein eignes Gefühl, seine eigene Gnade und Seligkeit verplaudern und unterdessen, daß man andere Leute herzuruft, seine eigene Erfahrung negligieren, über dem Ausfließen selbst vertrocknen und sich selbst so ausschöpfen lassen, wie man einen Brunnen austrocknet, daß nichts mehr da ist, das geht unmöglich an.” 15. Hahn and Reichel, Zinzendorf und die Herrnhuter Brüder, 265: “[Bei schwierige Gesprächen] ist meine Methode, daß, wenn die Leute zwei oder drei Stunden reden, so rede ich nicht ein Wort, sondern ich denke, ich bin in einer Predigt, und höre zu.” 16. Zimmerling, “Pastoral Care in the Community,” 60. 17. Ibid., 61–62. 18. Susan Nienaber, Senior Consultant, Alban Institute, presenting at the Moravian Church Eastern District Conference, “Reflect Renew Respond,” Bethlehem, Pa., July 23, 2011. 19. Ibid. 20. Betsy Miller, The Hinge, vol. 1, no. 1 ( July 1990), 23. 21. Nienaber, at “Reflect Renew Respond.” 22. Sharon Brown, Director of Institutional Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Moravian College, presenting on “Dealing with Controversy” at the Moravian Church Eastern District Conference, “Reflect Renew Respond,” Bethlehem, Pa., July 21–24, 2011. In her presentation, Brown spoke on the tendency to “objectify” and thereby disregard others with whom we disagree.


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Responses James Lavoy Sister Eva Lanius was a member of the Single Sisters’ Choir in Bethlehem, where she was offered the opportunity to truly wrestle with her faith despite her earlier conformity to the exciting ways of the world. As she began to consider what it must be like to lead a spiritual life, a life in relationship with Christ, things began to change for her: “When one of my comrades progressed further in the grace of the Congregation and I had to remain behind, this served me as an opportunity to examine the condition of my heart.... After this I spoke openly about everything with my Choir Labouress, who led me in a truly motherly way to the dear Saviour’s infinite grace, faithfulness, and mercy.”1 Human beings verbally communicate with one another, and the gift of authentic conversation can provide heartfelt meaning. People have told me, on multiple occasions, that I seem to have learned the “right thing” to say and the “right time” to say it. But in disputes with friends and family, saying these “right things” does not lead to an honest conversation, and of course, our relationship does not progress; it stagnates, or declines. Sister Graf says the Moravian Church seems to be in a period of stagnation and decline—not progress. Of course, the Moravians are not alone. A 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life indicates that 33 percent of people between 18 and 30 are active in a Christian faith community, compared to the 41 percent of participation aged 30 and above.2 Perhaps there is a correlation between a community that finds it difficult to engage in authentic conversation and a community in decline. This trend is not a reason to be dismayed or to give up on the Moravians’ mission to share the Good News. It is, however, a reason to take notice. Like Sister Lanius in the 1750s, most people, including a large majority of people under aged 30, find the secular world to be much more exciting than developing a relationship with Christ and his church. Christians in general have been depicted as a group of people who are superstitious, scandal-prone, and hateful. Perhaps our small size makes North American Moravians timid about sharing what we find positive about our church, including sound theology and beautiful liturgy. We claim unintrusiveness, and we don’t seem confident in speaking authentically. Is it possible that the liturgies we love are sometimes a barrier to authentic conversation? A Moravian expectation, as I have witnessed it, is that we give one day of our week to God by reading the bold print and singing the words from 1747. Is reading the liturgy, perhaps our singular spiritual engagement for the week, speaking authentically? Or is it “knowing the ‘right’ thing to say at the ‘right’ time”? A Moravian truth, as I have witnessed it, is that Moravians deeply care for one another, and we desire a deeper relationship with Christ. Can authentic conversation help us better live this truth? David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, a religious research organization, has recently written a book called You Lost Me: Why Young Christians


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Are Leaving Church ... and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011). His work concludes, in very real and concrete terms, that young people find religious organizations unwilling and thus unable to process, validate, or answer the complicated ethical and lifestyle issues of this generation. I suspect that this also resonates with people of older generations. Prayer bands, with good leadership, regular meeting, and attention to a safe and trustworthy space, are an obvious and deep solution. Sister Graf writes, “The sheep don’t move if they’re not prodded. Or they wander off where the spiritual grass seems greener.” Many in our church undoubtedly see the importance of vital, challenging pastoral care provided by these prayer bands. If we Moravians still think that our message—Christ’s message—is important for the future, we really need to get people talking. Authentically. 1. Katherine M. Faull, Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives, 1750–1820 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997), 13.

2. Allison Pond, Gregory Smith, and Scott Clement, “Religion Among the Millennials,” Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, http://www.pewforum.org/ Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx.

James Lavoy is a third-year student at Moravian Theological Seminary and a candidate for ordination in the Northern Province. He is a pastoral intern at Redeemer Moravian Church in Philadelphia.

Lisa Mullen It’s a teacher workday and my son’s friend’s mom is in the hospital, so I have offered to stay with the boys. At the friend’s house, I listen from the dining room table where my work is spread out. The boys are intent on their Xbox virtual warfare strategy: “There’s that dude… he’s got that thing,” my son says. “A Glock,” his friend at his “command post” responds. He multitasks by talking with another friend at another house on his blue tooth, while helping my son identify the weapon. “Yeah… Hey there,” my son says in a sing-song voice, as he hits his target. I hear machine gun fire and the virtual agony of his victim. “I never got to use one of these... [a new kind of gun, I guess] ... It makes me so happy!” I look at the screen to see what they are playing, and the name on the screen reads, “Killcom.” We don’t have Xbox at our house. My son has spent hours at his friend’s house and I can clearly see that he knows this game very well. He is racking up “double-kill” and triple-kill” points. It’s hard for parents to keep up with everything to which our kids are exposed. When my son brought home a permission slip regarding his school’s movie choices, I not only refused to check the permission box, but also added a few comments about the fact that I sent my son to a Quaker school for a reason and that it was not OK for


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my thirteen-year-old to see Poltergeist and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at their lock-in. A teacher friend told me that perhaps I overreacted. This is the world my son lives in, and it’s the world our families are trying to navigate as we try to keep our eyes on our “north star” of this wild ocean. Suffice it to say, our society is very different from the one where our early Moravian brothers lived, labored, sang, served and died. Their exclusive devotion to Christ, their knowledge of Scripture, their Christian practices, and shared oecumene were beautiful. The choir system, thank goodness, served to regulate behavior so that the community didn’t have to resort to blows or expulsion when their brothers or sisters behaved badly. So how do we take Sister Graf ’s proposal to heart and find new and creative ways to care for one another spiritually? I feel that she underestimates what we are doing in our churches to help each other grow up into Christ. Gemeinschaft (or a briefer alternative), Loving Hearts United (a guide for families—modern-day choirs?), Stephen Ministry (which requires training), Sunday school, The Way of the Child, and mission camps (which should have an intentional devotional component)—these are already strong ways of our being inwardly formed and informed. May we never forget the spiritual mentoring which happens both intentionally and naturally in our summer camps. One of my vows as an educator and pastor is that I always attend to the joyful task of equipping all of my sisters and brothers for their work in ministry. Indeed, if we are servants of simple and humble character, we shouldn’t have to use the words “top down.” Perhaps Sister Graf overstates the simplicity of her proposal; at any rate, it raises some questions for me. How do these lay leaders get selected? Do they rotate? How can we create an “authentic” place of trust where we can bear one another’s burdens and have heartfelt conversations? I resonate with the intent of my sister’s proposal for a new choir system. I do, however, have a problem with some of her dichotomies, like separating the “strictly spiritual Mary activities” from the “learning” or mission “work activity,” because I sincerely believe that the mundane realm is precisely the place where the Holy Spirit chooses to work. It is in our daily, workaday lives that we labor in great love and find our sacred calling. Some men, for instance, might not be given to articulating their faith verbally, but would share in a Habitat building project with great piety. I’ve seen them cry as the keys are placed in the hands of a new homeowner. I hear the wisdom of our archivist. Let’s find ways to speak to one another, to pray and care for souls of everyone in Christ’s church. Let’s intentionally try to carve out of our busy schedules time and space for quiet (even a mere fifteen minutes, as Sister Graf suggests), for listening to God and to one another, for paying close attention to one another. If we don’t, we must remember that the toy marketers would love to lay claim to our children. Keep in mind soccer games, kids of divorce, full-time jobs and that commute as we sincerely learn from our spiritual forebears.


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Thank you, Sister Graf, for this thought-provoking article. Maybe we shall look at forming some new choirs. As a Christian parent I could use some help, and I know a few other parents who would welcome such a kind, trusting and fruitful ministry. Rev. Lisa Mullen is a member of Konnoak Hills Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC

Brian R. Dixon Sadly, I confess that I began Sister Graf ’s article suspicious of what I mistakenly believed would be a congratulatory exposition of the superior work and witness of our “glorious forefathers.” Hard-pressed between extremes of sentimental obsession and the hero-worship she names, I am humbly and gratefully indebted to our assistant archivist for showing me a “more excellent way.” That said, I feel that mine may be precisely the kind of ignorance and prejudicial attitude toward faith expressions of 18th century Moravians that presents the first of three significant challenges to be addressed in consideration of a 21st century choir system. The first challenge is education and enlightenment; the work of our archivists is a ministry to be greatly appreciated and encouraged. The remaining challenges are primarily matters of our understanding and expectations of pastoral ministry. If, as I think Sister Graf rightly states, there is a causal relationship between the spiritual health and maturity of individual congregants and the vitality of churches and our denomination as a whole, then it follows that spiritual health and maturity must not only be self-evident truths we espouse, but priority commitments that we faithfully honor and earnestly pursue. Thinking back on my own experience as a lay leader, I think that Sister Graf ’s assessment is fair. I did see myself and the board of elders functioning primarily as spiritual advisors to the pastor, who was directly responsible for the spiritual care of members. Our efforts and energies were largely focused on this lone individual, whom we wished to encourage and support in his ministry to our community. In order for us to engage in the kinds of intensive and personal spiritual listening, conversation and counsel that our 18th century predecessors seemed to be able to offer one another, it will be necessary for the laity to see themselves and our pastors in a new light. I foresee two specific difficulties they might experience: taking on roles for which they feel either unqualified or improperly authorized, and taking on responsibilities that they strongly feel belong to someone else. Exploring the biblical concept of being fellow workers and co-laborers for the sake of the Gospel may help foster the requisite sense of partnership and fellowship in the work of spiritual care. It seems to me that those choir leaders and prayer bands of long ago must have put in the long hours and hard work it took to form lasting bonds; to build trust and intimacy; to develop and nurture authentic relationships within which the spiritual life


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of the community could most effectively be helped to grow and bear fruit. I believe that there are many expressions of choirs and prayer bands at work and witness in our churches today. My sense is that the communities in which we will find them do have a vocabulary and a working understanding of discipleship, the priesthood of believers, and what it means to be members together of the servant body of Christ. The third challenge that I hear from Sister Graf is one that I will own myself as a pastor. In order for those I serve to be challenged and encouraged to take on and take hold of the pastoral work of caring for souls—for the good of the spiritual health and maturity of the Church—I must be willing to let go of some of this work. I must be willing to take on and to take seriously the pastoral work of equipping the saints for the work of ministry (instead of trying to be a saint by doing all the work myself ). I will not presume to speak for any of my colleagues in this matter, but it seems only human to struggle with the idea of “giving your job away.” Pastors may feel guilty about burdening laypersons with pastoral tasks on top of their many other commitments. We may fear to find that people without theological education, credentials or years of ministry experience can also listen and pray deeply with others, can also extend the grace and mercy and peace of Christ to hurting souls. Whatever the case may be, I believe that the risks are well worth it. And I am almost certain that what will help the laity with their challenge, will help us pastors with ours: “We all are one in mission, we all are one in call, our varied gifts united by Christ, the Lord of all.”1 So let us be hopeful and purposeful in our letting go and trusting more; in the sharing of burdens; and in reminding one another that we are brothers and sisters among brothers and sisters, servants among servants—one in mission, one in call. Thank you, Sister Lanie, for showing us a way forward together that has been traveled before by humble folk (not heroes) whose boast was probably not in any patristic glory, but in the beauty of being part of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1–16). I look forward to traveling these paths with you, and with them! 1. Rusty Edwards, “We All Are One in Mission,” © 1986 Hope Publishing Company. Hymn 620 in the Moravian Book of Worship.

Rev. Brian R. Dixon is the pastor of Lake Auburn Moravian Church in Victoria, Minnesota.

Sarah Groves Over the past weeks it has been a pleasure to read and reread the paper from Sister Lanie Graf. It has been a welcome jolt from the past and a needed prompt for the present. Last year I moved from England to Northern Ireland, and now I serve in a busy congregation in County Antrim. One of the real joys of living here is the seriousness with which personal Christian faith and church attendance is addressed in the private


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and public sphere. However, most people are still reticent about their daily walk with Jesus. It doesn’t mean that people are not deeply faithful and believing but that we have, as Lanie suggests, lost the spiritual vocabulary to express this to others. This is a real problem for us as individuals in our own spiritual walk, as congregations seeking to grow and support each other, and as evangelists seeking to share the good news of Jesus with others. As ministers and pastors we may well be suspicious of organized prayer bands. Many of us have had bad experiences of people who have real personality and mental health issues dominating small prayer groups, and this will always be a worry. Then there are the people in the church who, because they have recently had a touch from the Lord, can so easily (and unintentionally) alienate the rest of the folk in the pews with their “super spirituality.” There is also the constant worry over gossip that can easily overtake prayer time, and the need for vigilance to respect the privacy of individuals and situations. I suspect gossip has always been an issue in congregations, but expectations of personal privacy around issues of health and income are now very different from what they were in the 18th century. Lastly, an overemphasis on growth as the only measure of a church’s health would concern me. Falling numbers are a real issue for us all, but changes in society can also have profound effects on the way that churches operate. Traditional models of church need to be addressed as our current structures may completely miss the needs of present and future generations. So there are down sides to prayer bands and also broader issues in society that are changing patterns of church attendance. However, our inability to articulate our faith and share in prayer with others has to be tackled. In the British Province there is no hostility to ideas from the past—in fact, they would be a positive selling point as we are looking to take things old and new from our store (Matt 13:52). There is a real desire here to be open to renewal and a real puzzlement about why that doesn’t happen. One of our bishops, Sister Beth Torkington, commented that “profound honesty and opening up, to each other and before God, is essential” (in her address to the Provincial Fellowship Day 2011). Small prayer bands could be that space for honesty, confession and intercession before God and each other. I would like to try to move forward on this by passing Lanie’s paper and my response on to the church committee I work with. British church committees act as both trustees and elders to the congregation, and most British ministers serve two congregations, so time is always short for ministers and committees. Of course, it is the things of the Spirit that always get squeezed. However, the idea of small prayer bands could start simply, if this was a vision shared by the church elders and owned by a good number in the congregation, and if it was clear that participation was voluntary. The words Lanie quoted from the Minutes of the Fetter Lane Elders Conference are deeply attractive and could become the basis of a new “Brotherly Agreement” for these little groups. This matter is of the highest priority for us. Spiritual conversation and times of open prayer between members of the congregation are precious legacies from the past


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that we are not using, and it is an opportunity to walk in closer fellowship with our Savior and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sarah Groves is minister of Gracehill Moravian Church, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. She also serves as a part time member of the PEC of the British Province.

Matthew Knapp I read Lanie’s article with great interest. This topic of reconsidering the choir system was recently discussed at our house. On the first Sunday in Advent the children of the church sang the first part of the Hosanna as is our custom. We seated them as a group in the first several pews. When they finished singing they remained up front and center. I was not preaching that Sunday, and it was an enjoyable worship service for me as I was able to witness the fidgeting, scribbling, whispering, giggling, and even (sometimes) paying attention to the sermon. The first and second graders were in the front pew with our children’s choir director seated in the middle of them. When it seemed the bubble would burst the director, without looking, would reach down the pew and stroke the head of the ticking bomb until he or she would calm down. The children were simply amazing. So amazing that throughout the proceeding I would watch parents’ heads popping up all over the congregation, looking forward to see their child actually behaving without their supervision. I went home that Sunday and suggested to my wife Kim, our children’s choir director, that I thought the children should all sit together in their “choir” each Sunday with her in the front pew. Needless to say, that idea was not well received. Children and adults suffer from a lack of communal relationships that nurture them. We may sometimes applaud the demise of antiquated institutions, but we may also forget that those institutions were created to meet needs. There is a need for space for public life that exposes both young and old to different places, different perspectives and different relationships besides those of the home, school, and work. The church is uniquely gifted to create this space and foster these relationships. What a shock it was for those parents to discover that their children would actually worship, behave, and participate under the supervision of someone else that Sunday! I would welcome a reimagining of the choir system if its purpose was to nurture relationships. My only concern with Lanie’s proposal is that I find the focus on the purely “spiritual” practices of prayer and devotion too limiting for my interests. Action partnered with reflection is a powerful agent of spiritual growth. But I will confess my personal bias here. My most profound spiritual experiences have never occurred in Bible study or group prayer. I’m the guy who always has an itch as soon as the group joins hands. I applaud the basic concept that we need more places for spiritual formation, but I hope we can recognize that worship and devotion can take many


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forms. They can happen with the quilters, or the guys who get together and paint the dining room, or the group of teenage girls who get together every week to sing. What we have misplaced is the ability to translate what is holy in the whole of our life together. I think what was offered by Sister Lanie should be the beginning of a much needed conversation on how we attend to community in the mission before us. Matthew Knapp is pastor of the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Maggie Wellert At the ecumenical table, we Moravians claim that our contribution to the extended Body of Christ is the gift of Relational Theology. I visualize this relational theology in the shape of a cross. The grounded central support is the relationship I share with God through Christ Jesus. The horizontal bar represents the way I live out that God connection with my neighbor. Hold your arms wide open for just a moment, assuming this cruciform shape. This is the posture of relational theology—arms open wide, vital organs easily exposed; like the submissive roll-over of your puppy, this is a posture of vulnerability. Vulnerability does not come easily to most of us; our culture encourages rugged individualism, encourages us to see life as a competition to be won at all costs. Unfortunately we tend to have a different posture: arms crossed, covering our chest, protecting ourselves from any incursion by others. This posture proclaims, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” It gets in the way of consensus building and avoids conversation that might lead me to change my mind. Sister Graf offers a consideration of lay ministry and pastoral care that helps us move toward an arms-wide-open vulnerability, by moving us in baby steps, starting within groups that already have a common purpose in our communities, and moving outward into other circles so that all members of the congregation are gathered in circles of sharing. The reality of our current over-busy lives is that, even within the church, we will manage to get together to solve a problem, plan a program, practice a piece of music, or pay the bills—tasks that need to be completed—but we have moved “spiritual growth” into the column of non-essential. We give lip service to the value of prayer, Bible study, mutual conversation and consolation, yet avoid giving up the time needed to develop those practices. These are the very practices that help us grow in relationship with God and neighbor, which means growing in trust. As we learn to trust one another and God more deeply, we gradually loosen that arms-crossed posture, and live more openly and freely, less afraid of “other.” Though I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support a reframing of these significant practices of the Renewed Moravian Church, I am not at all sure God blesses a ministry of spiritual growth intended to grow our denomination. I might go so far as to argue that one sign of denominational health and vitality might be


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to embrace the reality that “denomination” may no longer be a life-giving way to be church. A healthy denomination may be one that embraces dying to self in order to allow God’s resurrection power to breathe life into a new way of being the Moravian Church. Lay leadership and shared pastoral care are indeed vital as we explore what it is going to mean to be “church” in the new century. I also regret the “Martha-Mary” dichotomy of “busy-work” over against “purely spiritual” time. Bruce Epperly writes, “The church as the body of Christ exists to join seamlessly the inner journey of contemplation and the outer journey of action in its vocation as God’s partner in bringing healing and wholeness to all creation.”1 Contemplation (spiritual growth “choirs” and prayer bands) is never for its own sake; it is not for the sole purpose of trusting God so I will get to heaven. It is an avenue for discerning God’s call into action for me and for the community—where best to put our individual and collective energy to bring about God’s Garden-of-Eden vision of shalom: wholeness and healing. The very spiritual ancestors who found great comfort and challenge in these spiritual practices had no intention of starting a denomination. They heard the call to serve the Savior by living the good news of this whole and holy life in Christ, so others might recognize their own longing for an intimate relationship with the Savior and follow their own call to healing. I am so very grateful that Sister Graf has reminded us of our roots and that the practices of our forefathers and foremothers are not time sensitive, but timeless practices that assist us in our own cruciform living. If we learn to live with the selfless, trusting love of Christ, who knows what doors God will open for us individually, for our local church communities, and—who knows—even for our denomination. 1. Bruce G. Epperly, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2008), 123.

Rev. Maggie Wellert is pastor of Great Kills Moravian Church on Staten Island, New York.

Bevon White First off, I find it interesting that Sister Graf describes the modern leadership model of the Moravian church as “top down,” when just a few months ago someone told me that what they find most attractive about the Moravian Church, compared to their own denomination, was our “bottom up” style of leadership. Could it be that what we are and how we are perceived are actually different? I agree that there needs to be a better system of care for congregants and that we have a rich heritage upon which we can draw. We must, however, seek the reasons for our being where we are today. Did we replace the choir system with the seminary trained leader, expecting the same level of interaction from one or two individuals that


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Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st-Century Choir System

was given by a group? Is this a reflection of a trend within the wider society? In other words, did we lose a good and effective system to modernization? In part, yes, but to a large extent I believe we lost out to the individualism movement. This movement was always in existence but gained prominence during the years following World War II. It shifted the focus from community to “human individuality and freedom.”1 I believe it was during this period that we put aside a lot of our community-based systems. What I would like us to ask ourselves today is, “With what have we replaced the choir systems of the past?” I remember that when I was growing up in Jamaica, our home was the meeting place for the prayer cell of our district. We met weekly, and the service was led by my mother, who was not a member of any boards at the time. Services included singing, sharing of testimony (what God had done for each person during the past week), discussion of a biblical passage and prayers by each person present. There were such meetings going on in each community with members from the church. When I became a pastor this was one way the congregations I served grew. Then there are the auxiliaries of the congregation such as Sunday school, youth fellowship, men’s fellowship, women’s fellowship, and so on. Each of these groups has the opportunity, in planning their programs, to include activities that will create the very thing that the choir system was designed to do. Another thing to consider is primary focus. Whereas the Caribbean congregations tend to focus on internal growth and spiritual development of members, in the American provinces a lot of focus is placed on external missions and spiritual development of other areas of ministry. Both areas of focus are important, but one has more intrinsic spiritual value to the congregation than the other. Many times, those from affluent societies who have gone on mission trips to poorer countries or communities have testified to the spiritual richness of those they went to minister to. There is a perception that the recipients of the physical gifts of missions are more spiritually mature than the givers. What, then, do the recipients of physical gifts have that could be of spiritual benefit to the givers? Something is needed by both groups, and available to both groups, through mutual missions. The Moravian Church in which I grew up and have pastored for the past 23 years has always postulated that it is never enough for the church to meet only once per week. A typical week in many congregations would begin with Sunday school, followed by corporate worship. Then there would be Sunday evening worship or prayer meeting in some cases. All congregations would meet again at least once per week for Bible study, led by the pastor; then there are the different meetings such as cell groups and fellowships. The idea is to provide a place for everyone within the congregation to have a voice, have their spiritual needs met, and develop fellowship with other members of the congregation. The goals of the choir system remain what we want to achieve as a church today. I agree that there are going to be difficulties if we try to reintroduce such a system in today’s world. I believe that another alternative is to look within the provinces of the Unity to areas where those goals are being met and to pull from them what is needed.


The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

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The goal of a better system of care for the members of the church will be achieved, which will lead to spiritual growth of the community as well as of individuals, while giving us the added benefit of the Unity being more unified in its practices. 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism

Bevon White, an ordained minister of the Jamaica Province for 23 years, is currently an MATS student at Moravian Theological Seminary.

Jill Vogt Sister Graf presents us with a convincing argument on the value of rediscovering the choir system and integrating the prayer bands into modern Moravian life as a way of strengthening spiritual care in our often task-oriented congregations. I think that she accurately portrays much of modern American church life as “Martha” activity, in groups that have primarily social or social service goals, to the exclusion of “Mary” type groups, which allow for spiritual introspection and growth. She is also very accurate in her observation that in most congregations spiritual care is left primarily to the pastor, who is usually able to offer spiritual care to people only in emergency situations. In my opinion, there is much to be gained from fostering spiritual growth through small groups and the use of trained lay people as early Moravians did and increasing the rhythm of our prayer life in our congregations. The question is whether it is possible to use this model that began in a communal society and apply it to the hectic and highly individualized society of today. I accept Sister Graf ’s argument that the center of Moravian faith is the personal experience of our relationship with God. For this reason, having groups discuss spirituality is not so much an historical issue as it is theological. Moravian spirituality encourages people to testify about their personal experience of the Savior. In order to share that experience, one has to have someone with whom to share it, hence the formation of prayer bands where believers could tell their stories and receive encouragement and advice on how to expand their spiritual lives. This was true in the eighteenth century, and I believe that even today spirituality is the foundation of community life. Therefore we must seriously consider how to encourage a lively, thoughtful, unfolding and shared experience of the Savior in the individual and corporate lives of our members. In Germany, the choir system still exists to some degree in most of the traditional congregations. For practical reasons, some of the original choirs have been merged, and their importance differs from congregation to congregation. In Niesky, for example, all members technically belong to a choir group: married couples, single people, widows and so on. Choir membership is included on the official membership list and all changes are noted, for example when someone is married. Choirs gather periodically for fellowship or Bible study, particularly the sisters, and often gather with


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Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st-Century Choir System

the choirs of other congregations for meetings or prayer groups. Some congregations still have the office of choir leader who is responsible for the activities of the choir as well as some pastoral care. The strength of the choirs is that no one is forgotten and that while everyone has something in common (for example, being single women) there is still a huge diversity in the group through age, social class, or position in the congregation. However, because Moravians no longer live in choir communities it is very difficult to have the kind of regular rhythm that used to exist with daily short meetings and weekly services. An even more delicate challenge is adjusting these groups to fit the diverse populations of the present social reality, like non-married couples living together, gay couples, divorced people, or single people living in communities. In Niesky we addressed this problem by replacing the single persons’ choir with the “bunte Chor” or “colorful choir” (see 1 Peter 4:10), which presently includes sisters and brothers who are divorced or separated, widowed, or even our deaconesses who are unmarried but live in community. Small groups are important, but they must support and reflect the lives of church members. They must not be popularity groups, or church life will dissolve into cliques. People in Zinzendorf ’s time did not choose to participate in small groups; they were required to be in one. While I would certainly not want this rigidity to be a part of my life today, I have come to value the gift of fellowship and love that can bloom under the spirit among those with whom I thought I had little in common. In conclusion I would like to lift up two relevant practices from Moravian history. The first is the Lebenslauf (spiritual autobiography). Sister Graf refers to the importance of encouraging people to develop their spiritual vocabulary and to better articulate their spirituality. Here in Germany, we are dealing with the very same thing. The tradition of writing a Lebenslauf, still practiced in Germany, is one helpful tool. It is a tradition worth reviving in the American provinces. Second, I call attention to one important aspect of choir life that was not mentioned: the choir celebrations. Each choir has a Sunday set aside as their day of celebration. In the service all church members celebrate the contributions of that choir to the life of the church, and after the service choir members share a special communion service together. In the afternoon there is a choir gathering with lovefeast buns or cake and a program. It is a special day, and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate where you are in your life’s journey. My experience in Germany has made me realize that the choir system is a precious treasure that can be built upon to strengthen the spiritual life of our congregations. I am grateful to Sister Graf for leading us in this direction.

Rev. Jill Vogt comes to the Moravian Church from the United Church of Christ. Living in Germany since 2001, she serves as co-pastor of the Moravian congregation at Niesky.


Editorial Board Craig Atwood, Jane Burcaw, Christy Clore, Otto Dreydoppel, Sarah Groves, Margaret Leinbach, Russell May, Jeff Mortimore, Hans-Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Graham Rights, Volker Schultz, Neil Thomlinson Co-Editors: Ginny Hege Tobiassen, Janel Rice, Christian Rice

Send letters to the editor, articles, book reviews, and other contributions to co-editor Ginny Hege Tobiassen at: virginiaT1@bellsouth.net

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Hinge 18.3: Learning from Our Past: Ideas for a 21st Century Choir System  

International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

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