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The HINGE International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century? Notes from the Editors..........................................1

Rosemary Power.................................................3 Responses Judith Justice .............................................................10 Laura Thomas Howell.............................................12 Jill Kolodziej..............................................................13 Rick Beck ..................................................................15 Emily B. Wallace ......................................................16 Jill E. Vogt ..................................................................18

The Author Responds..........................................20 Featured Sermon: Nola Reed Knouse.............21

Vol. 20, No. 1: Summer 2014

The HINGE Volume 20, Number 1: Summer 2014 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. 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 In this issue of The Hinge, we discuss the controversial topic of Celtic Christianity, which became popular toward the end of the last century. Celtic Christianity draws on ancient prayers of Irish and Scottish Christians and the traditions of communities like Iona to promote a Trinitarian theology that is more rooted in the blessedness of creation than in the idea of a substitutionary atonement. Many people on both sides of the Atlantic have been nourished by this creation-based spirituality that values sacred places and the living presence of Christ within us, but others have viewed Celtic Christianity as a form of neo-paganism that undermines orthodox teaching. Rosemary Power is one of the world’s great authorities on Celtic Christianity and spirituality, and she has strong connections to the British Province of the Moravian Church, including serving as the editor of the Moravian Messenger that provides news on Moravian missions. In her article she challenges some of the assumptions people make about Celtic Christianity, whether positive and negative, and argues that the 21st century church should recover more of the authentic tradition of early Christianity in the British Isles. She notes that the Christianity of St. Columba was complex and rooted both in ancient Catholicism and the Celtic context. A modern form of Celtic Christianity should likewise be rooted in the deep traditions of faith and engage our contemporary context in which creation has been profoundly affected by human action. Rather than simply using Celtic Christianity as a cover for individualistic therapeutic and aesthetic spirituality, perhaps we need to recover some of the old Celtic ascetic sense of responsibility for our actions in the world.

Changes for The Hinge

The Hinge will soon be twenty-five years old! This discussion forum was created in 1990 and has endured through many changes, including changes of editors and changes of name. Most recently the editors were Ginny Tobiassen and Janel Rice. Rev. Tobiassen is now Associate Pastor at Home Moravian Church, and her duties made it difficult to continue in her role as editor. Ginny brought a new level of professionalism to The Hinge, and she will be missed. For the time being at least, Craig Atwood has resumed his role as an editor, working closely with Janel Rice. The editorial board has also gone through some changes. We welcome Zach Dease, Laura Gordon, Sam Gray, Justin Rabbach, Mike Riess, David Schattschneider, and Peter Vogt to the Board, and we welcome back Sarah Grove, Hans Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Volker Schultz, and Livingstone Thompson. It is an international board, and we hope that The Hinge will live up to its mission of being a forum for cross-cultural dialog. There is another big change coming to The Hinge. This is the last issue that will be produced at Moravian Theological Seminary. Thanks to the hard work of Jane Weber (formerly Burcaw), in 2002 the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Theological Seminary became the publisher of The Hinge. The Editorial Board


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

was responsible for the content while the Seminary paid for the production and distribution of The Hinge. For the past four years, Colleen Marsh at the Seminary has overseen the layout, printing, and mailing of The Hinge, but it has become increasingly difficult for the Seminary to meet The Hinge’s publication schedule in the midst of other responsibility. Beginning this fall, the Interprovincial Board of Communications (IBOC) of the Moravian Church in North America will assume responsibility for the production of The Hinge. The Editorial Board will continue to determine subjects, identify writers and select the content of each issue. We are very excited about working with Mike Riess of IBOC who believes that The Hinge serves an important and unique purpose in the Moravian Church. The Hinge will continue to examine controversial issues and provide a forum for in depth discussion and disagreement. We hope that this new arrangement will mean that The Hinge will be even more widely available for the public. It will still be provided to all ordained clergy in the Northern and Southern Provinces and by subscription. Subscriptions will still be managed by Moravian Theological Seminary. By the time The Hinge celebrates its 25th birthday in 2015 all of these changes should be in place. And remember, past issues of The Hinge are available online at

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century? Rosemary Power ‘Celtic spirituality’ has been popular for the last thirty years and is widely accepted as a branch of Christian expression that developed in ancient times in Ireland and parts of Britain, and lingered in remote places. It is often regarded as both factually true and as having a great deal to say to us about contemporary spiritual concerns, including the need to reintegrate faith and other aspects of life and to take a holistic approach to the environmental crisis. It has taken its inspiration and much of its textual content from the poems and prayers printed as a result of the Celtic Revival in Ireland and Scotland. This was a literary and aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth-century, a period that also saw the development of Celtic Studies as an academic discipline, the editing and translating of ancient texts, and the publication of collections of folk tradition. However, the modern form of Celtic spirituality developed initially in England when these texts were ‘rediscovered’ and seen to have a potential for church renewal and as a tool for mission in the 1980’s. The current movement is undeniably a means by which people can address contemporary concerns in a prayerful and powerful way. It has proven for some to be a path to deepening life with God, and it has helped churches to recapture a sense of freshness, creativity and delight in Christian worship and personal prayer. Music and liturgy ‘in the Celtic tradition’ are now part of the mainstream of church life, and it has attracted people from a variety of backgrounds, including those who feel they are falling off the edge of church life. However, we need also to be aware that expressions of Modern Celtic Christianity are rarely grounded historically, and have little to do with what is taught in university departments of Celtic Studies. Rosemary Power was formerly minister of Swindon Moravian Church in England and then worked in developing pioneer ministry in County Clare on behalf of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Part of her work was to organise ecumenical prayer walks at ancient places of pilgrimage. Holding a doctorate in medieval Norse-Gaelic literature and a Research Masters’ degree in Theology, she writes on Scandinavian and Celtic history and literature; and folk tradition, and on contemporary theology and spirituality. Her book The Celtic Quest: A Contemporary Spirituality was published by Columba Press, Dublin, in 2010; The Story of Iona: Columban and Medieval Sites and Spirituality was published by Canterbury Press (London) in 2013. A book on using the Book of Kells for prayer is forthcoming; and a spiritual guide to a West Clare pilgrim route is due out shortly. She recently wrote The Moravian Burial Ground at Whitechurch, County Dublin (London: Moravian Book Room, 2014); and currently edits the Moravian Messenger for the British Province. She is a member of the ecumenical Christian Iona Community.



A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

Moreover, the movement often seems increasingly tired, less dependent on the rediscovery of ancient prayers that gave it its original sparkle, and more dependent on derivative material, in translation and often at third hand; or on poetry and prayers from all periods in western culture that suit the selected themes and concerns of individual authors. Has it fulfilled its purpose, or are there aspects that could speak to us in new ways? Are we merely harvesting what we want, ignoring what we dislike and the culture that produced them, and using them in our own language and for our own purposes? One of the challenges concerns how we can use what is ancient or is part of a folk tradition restricted to a limited part of society without distorting it to suit our own purposes; while another is whether what know of the spirituality of people who lived long ago in the traditional Celtic lands has any relevance for our own lives of faith today in terms of prayer, communal liturgy, action for social justice and other consequences of our belief. Celtic spirituality relies on a relatively small section of the enormous stock of ancient prayers, poetry and saints’ lives that have survived the centuries, and on a part of the more recent folk tradition. Nearly all the current writers are increasingly seeking to widen the application of the relatively few sources known to them, to combine them with poetry and prayer of all periods that has similarly attracted them, and to derive an ever-increasing number of ‘lessons from them’. What follows is offered as a source for discussion, by one who lives with seeming contradictions of the current enthusiasm for Celtic spirituality. I am both critical of the movement’s lack of contact with the actual sources, but also a practitioner who gives retreats and church input on the Celtic. I am aware of how much modern Celtic spirituality has been a spiritual help to people, in particular people on the margins of church life. The main question is whether a constructed spirituality, endlessly derivative from a small number of sources, can carry the expectations of so many and be a valid path to continuing spiritual growth. There are certain key elements found in most books about Celtic spirituality, and while these are found in many other spiritualities, they provide a common core. One is a sense that God is present in all aspects of life, immanent as well as transcendent. Celtic spirituality is seen as holistic, all-encompassing and capable of unifying apparently disparate aspects of daily life and work. Another is a belief in the spontaneity and simplicity of the ancient Celts, and while they may not have agreed with this interpretation, there is plentiful poetic evidence for another element, acute observation of the natural world and delight in it. Storytelling is another vital element, and the excerpts from the written Lives of the early saints are seen as conveying deep truths for us today. A sense of place is another element, and there is an emphasis on ancient holy places, now isolated and seen as being on the edge, which have revived as places of pilgrimage that provide meeting ground for Christians who feel on the edge. There is much here that most Christians would want to incorporate into their own prayer and public worship. But some of the assumptions have diverged so far from fact that we need to consider if they are of help in developing a robust spirituality. Much that did belong to the Celtic-speaking countries hardly gets touched

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on at all, including most of the ancient poetry and prose, the artistry and theology of the great Gospel books; the physical remains of churches, wells and monastic settlements and the folk tradition. To return to the derivative aspect of the movement, an exploration of the texts commonly used shows that most of them they come from two streams. One is a collection of Hebridean prayers in Gaelic with the collector’s English translations made in the last years of the nineteenth century and published in the twentieth. The translations of many of the devotional poems and prayers from Alexander Carmichael’s extraordinarily beautiful collection, the Carmina Gadelica, were published for a more popular audience in the 1980’s, giving them a well-deserved wider audience. They were used at that time by a small number of writers who gave their own interpretations of what early Christians in both Britain and Ireland believed. One enthusiast, a Church of England clergyman David Adam, wrote his own prayers in what he saw as ‘the Celtic tradition’, and these came to be treated as Celtic rather than as modern tributes to a former folk tradition in another language. Meanwhile the key writers also became acquainted with some of the anthologies of translations from early Irish and early Welsh, particularly those from Ireland. Among their sources were two anthologies published primarily for students in the 1960’s, by James Carney and by David Greene and Frank O’Connor. The modern writers on Celtic spirituality, especially David Adam; Esther van de Waal; Robert van de Weyer of the former Little Gidding Community; Philip Newall, a former Warden of Iona Abbey; Ray Simpson, founder of the Lindisfarne-based Community of Aidan and Hilda; members of the Northumbrian Community, a group based in northern England that has produced a much-used anthology Celtic Daily Prayer; and many others mined freely from what they thought of as rediscovered texts; apparently unaware of their contexts and original meanings or uses, and sometimes adapted them for modern usage. Numerous other writers since, knowing nothing of the originals, have treated the modern works as genuine texts and the personal reflections as factually-based historical analyses. As very few of the authors who undertook the original rediscovery knew the relevant languages, the actual number of early Irish and Welsh poems known to the Celtic movement are fairly limited and most new activity comes from generating new meanings from this selection. All this was done with good intent, to share the joy, freshness and ways in which the writers felt they could relate to God in new ways, using what they thought were ancient prayers. More recently, some scholars, such as Donald Meek, who works primarily on the Scottish material; Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie on the Welsh; and John Carey and Thomas O’Loughlin, who work on the Irish; have tried broaden the movement’s canon through inclusion of more of the original source material. An additional problem has been that many of the writers were from northern England, from the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, which was Christianised from the monastery on Iona, itself an Irish foundation. They see themselves as recovering a native Celtic tradition in England, an older, purer, truer form of Christianity, a more


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

joyful one, which was in turn submerged by a dominating bureaucratic continental form. In their understanding the writings of the seventh-century historian Bede have a particular significance. Bede was a consummate storyteller, whose accounts of the actions of the early saints are widely enjoyed today. More controversially, his account of the Synod of Whitby in 664 is taken at surface value and as a defining moment when an apparently unstructured, creative and spontaneous ‘Celtic’ church was forced to submit to the power of Rome. Interpretations of this kind have been used since the Reformation to justify a ‘different’ and reformed church in different parts of Britain, and while current interpretations avoid traditional sectarian approaches they are still based on assumptions that are hard to justify historically. One of the problems in our more ecumenical times is the assumption that the culture of the Celtic-speaking countries and England were the same, and that the same poems that have survived on the ‘Celtic Fringe’ abounded in England. Consequently anything truly ancient and English gets overlooked. Meanwhile, Celtic spirituality has developed in Ireland, Wales and Scotland in part as a reaction to an apparent cultural consumption of their heritage by their larger neighbor. On another level, Celtic spirituality has undoubtedly been beneficial to many people, not so much as the tool for mission originally envisaged but as an aid to people who perceive themselves as pushed to the edge of church life or consciously intending to leave. It has also been a major element in the development of new dispersed and ecumenical Christian communities. Where do we take this interest in the Celtic? If the derivative aspects outbalance use of the sources, this will limit its chances of enabling people to move towards the centre of Christian spirituality, the relationship with Christ which our ancestors saw as the purpose of their writing, copying, building and developing community. When we study the early Christian writers we find poems of power and beauty, seemingly spontaneous but produced through a life of strict monastic Rule that gave time to prayer, penitential practice and study. Much of this superb corpus of early Irish and Welsh poetry may reflect ancient native traditions and a sense of finding God in the wildness of the world, and much of it is direct, sometimes expressed in the first person, and corresponding to the emotions may of us feel as strongly today. While this aspect is noted by many contemporary spiritual writers, who see the Hebridean folk poetry as continuing the same tradition, they do not note that much of the religious poetry is also very practical, giving thanks for the aspects of nature that provide food, clothing and building materials. Even that which rejoices in nature for its own sake can be traced in part to non-native sources, for the early monk was required to recite the entire Psalter daily from memory. And as well as joy in nature, the corpus speaks of bitter frosts, howling wolves, starvation and storms at sea. There is also much that need not be called ‘Celtic’. Some aspects, like the seasonal prayers and the delight in the natural world are part of the common tradition of praying people, of all ages, beliefs and place. Some themes such as journeying, pilgrimage, is found in other cultures too, in the stories of those who like Saint Paul

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left home, as once Abraham and Sarah did, and who preached the Gospel in foreign lands. Each culture and language has its own way to express these matters. We may also need to ground the movement by looking more at what people actually do and express in the places in which we are called to work and worship, or have done until recently, and what makes a place special to them as well as to us. We have to learn from the locals as well as interpret what we wish to see. Celtic spirituality also raises questions of whether what is often historically wrong can be theologically right. For instance, many books relate that women held equal place in early ‘Celtic ‘society. We have a few powerful female saints, who are remembered for their royal connotations and successful religious houses, but in practice women had little legal standing, a female slave was a unit of currency, and there were few nunneries because it was practically impossible for women to own land in early Irish society. It would be absurd and profoundly wrong to wish such aspects on our own society, but neither does it seem enriching to replace this reality with fantasies that fit modern expectations. Similarly, there was a strong penitential tradition, based partly on the analogy of penance being medicine for the soul. There are elements we can usefully take from this tradition, including the importance of community support in our healing from sin, but we would probably not wish to reintroduce the practices prescribed. The modern understanding within the Celtic movement of the anam-chara, the soul-friend and guide, is very different from the administrator of these ancient and rigorous remedies. But even in a limited state, Celtic spirituality undoubtedly works. That God can work through a diminished core of knowledge is a reading in line with a theology of charity. It is also something most of us would recognise on a much larger scale in our response to biblical texts, especially those of the Old Testament, where a long process of oral transmission and rewriting for the needs of different contemporary audiences has taken place. Adopting Celtic spirituality does not absolve us from study, of being part of the process involved in a theology of charity, of loving with the head as well as the heart, of trying to understand the texts and their contexts, and in doing so widening the amount of material and interpretation available to others. When we use the prayers of the past, we can use them validly because they were intended for this use. But the more we understand, the more fully we can use them. Through seeking to enter more fully into the concerns of the cultures that produced the poems and prayers much loved by their contemporary audience, we can hope to understand something of what gave the original poets their vision, in all its complexity; how it related to the ways in which they lived; and what we can take from it today. We need to leave markers concerning what we cannot digest, in case future cultures might find richness in the parts we discard. We have a particular ability to approach the nature poetry through a theology of beauty, a recognition of the artistry of the natural world and of the human capacity for creativity. For this we need to read our texts through the unifying bond of charity that enables us to listen to what is strange, assume that is was composed as a pathway


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

to the divine, and struggle to learn from this side, while relishing the beauty that does appeal to us. We also need to find resonances for contemporary lives. The nature poems, with their rhythms of the seasons, are more used than ever at a time of environmental destruction, speaking as they do of God known through the created world; the value of this world in feeding and sustaining its people; the duties of hospitality to the travelling stranger; the harvesting enough to allow time for the enjoyment of life and retaining some surplus against a future bad harvest. Another source for today is in the sense of place. In some of those places which produced so many of the stories and poetry we enjoy we have the remains of the buildings, churches, round towers and high crosses set up in times past and used as focal points down the centuries. In parts of the west of Ireland prayer walks are developing which seek to revitalise the faith of believers and their relations in faith with the people who live in these places today and may continue traditional spiritual practices. While these move between ancient sites, or sites of natural beauty, the matters prayed for reflect the needs of contemporary society. We may need to speak of earthquake, war, recession, climate change along with the concerns of individual walkers. This happens on land that has been lived on and farmed for millennia. By exploring what has supported people down the centuries it is possible at times to be stretched in our own spiritual journeys with unlikely fellowpilgrims. Even if sites and sources are being used in a way inconceivable to their original creators, an approach of prayer grounded in God will make the travellers people of the Gospel, who go out to share our joy and care for their neighbor. Whether this approach is ‘Celtic’ or not, it is only one way to seek to honour the heritage and to use what has been received for a stage on the common journey. There are many other ways, and each country and each culture will have its own variety. But it can be argued that, while we need to return to the range of early sources, and to respect if not always accept the vernacular popular traditions that continue, part of the heritage of the ‘Celtic’ is to reconnect us to the place and culture in which God has placed each of us; to honour the past by discovering it again, perhaps at some cost to our expectations, and to honour the present by using it to break open the Christian story in ways to enrich our relationships to each other and to the wider world today. It is not particular to any culture or time, though the prayers used may be, and in doing this it may be possible to rediscover the core of faith in all its wonder and delight. To return to my original suggestion of whether a derivative understanding of the Celtic could carry the expectations and be a way to God, I believe that to some extent it does. But we need to return to the sources and use more of them. Celtic spirituality may not be true, but it works. If it contained more truth it might work better. This may be the challenge in the texts we have received, those we have used and those that await us; and also the challenge of the physical remains in a landscape in which people live today.

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Bibliography Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price, revised R. E. Latham. Harmondsworth, 2001. Carey, John. A Single Ray of the Sun. Andover/Aberystwyth, 1999. Carey, John. King of Mysteries. Dublin, 2000. Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica. 6 vols. Edinburgh, 1900–71. Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica. Edinburgh, 1992. (English texts.) Carney, James, Medieval Irish Lyrics. 1967. Reprinted with The Irish Bardic Poet. Dublin, 1985. Davies, Oliver, and Fiona Bowie eds. Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources. London, 1995. Farmer, D.H. ed. The Age of Bede. Trans. J.F. Webb. Harmonsdworth, 1965. 1971. Greene, David and Frank O’Connor. A Golden Treasury of Irish Poetry, A.D. 600-1200. London, 1967, reprinted Brandon, 1990. Jackson, Kenneth. A Celtic Miscellany. London, 1951, revised Harmondsworth 1971. Murphy, Gerard. Early Irish Lyrics. Oxford, 1956. O’Loughlin, Thomas. (2000b) Journeys on the Edges: the Celtic Tradition. London, 2000. O’Loughlin, Thomas. (2000a) Celtic Theology: Humanity, World and God in Early Irish Writings. London/New York, 2000.



A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

Responses Judith Justice Sister Power has given us ‘grist for the mill’ adequate to engage us through many solstices and seasons. I share her concern regarding the lack of authenticity in what is often proffered as Celtic spirituality and more explicitly as Celtic Christianity. The use of recent compositions in a quasi-Celtic style and inaccurate translations and biased interpretations of some authentic works of antiquity have diluted the quality of resources used in many churches. The scarcity of attention to written historical records, archaeology, and cultural anthropology deprive the popular movement of much of the complexity and richness of the Celtic legacy. Any literary corpus, any movement or faith practice removed from the social, political, and religious context out of which it has emerged is incomplete. Most of what has survived from the ancient oral tradition of the western European and insular Celts was first written down by outsiders before those Celtic people had a literary language of their own; but to ignore skillful translations of the original poems and prayers collected from that time diminishes our experience. Church leaders and worship planners need to be better informed about what is authentically Celtic and where such resources can be found. I believe that those of us called to teach and preach in the church bear significant responsibility for gathering and sharing such information if those we serve have chosen to bring something of the Celtic mind and spirit into our worship and service as the Body of Christ. Sister Power’s observations about the plethora of derivative materials being used without understanding of their original meaning and purpose have led her to raise the question as to whether a constructed spirituality established on such a flawed foundation can ‘be a valid path to continuing spiritual growth.” As one whose immediate ancestry is Scots/Irish/English, my Celtic connection may be something of a birthright, but beyond that it is a relationship of heart, mind, body and spirit born of a love of place and a longing for a more powerful experience of God immanent and transcendent­—God in the physicality of the created world and the realm of the numinous. For me that place is western North Carolina where the Scots-Gaelic presence established by early settlers lives on in those still drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains, themselves an ancient living testimony to God in the natural world. Here high places —natural sanctuaries; sacred loci where the old folks say “the veil is very thin,” artesian wells, gurgling springs, and mysterious circles in the midst of towering hemlocks are more than mere physical phenomena. Here, in the late 1960’s, a new Celtic revival began as young men and women seeking a more holistic way of life streamed into the valleys and hills in what has sometimes been called the St. Andrews migration. Some, like myself who arrived there in 1975, were sure of their lineage in Jesus the Christ and were affiliated with a church and active in a congregation but sought a deeper spiritual life in community outside the church. Gathering for prayer on a rocky

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outcropping or calling the circle for silent meditation under those majestic hemlocks enriched our spiritual experience with the triune God and complemented our life in the church. For some who felt marginalized by institutions, which they experienced as out of touch with the life and ministry of Jesus, it was a tenuous lifeline to a faltering faith; for others it was a cautious first step into the possibility of the existence of God. At that time we knew little of the history of Celtic Christianity. We were simply seeking something more palpable and powerful in our experience with God-ChristHoly Spirit. What we knew of the Celtic peoples’ affinity with the natural world and their understanding of the presence of the Creator in that world spoke to us. We were eager to protect pure water sources and endangered wildlife against the encroachment of developers who seemed driven largely by greed without regard for God’s assignment of earth’s stewardship to humankind. I think we were also drawn to what we believed was the Celtic sense of identity as part of the clan; of belonging to something greater than oneself. While our actual knowledge of the spiritual culture we were embracing may haven been initially sketchy, we were young, bright, and curious. Many of us over time did learn much more about the Celtic journey from polytheism and paganism to monotheism and Christianity. And while our early praxis may have been founded in naiveté and a romanticized notion of the noble savage, it still nurtured and strengthened us in our search for a more meaningful faith experience and influence how we have tried to live the Christian life for the greater good of God’s creation. So my answer to Sister Power’s question is “yes.” Even with our most meager understanding of the Celtic people and their traditions, God acted and I believe continues to do so. In spite of our limited engagement and largely uninformed use of Celtic Spirituality, many continue to have powerful relational experiences with God. Yet God’s generous gift of God Self does not absolve us of the responsibility to study and grow in relationship with out Lord and in the wisdom of the faith of our spiritual ancestors. May it be so. The Rev. Judith Justice retired from fulltime pastoral ministry in 2012 after many years of service in North Carolina and Florida. She continues to be actively engaged in missional and social justice concerns that call the Church to action in the world.


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

(The Rev. Canon) Laura Thomas Howell, Obl.S.B. I am a traditionalist. This should be clear from the beginning. I love all those wonderful (and sometimes obscure) ways in which we commemorate the passage of time: Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day; reading the names of those who have died at All Saints; bagpipe processions and shortbread on St. Andrew’s Day; hours of vigil in the cold and dark church on Holy Saturday. As an Episcopal priest, I even rejoice in a church that treasures tradition. But I am also aware that some of our traditions are not life-giving: standing in icy water up to the neck, burning witches, exiling lepers, cutting hands off thieves. I am grateful that these—and others—have fallen into oblivion. Tradition ties us to our own history and makes strong connections with others sharing the same tradition. It transmits knowledge, fosters identity, and creates comfort. It seems to me that the groundedness in tradition is a universal human trait. So much so, that when people have been uprooted from their traditions, they quickly create new ones, or re-create the old ones in the new environment. The aforementioned corned beef and cabbage being a perfect example. But tradition can also isolate and play into our human tendency to feel superior to others: “the way we do things is the right way”. The implication is that if you aren’t privy to what we know, or if you choose to believe/do/act differently, at best you are amusingly eccentric, at worst an imposter and a fraud. I recall a lovely young couple who asked me to officiate at their wedding. Americans of Scots heritage, they invented a tiny Celtic-flavored ritual to be used in the middle of the wedding to express their hopes of union, and a desire for two uneasy families to join together in supporting them. Was it from the historical Celtic tradition? No, it was not. Although it did use some resources from the Episcopal Church of Scotland’s wedding liturgy. But it was entirely appropriate, well crafted and moving, with an exchange of clan symbols and prayers. A number of people have since used it for their weddings. Several years and two children later, the couple still talk about it, as do their friends, as a holy moment. And so it was. It seems to have become a tradition. But during the wedding reception, I heard disparaging comments about their “made up” ceremony, as though something that was new could not be an authentic expression of a living tradition. I support enthusiastically Sister Power’s suggestion that we intentionally make available more of the original Celtic literature. And I am hopeful that as we do so, those who have found solace and inspiration in the Celtic tradition will be enlivened and energized in their quest for the Holy. I am excited about the prospect of fresh, new translations and new scholarly work, expanding our understanding of Celtic prayer and theology. We need to remind ourselves, though, that every tradition had a beginning. Someone invented it sometime in some place. The nostalgia that some people feel for the golden age of Celtic spirituality may be a nostalgia for something that has never existed. Or it may be a nostalgia for something that has not yet been created. Tradition is more than mere words or details. If it is not merely a dusty, fossilized play to be

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performed on rare occasions, it must be a part of life that is continuously renewing itself. It would be sad to see the new shoots from the Celtic tradition (even an imagined one) discounted because they are not traditional enough. In God’s eternity, it is all new. (Rev. 21:5) Mother Laura Howell, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem since 2007, is trained as a spiritual director and hospice chaplain. She is also a Bishop’s Foole and an Oblate of St. Benedict.

Jill Kolodziej The main question posed by Sister Power is “whether a constructed spirituality, endlessly derivative from a small number of sources, can carry the expectations of so many and be a valid path to continuing spiritual growth.” The author is concerned that the Celtic Christian beliefs are being increasingly distanced from their original meaning due to interpretations that are not derived from the ancient texts. Even though Celtic spirituality has been effected by human interpretation, I believe that the key elements at the core of Celtic spirituality cited by Sister Power can continue to provide an understanding and act as a guide on one’s journey toward spiritual enrichment and growth on God’s divine pathway. Professor Loren Wilkinson, author of Saving Celtic Spirituality, affirms those core qualities of a rich worship tradition, prayer in everyday language, “green” in its stewardship of the earth, affirmation of gender equality, commitment to living in community, nurture of radical discipleship, passion for peace and justice, no division between sacred and secular, critical engagement with contemporary culture, and roots in mission not maintenance. These tenets are based on teachings and practices that can be identified throughout biblical scripture and were modeled by Jesus as a way to be in a right relationship with God and humanity. As people seek how to live in relationship with God and “be” the church, the Celts have provided a lasting legacy through their spirituality and writings to the benefit of the greater world. Despite concern about deviation from the original works, Sister Power states that Celtic spirituality has been beneficial “as an aid to people who perceive themselves as pushed to the edge of church life or consciously intending to leave.” The ancient Celts were a people group who lived within similar circumstances. Located on the fringe of society they created an understanding of God unique to their life experience. Wilkinson adds, “Celtic Christians developed a culture that was in many respects closer to the early church, and to ‘true Christianity,’ than any of the forms of institutionalized Christianity that replaced it.” In the elements that comprise the core of Celtic spirituality, I recognize tenets of the heritage of Moravian theology within the notable writings, teachings, and leadership of Jan Hus and John Amos Comenius of the Unity of the Brethren and Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf of the early Moravian Church. The Ancient


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

Unity and the early Moravians were people groups who pushed the envelope of the theological norm of society. The theology of the Brethren and the Moravians has nurtured the faith of countless numbers of people seeking to follow Jesus. Likewise, Celtic spirituality responded to the needs of people and has flourished and been transformational for centuries within the context of the church. As is its living nature, the church experiences ongoing transitions. Contemporary Western culture is witnessing a paradigm shift in the way that the institutional church has been established for decades. We are living in a postChristian era where Christendom, a period of time when the Christian faith profoundly informed the culture, no longer exists. The Celtic elements characteristic of “true Christianity” have been compromised. Peter Steinke writes in an article, “Back to the Future,” that doing church is characterized by becoming a member of a local congregation, contributing money and effort, participating in communal events, volunteering time and goods, and worshipping regularly or at least several times a year. He goes on to state that there is a loss of people, a loss of a sense of mission or purpose, and a loss of spiritual depth and transformation. Given Steinke’s characterization of the church in today’s world, has it lost its awareness of its intended purpose and meaning? In this destabilized spiritual climate elements of Celtic spirituality can provide a foundation for revitalized Christian thought and practice by reengaging the ways and writings through which the Celts expressed their faith in God. One example is found in the opening lines from a folk prayer that expresses a Trinitarian view. I am bending my knee In the eye of the Father who created me, In the eye of the Son who purchased me, In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me, In friendship and affection. In a similar fashion the theology of the Czech Brethren echoes this same view in its understanding of God’s objective work. God creates, Jesus redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies. As the variety of tenets of theological thought are integrated we become fellow pilgrims on a common journey of faith. Jill Kolodziej serves as the Director of Antioch of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church, N.A. and also coordinates service opportunities for the Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church in Wisconsin.

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church


Rick Beck Sister Power’s article describes what is true of all religious expressions. She refers to Celtic Spirituality as “constructed spirituality” which raises the question, “Aren’t all spiritualities, at some level, constructed.” There is little Aramaic in the New Testament even though it was the language Jesus spoke. Everything was translated to Greek with the writers being influenced by their own values, life experience and world view while motivated to write to a particular audience and for a particular purpose. At any point in history the Christian church has never looked exactly the same as that found in the book of Acts, nor should it. We believe in a dynamic God whose creation is a celestial event that is unrestricted by time. The more history that stands between us and our heritage, the greater chance that we will have deviated from our roots. The call to re-examine our original sources is simply an invitation to re-evaluate our current stance and discern whether or not we need to adjust our course. A timely Moravian example of the importance of returning to original sources lies in the question of what is “Essential”. Modern sources and most pastors seem to have varying opinions on the number and specifics of our “essentials”. Thankfully, the Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood has returned to more original Moravian sources to explore this issue and in the January/February 2014 issue of The Moravian magazine has identified the simple message of God’s creating, redeeming and sanctifying along with our faith, hope and love as the original understanding of the essential of our faith. This simple statement is a valuable tool for evaluating our current individual and denominational practice of faith. There is simplicity about the Christian faith that has always been attractive to the marginalized of society (and of the church). Sociology suggests that the longer an organization exists the more complicated it becomes, resulting in the question of its relevance. This may be especially true when the more complicated belief is presented as the right and only acceptable truth. For this reason we have witnessed many attempts to return to what is perceived to be a more pure form of the original. The marginalized seek the church that their soul already knows; (the Law written on our hearts) that we are one in and with God, and nothing else matters. But even these “more pure” expressions of the faith are not immune to the natural process toward complication. We have turned to technology to make life “easier,” but too often we have created a monster whom we now serve. Like Celtic spirituality, Franciscan and Ignatian spiritualities, among others, remind us of God’s words, “Be still and know that I am God.” It may be the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ movement toward complication that Sister Power is striving to make peace with. Once again we must ask ourselves, “Is it human nature or Divine inspiration that leads us to embrace an evolved and almost unique spirituality as the authentic original. Interpretation of the New Testament stands in the tension of this question. The fact that Christianity and Judaism are distinct religions suggests that the early Christian church had forged a path distinct from their Jewish counterparts. By refereeing to the words of Isaiah Christianity is confident that it has not abandoned its


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

original sources but is simply the result of God’s plan for salvation. On the other hand, are we taking liberties if we assume that Timothy 3:16 (“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching”) includes the New Testament when he was obviously speaking of the Law and the Prophets? Our own Bible and ministries are rooted in the tension between ancient stories and dynamic revelation. If our faith includes a “constructed spirituality” it must be rooted in the same “prayer, penitential practice and study” as our original source. This is consistent with Jesus’ call to humility. We must live by our convictions while at the same time confessing that some of what we believe may not be accurate. But take heart. We are called to believe, not to have all the details right. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 to build on the foundation of Christ. Your work will be tested by fire but you will not be consumed. The Rev. Rick Beck is pastor of Good Shepherd Moravian Church in Calgary, Ontario, Canada, and is a trained spiritual director.

Emily B. Wallace Sister Power raises several questions about whether ancient Celtic prayer forms, rituals, blessings, a reverence for the natural world, storytelling, a “sense of place” can be useful and relevant to us in our present time and place. In responding to her study I felt my heart rising to meet her intent, as well as my head. For the past several years the number of books on Celtic blessings, prayers and place on my book shelf has grown. The names of authors and titles she mentions are familiar ones. Though I have not done the academic study she has accomplished, I have sat in quiet with such prayers as this one from Carmina Gadelica, III, p.207: It is focused on journeying. The guarding of the God of life be upon me, The guarding of loving Christ be upon me, The guarding of the Holy Spirit by upon me, Each step of the way, To aid me and enfold me, Each day and night of my life. Esther de Waal in her book, The Celtic Way of Prayer, points me to consider the following. She says, “I have been brought face-to-face with a world at once very familiar and very mysterious, for I have found in the Celtic a worldview that touches on much that is common, shared perhaps archetypal, in all human experience.” Rosemary brings me to the words that shimmered for me, and got my attention. I highlighted and pondered these three important words. A “sense of place”. These words caught me. The memories of Celtic places I had visited welled up and rolled

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church


over me like a tsunami! The bits and pieces of places in Ireland and Scotland joined hands with the research my grandfather, Robert Eugenius McAlpine, had explored and written concerning our Scots-Irish heritage, and added more light. This “sense of place” brought me and my husband to the island of Iona, which lies just off of the western coast of Scotland, three different times in the last two decades. It somehow draws me like a magnet. The last visit was in the summer of 2007. At that time I was reading a book named Kenneth about the life of King Kenneth McAlpin, (born about 810 on Iona) who united the Picts and the Scots to form Scotland, as a country. I remember sitting on the floor of the Abbey’s side room, reading the last chapter. The afternoon sun was pouring through a large window onto my back. The candles lighted by visitors were flickering in their wooden holders. I read on in the story. Kenneth McAlpin was dying and being brought to Iona by boat to end his days here on the same island where he had been born. The book concludes with his burial in the sacred cemetery that lies just next to and west of the Abbey. What a feeling to read that he was buried in the place just behind my back! What a powerful sense of place! Another afternoon we sat in the deep clover up on the hill north of the Abbey where Columba had his hermitage. We could see the cross marks preserved in the ground where he had his little writing table. Again, we felt the sense of place.. We walked the small winding paths that lead through pastures to the ends of the island. We built a cairn of smooth, green stones to honor the island history and our family. Again, here was a sense of place becoming important to bridge the ancient story to that of my own. Ancient prayers, poetry, music became central to worship in the Abbey while we were there. Image and art, in the form of carved ancient Celtic crosses mark the walkway leading toward the Abbey. Also, Iona provided my soft, woolen Celtic prayer shawl. So, I find myself agreeing with Rosemary’s statement. She says, “To return to my original suggestion on whether a derivative understanding of the Celtic could carry the expectations and be a way to God, I believe that to some extent it does.” Celtic spirituality has provided nourishment for my wandering soul and a well trodden path of prayers, story, music, and other threshold cairns, as I try to find my own sense of place…My way home.

Emily Wallace is a member of Central Moravian Church and a pastoral counselor, spiritual director, and a certified facilitator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

Jill E. Vogt Sister Power’s article describes the very difficult tension between honoring and searching for the pure roots of a particular spiritual practice, and the ways that this practice is lived out, adapted and interpreted by people. She wonders whether a spirituality derived from less than the complete or original sources can still provide a valid and authentic spiritual understanding. This is a difficulty in which I see the tension between the purist scholar and the pastor who is concerned about what is meaningful and helpful to her parishioners. This tension is apparent in the following question, with which Sister Power states her main concern: “whether a constructed spirituality, endlessly derivative from a small number of sources can carry the expectations of so many and be a valid path to continuing spiritual growth.” While I appreciate her concern for an authentic spirituality, I find this way of stating the problem somewhat dissatisfactory. First of all, aren’t all forms of spirituality constructed? Spirituality refers to the forms and practices we develop to express our religious understanding and they are therefore automatically something that we construct. While it is unfortunate that, as Sister Power points out, more original source material is not available and that some sources are mistaken for being much older than they are, we cannot deny the fact that for many people Celtic Spirituality is attractive and meaningful. The Celtic understanding of the divine and its imminent presence in the world, reflected in its masterful use of language connecting the divine and the ordinary has a way of integrating these two dimensions of life for people who are feeling increasingly alienated from an integrated understanding of life, although this raises the question if a Celtic understanding of spirituality is even possible in a world where people are so alienated from their natural surroundings. A second area where I see a problem is the question of what constitutes a valid path. What is the mark of a valid spirituality—truth, efficiency, authenticity? And how could you say that a path is invalid if it still connects a person with God? The only danger I see in the renewed interest in Celtic spirituality is sometimes the blending of this ancient Christian form with an even older tradition of Celtic pagan practices. Whereas Sister Power seems to search for the one pure original form of Celtic spirituality, I believe that Celtic spirituality, or any other spirituality for that matter, should be regarded as evolving in different ways for different people at different times and in different places. The Iona Community, for example, connects ancient traditions with the needs of a post-industrial society and thus represents, in my view, a valid expression of Celtic spirituality for today. The truth is that Celtic Spirituality as it has been passed down or rediscovered seems to have something to say to people today. It is finding a powerful echo and that should not be underestimated. It also is finding new expressions. Here, I agree with Sister Power that these new expressions should be built, as much as possible, on solid foundations. It is understandable that a scholar and lover of a particular tradition would be disappointed that sources are not being properly used or revered

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church


and that deeply complex and meaningful spiritual practices may be trivialized or blandly inculturated or made to fit popular understandings and whims. Without a firm reference point, Celtic spirituality runs the risk of becoming a fake experience, kitsch or overly sentimentalized. This is a danger that all traditions face when only parts of these traditions are discovered or emulated without understanding the context in which they originated. This is a problem not unknown in the Moravian Church when, for instance the 24 hour prayer watch is picked up by other groups and made more of or differently used than it was intended to be. This also applies to the 13th of August and the experience of Holy Spirit, when others bring their own meanings and interpretations (“pentecostalist revival”), or when a simple lookout tower is turned into a “prayer tower”, which has been the case in Herrnhut. Sister Power also warns us of the dangers of romanticizing the past, for instance in regards to the penitential tradition, reminding us that we probably would not really want to endure the stringent practices of the anam-chara or soul friend as they were originally understood. But precisely in this example I believe that the interpretation and transformation of a tradition can be helpful. The concept of spiritual direction and guidance for lay people as well as clergy is clearly an important contribution to contemporary spirituality. That understandings evolve out of ancient ideas does not make them less valid or important. While the result may not be pure, it may serve a pragmatic need or speak to a deeper reality and may lead us into new understandings as we link old ideas to our present lives. It would be a wonderful addition to current understandings of Celtic Spirituality if more original sources were available and we can only hope that Sister Power and her colleagues will be able to provide that. However, we can still be very grateful for the variety of ways that Celtic spirituality has enhanced peoples’ lives and led them to a deeper connection with God and a more lively expression of their faith. As a scholar Sister Power may feel frustrated by less than authentic sources and derivative spirituality, but as a pastor, she has to admit that Celtic spirituality works for many people. While the original sources are evocative, it is the encounter between these ancient truths and the challenges and complexities of modern life that really make modern Celtic spirituality come alive.

The Rev. Jill Vogt is co-pastor of the Herrnhut Congregation of the Moravian Church in Germany.


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

The Author Responds Celtic Christianity remains a subject that touches the spirituality of many individuals. What it consists of may remain in debate, and it is clear from the Responders that it has variants in different countries. Some elements, in particular those relating to the natural world and a sense of place are continuing sources for personal devotion, liturgical use and pastoral situations. The translations of the religious texts of Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica remain much loved, a century after they were formed to the criteria expected in his time. Prayers collected so diligently in a peripheral and assumedly dying language, largely from the Catholic islands of western Scotland, have an extraordinarily wide usage today. This bears testimony to the strength of the tradition from which they came. There are other, much less-known sources, from folk tradition, and from the older literatures of Ireland and Wales. It is a shame that they are so little known outside of their homelands, for they could do much to enrich the tradition. The older translations are often themselves poems, while the modern ones rely heavily on the last century of linguistic work on the Old and Medieval Irish and Welsh, and tend to be literal. Both can provide springboards for creative liturgy and poetry today. As what is considered Celtic spirituality can nourish so many people, it seems that it will continue to serve people in different places, in our own time, and may take on an ever-widening range of attributes. The more that the older sources can be used as part of that process, this writer suggests, there is the possibility of bringing the fruits of scholarship to broaden and deepen understanding of its origins and its strengths, to delight and challenge us to develop our faith and prayer. Alexander Carmichael regarded his scholarship as something to be made accessible to the reading public: perhaps he can model for us the need to bridge the distinctions in our churches today.

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church


Featured Sermon: “I have to love WHOM???” Rev. Dr. Nola Reed Knouse I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6) Out of the ninety words in this short passage, three stand out. They are: • • •

called or calling—appears four times: lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called; just as you were called to the one hope of your calling. one—appears six times: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. all—appears five times, four of them describing the reign of God: one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all; and the fifth reminding us to live with all humility and gentleness.

Imagine if the passage had been written slightly differently, something like this: I therefore suggest that you lead a life worthy of the purpose which you have chosen, with some humility and gentleness, with patience, tolerating one another in politeness, making some effort to maintain the appearance of unity of the Spirit in the practice of good manners. There is a body and a Spirit, just as you chose some hope of your belief, some faith, baptism, a God and Father of some, who is above most things and through some and in some. Isn’t that more like the way we live? As if we chose to be in a “group” of likeminded believers? As if we had the right, or even the duty, to exclude or dismiss or turn up our noses or just ignore others who say they are Christians, even Moravians, but who don’t believe exactly what we do? As if God is the God and Father of us and those who think like us, but not of “those people”? As if there really might be faith, and baptism, and a body, and a Spirit, but maybe more than one of each (but of course ours is the right one)?


A Celtic Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century?

Brothers and Sisters, that’s not the way it is. That’s not what this Christian life is all about. According to Paul, you didn’t choose to be a member of a group; you were called into a specific calling, to one hope of your calling. And we as Moravians call one another “sister” and “brother”, as a statement of true relationship, not merely as a nicety or a quaint throwback to our past. In recognizing one another as sister or as brother, we are acknowledging some very important truths, whether or not we’re conscious of it: First, a brother or a sister is more than a partner, a friend, or a fellow member. Each of those names implies something we can choose. We do not get to choose who is our sister or our brother. Second, our sisters and brothers are given to us by Christ. Brotherhood and sisterhood are blood ties, not ties of choice, and we are joined together through the blood of Christ. Third, as we do not choose our brothers and our sisters, we likewise do not have the right to reject one who is a sister or brother. As in a human family, relationships may be strained, or contact may be broken, but that is always a matter for grief; it is always a loss, and our constant prayer should be for reconciliation with our brother or sister. In the body of Christ—the one body—the person is always more important than the specifics of our disagreement. Always. Also, just as in a human family, our brothers and sisters are different from one another—and from us. This too is part of God’s plan, and a wonderful gift of God’s bounty! Each person in our Moravian family has gifts that were given “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12)—the one body. To what end? To the end that “all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Remaining in relationship with those who don’t think like us can be difficult. It is altogether too easy to dismiss someone else as “wrong-headed” or “misguided” or some other such label that means we don’t really have to deal with them. We see this every day in the news, in the realm of politics, in the realm of business, in every-day life and too often even in the church. Yet we are called to a higher standard: we are called to “speak the truth in love” so that we may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (v. 15). Paul gives us this charge, impossible though it sounds, and then reminds us how it could indeed be possible: simply because you were called to the one hope of your calling. And God does not call you to something and then fail to give you the needed gifts to live it out. Love, like faith, is not something we can manufacture. It’s a gift. We cannot make up a warm feeling inside ourselves; however, we can choose to act in a loving manner, over and over, again and again, no matter how hard it is. As we make those choices, over and over and over, we will find that we do truly love. The feeling follows the habit of action. The more you act in a loving way towards another person, the more you will see her as lovable, the more you will find your heart warming towards him with heart-felt love. This is God’s gift of grace and mercy to us, one of God’s many

The Hinge: International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church


gifts that enables us to enjoy that abundant life which Jesus Christ promised to his followers. And the result of this unity, this love, which we can expect from Christ? According to the Ground of the Unity, “how well we accomplish [this unity in Christ] will be a witness to our community as to the validity of our faith.” That means, Sisters and Brothers, that the world will judge us not on how we treat “outsiders” or “seekers” or the “unchurched”, but on how we treat one another. If those outside the church see us bickering and back-biting and dismissing one another as of no importance, why in the world should they come to Jesus? God help us. God help us all. You have already sung, just now, of the need for love and for God’s help in maintaining more than the appearance of unity. Look at the hymn you sang a few moments ago, the less-than-familiar words that probably tripped you up a bit: And should bonds of love, which join you lose their strength and prove unreal, drive yourselves in prayer to Jesus till he turns love’s bonds to steel. You know the verse as this: And should our love’s union holy firmly linked no more remain, wait ye at his footstool lowly ‘til he draw it close again. Well, that’s a sweet thought; but that’s not what Zinzendorf wrote, and that’s not what Paul is advocating, and I firmly believe that’s not really what Jesus is demanding of us. We are called—there’s that word again—simply not to put up with disunity. We are called to drive ourselves in prayer to Jesus ‘til he turns love’s bonds to steel. That image is literally in Zinzendorf ’s poem. There’s not just a vague hope that if we sit calmly around things will get better; we are to batter Heaven with our pleading in the expectation – no, the certainty – that Jesus will turn love’s bonds to steel. That the pitiful amount of love we can manufacture will, like the boy’s five loaves and two fishes, be multiplied in the Savior’s hands to an overflowing abundance, far beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Let us pray, then, that the Savior will turn our love’s bonds into steel, something unbreakable, something far stronger than anything we could make up. Let us pray, each day, each hour, each minute, that each one of us will lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, in the one hope of our calling, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is indeed above all and through all and in all. Thanks be to God. Sister Nola Reed Knouse is Director of the Moravian Music Foundation. This sermon was preached at the 2014 Provincial Synod of the Southern Province on April 4, 2014 and is reprinted with permission of the author.


Unity in Diversity: Challenges to the Worldwide Moravian Unity Thursday, October 2 • 7–9pm Free • Contact Hours: 2 Moravian Theological Seminary When the colonial times in Africa and in other parts of the world came to an end in the 1960s, the Moravian Unity saw a number of new developments, including a rapid increase in membership. The Unitas Fratrum became globalized. This was a paradigm-shift—when the Moravian Church moved from being a Western church doing mission overseas to a globalized church with a growing constituency in the Global South and stagnating membership in the north. The church in some areas developed into a majority-church and experienced new development of theological orientation, leadership, membership and self-understanding. The lecture will give an account of some of the consequences of this development and pose the question: Can unity prevail in the diversity of the globalized Moravian Church?

Dr. Jorgen Boytler is Executive Secretary for the Moravian Church’s Unity Board. The Moses Lectures are part of the 4th Bethlehem Conference on Moravian History & Music, taking place from October 2–5, 2014. For more information or to register for this or other conference programs, visit

October 2–5, 2014 • Bethlehem, PA

Editorial Board Craig Atwood, Jane Burcaw, Zach Dease, Laura Gordon, Sam Gray, Sarah Grove, Hans Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Justin Rabbach, Janel Rice, Mike Riess, David Schattschneider, Volker Schultz, Neil Thomlinson, Livingstone Thompson, Peter Vogt Co-Editors: Craig Atwood, Janel Rice

Send letters to the editor, articles, book reviews, and other contributions to Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood at:

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Hinge 20:1_A Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century?  

International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church

Hinge 20:1_A Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century?  

International Theological Dialog for the Moravian Church