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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Strength from Community: Single Sisters’ Choir Houses in Early Pennsylvania by Dr. Scott Paul Gordon

With responses by: Joy Cole Fran Huetter The Rev. Laura Gordon The Rev. Heather Robinson Fran Saylor The Rev. Jill Vogt

Vol. 21, No. 2: Spring 2016


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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Volume 21, Number 2: Spring 2016 The Hinge is a forum for theological discussion in the Moravian Church. Views and opinions expressed in the articles published in The Hinge are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or the official positions of the Moravian Church and its agencies. You are welcome to submit letters and articles for consideration and publication. One of the early offices of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was that of the Hinge: The office of the Hinge requires that the brother who holds it look after everything and bring troublesome factors within the congregation into mutual accord without their first having to be taken up publicly in the congregational council. —September 1742, The Bethlehem Diary, vol. 1, tr. by Kenneth Hamilton, p. 80. The Hinge journal is intended also to be a mainspring in the life of the contemporary Moravian Church, causing us to move, think and grow. Above all, it is to open doors in our church.


Notes from the editor Unless you give credence to the novelist Dan Brown, Jesus was single. The apostle Paul was also an unmarried man who urged his followers to remain single if they possibly could. Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and her sister Martha all appear to have all been single. Many of the great missionaries and teachers in Christian history never married. But these days, unmarried Christians report that they do not feel welcome in their churches. “Singles Ministry” seems focused on finding a spouse. American congregations celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and have special (and often expensive) worship services to celebrate marriage. People often have a “family pew” in their church, and in most cemeteries people are buried alongside their spouse. Do any churches honor and celebrate the lives of single people? I have not heard of any current denomination that values and supports single people as single people rather than as not-yet-married people. Things were different in the 18th century Moravian Church. Each week, Moravian congregations prayed for single brothers and sisters and each year had special festival days to honor them and their ministry. In this issue of The Hinge Scott Gordon discusses how and why Moravian congregations used to provide single women and men with homes, employment, and friendship. He focuses on the life of one remarkable woman, Mary Penry, who lived in the Single Sisters House in Bethlehem and later Lititz. She had a rich and fulfilling life in the church and appreciated the fact that her church respected her as a single person. Is it possible that the Moravian Church’s positive attitude toward single people was a key factor in the success of the church in the 18th century? Several Moravian women (some married, some single) were inspired by Dr. Gordon’s work to write about ways in which congregations today may better support and encourage single people. One of the major reasons we study the past is to help us imagine a better future, and this issue of The Hinge is presented in the hope that congregations will learn from the example of Mary Penry to provide better ministry to unmarried people in the future.

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© Scott Paul Gordon, Lehigh University

Dr. Scott Paul Gordon is professor of Engish and Chair, Department of English, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania A surprising amount of writing in the last few years on Christian-oriented websites has addressed the failure of churches to recognize and value single people, especially single women. With article titles such as “Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?” or “Surviving Church as a Single,” these writings insist that churches have become so focused on marriage and families that they ignore or even (if unintentionally) demean single women. When ministers do discuss the topic of singleness, these authors suggest, they treat it as a problem that needs to be solved, and so it is unsurprising that many singles feel that in church they learn that they are “single because there is something wrong with them.” One columnist noted in 2011 that “Paul speaks so highly” of singleness but paradoxically “the Church rarely portrays it as a celebrated option”: few churches affirm that “people are just as complete when single as when married.” Instead, most pastors and the books they recommend imply that singles “have to get married to arrive as human.”1 This disparagement of singleness is particularly surprising given that nearly half of the adults in the United States are single (43.6 percent according to the 2010 census). In 2012 Nathan Heller reported in The New Yorker on demographic shifts that suggest that singleness “is on its way in”: four million Americans lived alone in 1950, but 31 million live alone today. These are urgent issues, then, for any twenty-first century church. But they are particularly urgent for a twenty-first century Moravian Church that (as Paul Peucker remarked in his 2008 Moses lecture, printed in the Hinge in 2010) still defines itself by its eighteenth-century history—since that history contains such careful thinking about the values and virtues of singleness.2 The single sisters’ houses in eighteenth-century Moravian communities are reminders that the eighteenth century Moravian Church reserved a visible and important place for single women. We are familiar with the view of these single sisters’ houses from the outside: so many of these massive, stone buildings survive today. But what did it feel like from the inside? How did Moravian single sisters understand their singleness? Did these single women feel embraced by their church? We can begin to answer some of these questions thanks to the writings of Mary Penry (1735–1804), a Welsh immigrant who arrived in America in 1744, joined Bethlehem’s single sisters in 1756, and moved to Lititz in 1762, where she lived as a single sister until her death. That so

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Strength from Community: Single Sisters’ Choir Houses in Early Pennsylvania


many of Penry’s letters have survived—some 90,000 words in all to friends and relatives from Philadelphia to Wales—is remarkable. What she wrote was even more remarkable. She described an ox roasted on the frozen Delaware, air balloons that some had proposed for transatlantic travel, a visit to Philadelphia’s “African church,” the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. Penry followed politics closely and expressed her allegiances openly in her letters. “I read no Demo’s paper,” she declared. She mourned when after two terms her “beloved Washington” “surrendered” his office, had hopes for John Adams, and despised Jefferson. “I am a great politician,” she confided, “but am very careful of speaking my sentiments.”3 Because most of her correspondents were not Moravians and knew little about Moravian culture and worship, she explained in detail her life in what she called “Our Congregation places . . . small Villages, where none but our own Community live.”4 Penry’s letters celebrate the unusual opportunities made possible by life in a Moravian choir house: primary among these opportunities was the opportunity to remain single. Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf emphasized proudly that in Moravian communities single women were treated differently than “in the world outside, [where] an old maid is mocked and scorned.” But he did not always speak of the single life and married life equally. He often depicted marriage as the proper trajectory for all single women: “The actual profession of a Single Sister when she is in the Congregation,” he stated in an address to the single sisters in 1747, “is to enter into marriage.” When Jean-François Reynier joined the Moravians at Marienborn in late 1739, he was told that single people were only ‘half people” (halbe Leute).”5 The choir system established in Moravian communities in the 1730s and the practices and piety in those houses, however, provided a powerful counterweight to such statements. The choir system was a “practical expression of Zinzendorf ’s theory that the earthly existence of the Son of God has sanctified all aspects of human life”6—including singleness. A “Choir-Ode” for the single sisters included in The Litany-Book… at present mostly in Use among the Brethren (1759), for instance, reminded single sisters that: In old Times was Virginity Preserved but indiff ’rently; For one did scarce a Virgin see, But she was a Bride immediately. The first Change happen’d in this Plan, When the Creator was made Man; And from that awful Hour we date The Honour of the Virgin-State.7 THE

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The popularity of the single sisters’ choir took Bethlehem’s founders by surprise. Initially there were very few single sisters in Bethlehem and, according to Beverly Smaby, church authorities did not expect the number to grow: most single sisters, they expected, would marry relatively quickly. They did expect, however, a large cohort of single brothers, and so built a single brothers’ house. But the numbers of single women did grow, and by 1746 they outgrew the space allotted for them in Bethlehem—the east end of the Gemeinhaus—and moved to Nazareth. The continued growth of the single sisters’ choir convinced authorities to find a place for it in Bethlehem. The community built a new house for the single brothers and when it was complete the brothers vacated their building. That building—which we now know as the Single Sisters House—was thus available for 21 single sisters (and 28 older girls) who returned to Bethlehem in November 1748 to occupy it.9 Eight years later, when Mary Penry arrived in Bethlehem in 1756, about 75 single sisters—the population had more than tripled—lived in the house. By the end of the decade, over 100 single sisters (and many older girls) lived in the house, which had been enlarged by an extension to the north in 1752 and would be enlarged again in 1772 by an exten-

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Regular ceremonies and festivals (May 4 was the Single Sisters’ Festival), hymns, and litanies particular to these choir houses valorized the state of singleness. Penry’s writings reveal how an ordinary Moravian understood the choice to remain single and how she felt about her church’s recognition of that choice. “I desire to spend and be spent,” she wrote in 1801, “in the Service of the Virgin Choir.”8 The Moravian choir houses offered single women such as Penry an experience of community even after the General Economy, a period of economic communalism, ended in 1762. That a single sisters’ choir welcomed an impoverished young woman such as Penry, who was not from a Moravian family or a family that had any ties to the Moravian Church, is an important aspect of the function these houses played for single women in early America. In exploring below the capacity of these choir houses to deliver single women a fulfilling life outside of marriage, I touch on a variety of topics: the organization of worship, labor, and space in the choir house; the economic and social circumstances from which for many the choir house was a refuge; the composition of the cohort of single women who lived there, who were remarkably diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, class, and age; and the ties to the wider world that many of these women preserved even after “leaving the world” to join a single sisters’ choir. What unifies these topics is that Moravian choir houses provided single women such as Mary Penry with a sense of belonging and of self-worth, which stemmed from the opportunity to contribute productively to a spiritual, economic, and social unit.


sion to the east. The number of sisters remained around 100 for the next forty years. The sisters’ house in Lititz—where Penry, with a small cohort of women to establish it, moved in summer 1762—was smaller than its counterpart in Bethlehem. In 1796, she reported from Lititz that “we are 56 in Number of different ages, from 15 to Sixty”: at “Sixty,” Penry was the eldest woman in the house.10 To her cousins in Wales, Penry described the daily life of this community. “Our Rules are as regular as Clock work,” she noted, describing morning prayers at 6:00 a.m. in a “Pretty Hall entirely adapted to such Meetings” and a “divine Service every Evening, at which either Lessons out of the Bible are read, or a short exhortation given on the Text for the day.” Every four weeks the single sisters took communion and on “Sunday we pray the Litany, have Sermons as usual in Churches, and our Neighbors some Miles distant attend the Service on Sundays and Holydays.” Penry’s account reveals how the different spaces in the sisters’ house shaped the community that lived together in it. “We dine in one large dining Hall. We breakfast, drink tea, and Sup in our separate apartments, where 6 or 8 Persons live together. We sleep together in a large Hall, each in their Own separate Bed and bedstead.” The single sisters would gather together for certain worship services, for certain meals, and to sleep; but for much of the day, sisters gathered in smaller groups of six to eight women, organized according to the forms of labor in which they were engaged. “Every apartment in which we Sisters live together,” Penry wrote, “may be called a little Family of their own.”11 Penry’s eight “room companions” spun for their livelihood, though Penry spent her days engaged differently: If you wish to see me you must look for me in a large Room. Eight sisters live with me who Spin Cotton. I sit at the upper end of the Room at a Window fronting the Street, a round table before me, behind me my Bureau with a Closet on the Top, sometimes, indeed most frequent, writing at my Desk.12

Late in life, Penry was able to “remove into a little room to myself ” in the sisters’ house. This “little room to myself ”—which was “exactly 10 Feet Square, one Window with 35 panes of Glass,” and contained, in addition to a desk and chairs, “a very small Looking Glass”—was a private workspace. She continued to sleep “in the large Hall with the rest of the Family. I rise when I think proper … when I come down I find a Warm Room.” At the end of the day, she said, “I let my fire go out and spend my Evening sometimes in one room sometimes in another but never in my Room unless I have something particular to do.”13 Penry was given privacy, that is, but only to do her work: she was not provided private space for personal reasons, nor did she desire it. As soon as her work was done, she joined her sisters in “one room, sometimes in another”—“never in my Room” unless she had work to do. THE

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Penry’s eight room companions spun cotton, but other sisters undertook a wide variety of other trades:

Some single sisters, in Bethlehem, tended livestock. In August 1761, a visitor to Bethlehem, who had been a schoolmate of Penry, was awakened one morning by “one Hundred Cows, a number of them with Bells, a venerable goat and two she goats [that were] drove in town by two Sisters.”15 Penry does not mention other forms of labor, what we call “white collar,” in which single sisters engaged. Penry herself served as “Clerk”: “I keep the Accounts of our House,” she stated, “and write letters of Business.”16 She was responsible for recording and reporting to church authorities the business activities of the single sisters’ choir and for corresponding with those outside Lititz about these activities. She also kept the daily diary of her choir; she guided “strangers” around the community; and she was paid to translate for the church. (Mission diaries would sometimes be sent to Lititz, where Penry would translate them into English so they could be circulated to and read aloud in other communities.17) Other women in the single sisters’ house performed other professional jobs, serving as spiritual leaders and helping to administer the large community of women. All these activities exemplify the extraordinary opportunities offered to single women by the Moravian Church. The single sisters were paid for these different forms of labor after 1762, when the General Economy in Bethlehem ended. In this extraordinary communal social organization, “everyone . . . worked for the community—and each received in return, not wages, but access to the necessities of life (food, clothing, and shelter), as well as equal access to what we might call a free, fully socialized system of universal education, healthcare, childcare, and care for the elderly.”18 After 1762, while the choir house still looked communal (the single sisters ate together, worked alongside one another, slept alongside one another), financially it was not: each woman paid for room, board, and services that earlier she would have received in exchange for her labor. Church authorities struggled to ensure that each single sister had an occupation by which she could earn a living as they orchestrated the transition away from the General Economy. “Several from the [sisters’] choir could become seamstresses,” one planning document

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We have 2 Looms in our House, in which we…have wove very pretty Muslin, both Striped and Plain. Flax and wool, Worsted and Cotton, we Spin a great deal, more particularly Cotton. Some of our Sisters do outdoor Work—as gardening, hay making, reaping—washing, &c –We have likewise Seamstresses and Mantua Makers in our House, and your old Niece works Tambour & Embroidery….—I forgot to tell you that we wash, mend, and make for the Single Men—and bake their Bread, in our House.14


reveals, “and make linens for the Indian Single Brethren, and others.”

A few could mend. A few could work in the garden and in the kitchen. [Others] could make twine and bleach it. Perhaps they will receive money to do washing. Several could serve as maids in the families, and help with the harvest. A few could come into the animal-yards.

The document added: “the following resources occur to us: two new English Sisters are said to be in the Girls’ House; one of these is named Ashley, and she is said to understand linen weaving. If she can be replaced by someone else, there would be the beginning of a weaving-shop [in the single sisters’ house]. Maybe one could allow [the single sisters] a small piece of field in order to sew flax or hemp, which they could prepare and spin, and in time more could come to weave.”19 The decision to establish a sisters’ house in Lititz in May 1762 was part of this effort to ensure each sister a living after the elimination of the General Economy. Better, for instance, to establish a second cohort of weavers in Lititz, selling their product to a different market, than to have too many weavers producing too much product in Bethlehem. Single sisters paid for goods and services from the wages they earned from their work at their varied occupations: spinning, washing, herding cows, translating. Penry offered a detailed account of the finances in Lititz’s single sisters’ house: We pay at the rate of 2/6 the week sterling for Board and Lodging, for which we have daily a good plain Dinner of Meat Broth and such vegetables as are in Season—and our Tea Water for Breakfast and in the afternoon at 3 o[c]lock, is provided for us. [In] Every apartment in which we Sisters live together…we find each [her] own Breakfast, Tea or Coffee &c. and in the Afternoon the same. Fire and Candle we find ourselves, each Contributes Weekly a certain sum—and the overseer in each Room, provides these 2 articles. Our washing is also done in the same way, one or 2 belonging to a Room, wash for the rest: they are paid by the day, and the rest pay by the Piece.20

The transition from communal housekeeping to wage labor must have made many single sisters anxious about how to make enough money to support these new expenses. But the choir houses continued to insulate single sisters from the ups and downs, the dangers and precariousness, of the colonial American economy that existed beyond Moravian settlements. Penry was always conscious of her limited economic resources and of the need to continue to labor, even at what she considered an advanced age: she has “work[ed] for [her] Living…[for] 47 years,” she told her cousins in Wales, “and still continue to do…at 68 years of Age.” But she was proud of this ability to work. “Old as I am,” she wrote at 65, “I am still thought caTHE

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pable to hold the Office of Clerk, in our House.” Two years later, she stated that “I still continue Scribe and Book keeper, my Eyes still hold good without Spectacles. My dear Mrs. Stocker, and her Son and Daughters [relatives in Philadelphia] often assist me with Cash and clothing, so that I have every Necessary of Life. I can earn very little now with my needle, being grown weak & infirm.”21 In the last years of her life, then, Penry accepted support from outside the Moravian community. But Penry never worried that she would become destitute. She knew her community would care for her even if she could no longer contribute economically to it. She was anxious only that she would become “a Burthen” to that community; she prayed frequently as she aged that she would be able to continue to contribute productively. Penry frequently described the single sisters’ house in which she lived as an “Asylum.” By this word she meant primarily that the choir house was a religious refuge that protected her from the spiritual dangers of the wider world: “Ever since it has pleased my Gracious Savior to bring me to the knowledge of my own sinful state by nature and the riches of His redeeming grace in which (glory be to His holy name) I have an interest,” Penry wrote in 1793, “I am really in an asylum of peace and happiness. Days and years pass on without a material change in my way of life.”22 The daily routines and organized piety of the single sisters’ house sustained Penry’s faith. But these Moravian choir houses, as I’ve suggested above, also served her (and other single sisters) as an economic refuge. These choir houses offered a place of security from an early American social and economic world that posed particular dangers to single women for whom the promise of America had turned out to be an illusion. Many single women and their families were casualties of the Atlantic system, swept to America by the promise of a better life and better opportunities only to discover, once here, that their hard work guaranteed them nothing. Our desire to tell stories of immigrant success has left little room for the stories of these people. The Moravian sisters’ houses, however, made room for these women, giving some of them a chance at a fulfilling life. Penry herself emigrated to America at the age of nine, sailing from Wales with her widowed mother to join a cousin in Philadelphia who had married a prominent Quaker merchant. This cousin died, however, soon after the Penrys arrived, and both mother and daughter found themselves in a household dominated by a predatory patriarch. This merchant seems to have forced Penry’s mother to marry him, perhaps by raping and impregnating her, and he threatened the young Mary Penry herself. This unfortunate beginning would have constrained most young women’s possibilities. When Bethlehem welcomed Penry as a single sister, however, the trajectory of her life changed. Nowhere else in colonial America could a girl with such a beginning have had a career as a bookkeeper, a clerk, a diarist, and a translator, making a living thanks to her education in four languages


and her aptitude at record-keeping. In 1795, when asked why she had not returned to Wales after her mother died, Penry replied that, while she had the “opportunity of returning,” she would have had to return to Wales penniless: and in such circumstances, “to whom would the helpless Maiden go?”23 Penry’s life in America constitutes an answer to that rhetorical question. If she were lucky, the “helpless Maiden” could “go” to a Moravian sisters’ house. Another young girl, Mary Tippet, who arrived in Lititz in 1767, emigrated from England to Maryland with her mother, a widow. Nathanael Seidel described Tippet as the “first fruit” of Moravian work in Maryland, where Bishop Spangenberg encountered her in 1762 when she was twelve. After this meeting, her desire to go to Bethlehem was so strong that it overpowered her mother’s desires to keep her daughter with her. “It was hard for me to tell my mother about my wish [to live in Bethlehem],” Tippet’s lebenslauf recalls, “because I knew she would not want me to leave her.” Tippet’s mother, Sarah, may have been reluctant to part with her, but by the time Sarah died in 1770, she had sent five children from three husbands to Moravian communities. We know little about Sarah; but her willingness to send her children to Moravian choir houses reveals her belief that they would have opportunities and would be cared for better there than they would be cared for “in the world.” Joseph Powell, who sent the sixteen-year old Tippet north from Maryland to Bethlehem, said that he knew that the Moravians “could do . . . more for her then [sic] could be don[e] here.”24 Powell did not specify whether he meant Mary Tippet’s spiritual or material well-being; he undoubtedly meant both. And his confidence proved true. Two decades after Tippet entered Lititz’ single sisters’ house, she was appointed the spiritual leader of the entire choir. She served the same role in Bethlehem between 1798 and 1809, when she was responsible for the spiritual lives of over a hundred women. She returned to Lititz in 1809 and retired from her duties at age 67 in 1817. The early American culture surrounding these Moravian communities pressured young women, such as Penry or Tippet, to marry to survive. The demands on women in early America to marry—and to remarry, if widowed—were enormous, as author Karin Wulf has documented thoroughly. No systematic studies reveal what percentage of women in early America remained single. One localized study of Quakers around Philadelphia between 1681 and 1735 found that 14 percent of women never married; another study, of women in two eighteenth-century New Jersey Quakers meetings, found that about 23 percent had not married by the age of 50.25 In Moravian communities, both Penry and Tippet were able to choose to remain single. A substantial number of other young women seized this same opportunity. In 1758, for instance, 94 single sisters, including Penry, lived in Bethlehem’s single sisters’ house: 58 percent of them married within the church; 42 percent, an extraordinary percentage, THE

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remained single sisters for their entire life. The fact that, in this one cohort, more than 40 percent of Moravian single sisters chose to remain single exposes what an unusual opportunity this was in colonial America. Penry recognized the role that the single sisters’ choir houses played in particular for young women whose circumstances had left them little hope. “These Houses,” she wrote proudly, “have proved an Asylum for Numbers, who had they been left to seek their Bread in the midst of a Deluding World might have been led astray into the Paths of Vice, which has been the Misfortune of but too many Young Persons of our Sex.”26 Penry’s own experience enabled her to see the hard truths about many immigrants’ lives. “I never would encourage a friend of mine to come to America,” she wrote. “Where one makes a fortune, there are ten who with tears lament they ever left their Country [and] who have been half distracted, at finding things so vastly different from the description given them.” But she carefully differentiated the situation in Moravian communities from that economic battleground: “Where I am settled it is very different,” she added, “but all that come to America have not that good fortune.”27 While the Moravian single sisters’ houses served as spiritual homes for many women, they also served as economic and social asylums for other women, including Penry and Tippet. Penry never forgot that most single women in early America did not have her “good fortune” to find asylum in a choir house. One’s worldly circumstances, whether unfortunate or privileged, did not earn one admission to a choir house. No woman entered a Moravian community unless church authorities trusted that she was awakened spiritually, and young women were not invited to join the choir to save them from economic or social peril. Church authorities rejected most requests by families or individuals to join the community. But if women such as Mary Penry were not welcomed because they were in precarious domestic or economic situations, they were welcomed from such circumstances. The strict spiritual standard for admission to Moravian communities, that is, was not used to exclude the most vulnerable individuals in early American society. These economic refugees, many of whom (like Penry) came to Moravian communities from broken, non-Moravian families, helped produce the extraordinary ethnic and racial diversity in these choir houses. The first cohort of Bethlehem’s single sisters, the 21 women who occupied the choir house in 1748, were all ethnic Germans except six women (28 percent): one African, two native Americans, and three non-German whites. This ratio matched Bethlehem’s population overall between 1742 and 1844, as calculated by Beverly Smaby: in these years “nearly three-fourths” of Bethlehem’s residents “were either born in Germany or [were] of German parentage.”28 But a decade later, the composition of the single sisters’ house had changed radically. By 1758 only 60 percent of these 94 women were ethnically German, while a full 40 percent were not: 6 non-whites (four native Americans, one African, and one African-American, born in


Virginia) and 32 non-German whites (English, Welsh, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Swiss). It is difficult to imagine another place in the history of America, until perhaps late twentieth-century college dormitories, where women from such different ethnic and class backgrounds lived alongside one another, sleeping, eating, working, worshiping together. The women in this 1758 cohort arrived at the choir house through different paths. Many arrived through what we might consider expected routes: some had families in Bethlehem or in other Moravian communities; some had been single sisters in other Moravian communities; some had risen through the system, having lived in little girls’ or older girls’ choirs. These choir members, while not exclusively German, were largely so. Other women in this 1758 cohort, however, had been strangers entirely to the Moravian church until they discovered it (or it discovered them) in America. Penry exemplifies such women. These women petitioned to join the community at Bethlehem, and they typically left families elsewhere in the world and arrived in Bethlehem entirely alone. This group included ethnic Germans, of course, since families of every ethnic and racial composition found it difficult to survive in early America, but it was more diverse ethnically than the initial cohort I described. The willingness of the choir houses to embrace these economic refugees (those with spiritual promise) helped make the single sisters’ choir as diverse ethnically as it was. These women of different ethnicities, races, ages, and economic circumstances formed a community in the Moravian choir houses. Crucial to this process was the community’s separation from what Penry called the “Deluding World” (though it is easy, as I suggest later, to misconstrue this separation). A strong sense of detaching oneself from the world was central to the experience of joining a settlement community such as Bethlehem or Lititz. Anna Fenstermacher, for instance, recalled that the decision to enter a Moravian community in 1764 “was hard for me... because I had children in Philadelphia, and was still attached to the world,” while Sarah Van Vleck, by joining the single sisters in Bethlehem in 1755, “incurred great displeasure from my aunt, for she loved me tenderly and had destined me to be her heiress. But that was all too venal for me, and the Saviour detached me from all my friends in the flesh.”29 Many memoirs depict family or friends as impediments to a Moravian demand that they would orient themselves away from their given families and the “world” and form a primary relationship with their new family and their Savior. As Mary Tippet wrote in her memoir, she had to stop “lov[ing] the world and its pleasures,” a sentiment that appears often in Penry’s letters: “It pleased our dear Saviour in my 19th year to give me a gracious call in my heart to bring me off from the World and the things of it, to fix me on him. In obedience to this call,” she adds, “I left Philadelphia . . . and came . . . to live at Bethlehem.” Thirty years later she used the same language: “My desire is to be found in . . . my Saviour . . . who called me . . . from the sinful VaniTHE

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ties of this world, to an Asylum of Peace.” Or, ten years after that, in 1793: “I enjoy a Contentment & Peace of Mind which this World can neither give nor deprive me off.”30 Single sisters must not depend on the world or on things of the world: happiness, indeed salvation, involved anchoring or “fixing” themselves to a different rock. But Penry’s case demonstrates that, while the church expected single sisters (like all members of Moravian communities) to separate spiritually from the world, it did not expect them to isolate themselves from it behind the stone walls of a choir house. Non-Moravians often misunderstood this, including a 1773 visitor to Bethlehem who, having noted that the Moravians “resembl[ed] the Roman Catholicks,” regretted that the “Loveliest part of the Creation”—the single sisters—“should . . . be Cloistered up.” The title of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1825 poem, “Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem,” captured this attitude precisely. Some scholars, surprisingly, continue to describe single sisters as “cloister[ed]” or as “sequestered under the strictest rule from the world . . . like novices, protected behind the garden walls of a village monastery.”31 Penry herself noticed the misperception in 1786. “We are all well in Health, and Happy in our sweet Asylum of Peace,” she wrote from the sisters’ house in Lititz. “Now and then, we have a Sight of Vanity Fair when the Beaux and Belles from Lancaster call upon us, and take a View of our House, sometimes I suppose full of Pity at our Confinement as they think—but I never can observe that any of our Girls would wish to exchange Stations with them.”32 The view from outside differed from the view from inside: the term confinement, Penry insisted, misconstrued the life of a single sister. Moravian choir houses gathered a community of single women, but they did not confine them as if they were too fragile to endure commerce with the world. The lines that separated Moravian communities from the communities around them were not walls: they were boundaries, clearly drawn but capable of being crossed, even by single women. Historian Katherine Carté Engel has analyzed the commercial activities that connected Bethlehem’s choir houses to the surrounding communities,33 and single sisters such as Penry also preserved extensive social ties beyond Moravian settlements. In 1760, four years after arriving in Bethlehem, Penry remarked that “I have the pleasure to see my dear Mama once a year and [communicate] with her by letter every week. In April she was here and made a stay of 3 weeks.”34 Contrary to what one expects from most memoirs (including Penry’s), Penry did not divorce herself from familial ties. She not only remained tethered to her mother but also to other women and men she had known before she arrived in Bethlehem. She maintained these networks, in part, through correspondence. Penry had correspondents within the church, but her personal correspondence with individuals outside the church was more vast: she wrote to her cousins in Wales; she wrote to her former school chum, Elizabeth Drinker, who


had married one of Philadelphia’s leading merchants; and she initiated new correspondences with other young women, often encouraging them to remain single. Penry also exchanged letters with Timothy Matlack, a leading politician during the Revolution (who was another schoolmate); with Benjamin Rush, the politician and doctor; with Edward Shippen and his wife, Lancaster’s most prominent family. Her list of correspondents runs the gamut of women and men at every level of the social spectrum. Penry did not just write letters, however; she also traveled regularly to colonial America’s urban centers. In the five-year period from 1797 to 1802, Penry traveled to Philadelphia three times, to Lancaster four times, to Bethlehem twice, to Harrisburg once, and to Baltimore once. During these trips, most of which lasted a few weeks (some lasted longer), Penry attended services at a Moravian church when she could, but she lived with relatives or friends and spent her days on social visits, reconnecting with old friends and often making new ones. Such trips reinforced the bonds that connected Penry to the world long after she joined the single sisters’ house at Bethlehem. Indeed, other single sisters capitalized on Penry’s network when they traveled in the world. In May 1797, Elizabeth Drinker in Philadelphia recorded in her diary that “the two Moravian Woman recommended by M. Penry, The Widdow Sydrich, her husband was minister of the Brethrens Church in Race Street for many years formerly, and a Widdow Nitschman dined here.”35 When she was 60 years old, returning to Lititz from a visit to Philadelphia, Penry wrote to a friend that “I find myself more attach’d to my Friends than ever.”36 Single sisters could without recrimination from church authorities preserve social ties to individuals and communities outside the choir house and the Moravian community in which they lived. Moravian choir houses, then, offered an opportunity for single women that was unavailable elsewhere in early America. These choir houses not only embraced single women from a variety of social and economic circumstances, some of them quite dire; but also they enabled these women to remain single in an early American culture that demanded marriage and ridiculed those who had not married as “Old Maids.” Living alongside women who had made a similar choice to remain single, Moravian single women avoided the scorn they would have experienced in the larger culture. As important as this “social” security was the fact that these houses guaranteed their residents economic security: the capacity to make a “living” and support themselves. Writing to her relatives in Wales about her cousin, who was about 25 at the time, Penry opined that “a Single woman of her age seems somehow so unprotected in the midst of the World!” She then added: “I never experienced this because in my twentieth year I came to live among a House, full of Maidens, and have continued among them ever since.”37 Penry’s simple declaration masked the extraordinary experiTHE

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Endnotes 1 Gina Dalfonzo, “Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?” April 9, 2014 [http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/04/09/are-single-peoplethe-lepers-of-today/31646]; “Surviving Church as a Single,” StuffChristiansLike, June 1, 2009 [http:// stuffchristianslike.net/2009/06/01/550-survivingchurch-as-a-single/]; Vicky Beeching, “Honest Thoughts on Singleness & Church,” October 11, 2011 [http://vickybeeching.com/blog/how-i-feelabout-the-church-and-singleness/]. 2 Nathan Heller, “The Disconnect: Why Are So Many Americans Living By Themselves?” The New Yorker, April 16, 2012; Paul Peucker, “Beyond Beeswax Candles and Lovefeast Buns: The Role of History in Finding a Moravian Identity,” The Hinge 17, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 6-17. 3 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, July 2, 1795, Penralley Collection, Item 1363, National Library of Wales (abbreviated hereafter as NLW); Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. (Throughout this essay, I have added punctuation to Penry’s writings, but have for the most part retained her original spelling and emphasis.) Penry’s sentiments were not as invisible as she thought. The democrat speaker of the Pennsylvania assembly, Isaac Weaver, heard Penry praise England, took “great offence” at what he viewed as her retrograde politics, and worried publicly that she would “instill bad Principles into the Boarders” at the Lititz girls’ school (Mary Penry to Elizabeth Drinker, April 3, 1801, Linden Hall Archives, Lititz, Pennsylvania). 4 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. 5 Zinzendorf sermon, July 17, 1755, quoted in Beverly Smaby, “Gender Prescriptions in Eighteenth-Century Bethlehem,” in Jean Soderlund and Catherine Parzynski, eds., Backcountry Crucibles: The Lehigh Valley from Settlement to Steel (Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 2007), 86; Zinzendorf ’s address to the Single Sisters, June 25, 1747, quoted in Katherine Faull, Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Their Related Lives (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1007), 139 n 2; Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Two Troubled Souls: An Eighteenth-Century Couple’s Spiritual Journey in the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013), 81. 6 Craig D. Atwood, Community of the Cross: Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2004), 176.

7 The Litany-Book, According to the Manner of Singing At Present Mostly in Use among the Brethren, Again revised (London, 1759), 280. 8 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, October 23, 1801, Penralley Collection, Item 13xx, NLW. 9 Beverly Prior Smaby, “Forming the Single Sisters’ Choir in Bethlehem,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 28 (1994): 1-14. 10 Catalogs of the Single Sisters and girls in Bethlehem, 1754-1760, BethSS, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem (abbreviated hereafter as MAB); Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. 11 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. 12 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, July 2, 1795, Penralley Collection, Item 1363, NLW. 13 Mary Penry to Elizabeth Drinker, February 6-8, 1802, Linden Hall Archives, Lititz, Pennsylvania. 14 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. 15 The Diary of Hannah Callender Sansom: Sense and Sensibility in the Age of the American Revolution, ed. Susan E. Klepp and Karin Wulf (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010), 154. 16 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, May 2, 1793, Penralley Collection, Item 1359, NLW. 17 For Penry’s translation activities, see Mary Penry to George Henry Loskiel, September 28, 1802, PHC, 1800-1804, Letters from Lititz, 18001804, MAB (“Upwards of 30 Years have elapsed since my translations have ceased, there being no great Occasion for it when the German Language is so generally understood and I was not in a Situation to do it Gratis”). 18 Seth Moglen, “Excess and Utopia: Meditations on Moravian Bethlehem,” History of the Present 2, 2 (2012): 133. 19 Projects for the intended change of the Bethlehem Economy, re: Single Sisters, 1761, Box: Transition Period 1761-1772, MAB (trans. Katherine Carté Engel, http://bdhp.moravian.edu/ community_records/meeting_minutes/singlesisters/ singlesistrans.html).

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ence that these “House[s], full of Maidens” offered. The careers of Penry and Tippet suggest that, by providing a social, economic, and religious refuge, these choir houses energized single women and helped them flourish. Can today’s church say the same? v


20 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, April 27, 1796, Penralley Collection, Item 1370, NLW. 21 Mary Penry to Eliza Powell, September 29, 1803, Penralley Collection, Item 1393, NLW; Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, October 23, 1801, Penralley Collection, Item 13xx, NLW; Mary Penry to Katherine Penry, September 29, 1803, Penralley Collection, Item 1393, NLW. 22 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, June 4, 1793, Penralley Collection, Item 1361, NLW. 23 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, July 2, 1795, Penralley Collection, Item 1363, NLW. 24 Mary Tippet, Lebenslauf, Moravian Church Archives and Museum, Lititz, Pennsylvania; Joseph Powell to Nathanael Seidel, November 21, 1767, MyA: Maryland, Box 2; Carroll’s Manor Diary, November 25, 1767, MAB; A. L. Oerter, “Graceham, Frederick County, Md.: An Historical Sketch,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 9 (1913): 302. 25 Karin Wulf, Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 13. See also Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband: Single Women in America: The Generations of 1780-1840 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). 26 Mary Penry to Elizabeth Drinker, October 23, 1783, Linden Hall Archives, Lititz, Pennsylvania. 27 Mary Penry to Eliza Powell, March 10, 1797, Penralley Collection, Item 1379, NLW. 28 Beverly Prior Smaby, Transformation of Moravian Bethlehem: From Communal Mission to Family Economy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 126.

32 Mary Penry to Catherine Wistar, September 18, 1786, Catharine Franklin Sharples (1768-1824) Family Papers, Collection 3062, Series Three, Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 33 Katherine Carté Engel, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). While I focus here on the networks that linked Mary Penry to non-Moravians, many scholars in recent years have stressed Moravians’ cosmopolitanism and the concrete practices that knit together the Moravian communities that were scattered around the globe: see Carola Wessel, “Connecting Congregations: The Net of Communication among the Moravians as Exemplified by the Interaction between Pennsylvania, the Upper Ohio Valley, and German (17721774),” in Craig D. Atwood and Peter Vogt, eds., The Distinctiveness of Moravian Culture (Nazareth: Moravian Historical Society, 2003), 153-72; Robert Beachy, “Manuscript Missions in an Age of Print: The Moravian ‘Gemein Nachrichten’ in the Atlantic World,” in Michele Gillespie and Robert Beachy, eds. Pious Pursuits: German Moravians in the Atlantic World (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 33-49; Paul Peucker, “Cosmopolitan Moravians: ‘Community’ meant the world to early Moravians,” Moravian College Magazine (Summer 2009): 14; Gisele Mettele, “Spiritual Kinship: The Moravians as an International Fellowship of Brothers and Sisters (1730s-1830s),” in Christopher H. Johnson, et al., eds., Transregional and Transnational Families in Europe and Beyond: Experiences Since the Middle Ages (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011), 155-74; Amy C. Schutt, “Complex Connections: Communication, Mobility, and Relationships in Moravian Children’s Lives,” Journal of Moravian History 12, no. 1 (2012): 20-46. 34 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, July 13, 1760, Penralley Collection, Item 1353, NLW.

29 “Anna Barbara Fenstermacher, née Rente,” in Faull, Moravian Women’s Memoirs, 88; “Sarah Grube, née van Fleck,” in Faull, Moravian Women’s Memoirs, 42.

35 The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman, ed. Elaine Forman Crane, 3 vols. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994), 2: 919.

30 Mary Penry to Meredith Penry, July 13, 1760, Penralley Collection, Item 1353, NLW; Mary Penry to Katherine Haines, November 3, 1786, Catharine Franklin Sharples (1768-1824) Family Papers, Collection 3062, Series Three, Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Mary Penry to Meredith Penry and Kitty Penry, May 2, 1793, Penralley Collection, Item 1359, NLW.

36 Mary Penry to Elizabeth Drinker, December 5, 1795, Linden Hall Archives, Lititz, Pennsylvania.

31 “A Summer Jaunt in 1773,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 10 (1886): 209; Leland Ferguson, God’s Fields: Landscape, Religion, and Race in Moravian Wachovia (University Press of Florida, 2011), 273; Ron Southern, “Strangers Below: An Archaeology of Distinctions in an Eighteenth-Century Religious Community,” in Susan Lawrence, ed., Archaeologies of the British: Explorations of Identity in Great Britain and its Colonies, 1600-1945 (London: Routledge, 2003), 87.

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37 Mary Penry to Katherine Penry, September 29, 1803, Penralley Collection, Item 1393, NLW. The author delivered an earlier form of this essay as the annual Jeanette Barres Zug Lecture in 2014. He thanks Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites, and in particular Charlene Donchez, for the invitation to speak on that occasion.

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Response to Dr. Gordon Joy Cole Joy Cole is a retired nurse and member of Lewisville Moravian Church in North Carolina. She is the widow of the Rev. Hal Cole. Dr. Gordon’s article about the history of our early Moravians who cared so lovingly for their unmarried ladies is enlightening and inspiring. He asks: is the church meeting the needs of our single women today? Does the church “provide a social, economic, and religious refuge which energizes single women and helps them flourish”? Good question and definitely a challenging one. The needs of singles, whether they are happily single or not, are significant and unique; the church needs to be looking at a ministry to this group of individuals. As Dr. Gordon points out, the single population is growing: “four million Americans lived alone in 1950, but 31 million live alone today.” This includes the statistics for male and female singles, and I am sure many would appreciate a social group or Sunday school class just for singles, either of which group could easily become a support group if they are for singles only! The church should be providing an avenue for singles to develop relationships, meet their spiritual needs and find support from others who are experiencing similar challenges, including divorce. I commend the few churches which have recognized this need and have sponsored various types of singles groups. My observation is that this wide open mission field is not being addressed like it was addressed by the early Moravians. I am aware that Dr. Gordon is addressing the history of the single sisters’ choir houses and of course, in the 1700s the single women’s needs were a priority until they found a husband to care for them. So the implication is that Brother Gordon is referring to the never-married single women in the early church; however, as we think about his question, we must also address the needs of another growing group of single sisters: widows. There are several hundred scripture passages in the Bible where widows are mentioned; the Lord has a special place in his heart for widows—often coupled with orphans, which I find interesting, since often the needs are similar. It is comforting to me that the early Moravians heard the Lord’s command to take care of widows! The Moravians built a widows’ house in Bethlehem in 1768. The Moravians in Salem were a bit slower to address the needs of widows—to the best of my knowledge, that did not happen until after the 1823 closure of the brothers’ house (built in 1769).

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The brothers’ house was reopened in 1829 for residence and was “eventually” known as the “Widow’s House.” (Wikepedia) It is interesting that the early Moravians did understand and distinguish the difference between the needs of the single sisters and widows, as indicated by separate housing. It is with great sadness that I am responding to this article, because as a widow I am once again single! I was floored at my needs and challenges as a widow. After 48 years of marriage, I felt more like a “half person”— which the Moravians apparently called single, never-married women back in the 1700s. I quickly learned that I am indeed very single. I now make all the decisions, and had to learn about maintaining the yard, the shrubs, the car, the furnace, the finances, home maintenance, etc. And on top of that, I had to rediscover who I was, since I am no longer a wife and partner—my main role for 48 years. YIKES!! This indeed is a lonely, frustrating, frightening experience, and coupled with grief from my profound loss, it added up to one seriously scared single and sad woman! Do I need support from the church? You bet I do! Did I get it? Not really. (I must add that I got tremendous support from my church when I was my husband’s caregiver for four and a half years. It’s a caring church; but as a widow, I have been on my own as far as the church goes. Fortunately, I have a loving and caring family, but many widows lack that.) The March 2014 issue of Investment Advisor states that there were almost 12 million widows in the US in 2011 and that figure is growing by almost 1 million per year. How is the church addressing the needs of this group of single sisters? As I’ve already implied, in my way of thinking, and in my personal experience: not well. After my husband passed away, I found a tremendous hole in my social life. I was particularly lonely on weekends and some holidays. I asked some other widows in the church what they did on those days—and they all told me that those were lonely days for them as well. In looking at my small congregation’s directory, I discovered there were over thirty single women in our church! So I invited all of them to a July 4th picnic, and thus, the Unity Moravian Church Single Sisters was born. On July fourth, 2012, eight of us single women from the church met and decided we badly needed this fellowship and support. This “loosely organized” group, with the support of the church board, was started for all single women (widowed, divorced, or never-married) of Unity Moravian Church. Now, three years later, we have over thirty active members, with about one-third of them being from other churches. Initially, the group started with the idea of doing activities together on weekends and holidays. We have picnics on Memorial Day, July fourth, and Labor Day with good attendance. We go to plays, musicals, church activities, and other places together. [Continued] THE

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As the group has developed, the sisters have found in each other new friends with whom we can voice our issues, concerns, and accomplishments. We have found the support of women who understand what we are feeling and we pray for each other. We are also discovering that as nurturing and loving women, we are developing a natural ministry of reaching out to women who are single and who may be suffering in one way or another. With our faith as the common bond for the group, we move forward in that ministry and, at the same time, enjoy each other at the various events we attend. We have branched out to activities other than weekend entertainment. Last year we visited various retirement homes to educate ourselves on what is available in the community and we have also had classes by gifted church members on home and lawn maintenance, exercise, and nutrition. We are discovering that not only are we doing things as a group, but also we are branching out into “sub-groups” as we get to know each other better. New friendships have been formed and those with like interests are doing things together in smaller groups. As coordinator of the single sisters, I’m seeing more and more women from outside our congregation asking to join our group because their own church is not addressing their needs. The success of this group tells me there is a serious need for church-sponsored single sisters groups. It has made a significant difference for many of us. The majority of our members are widows, but we find that other single women have similar needs and we all feel “connected” as older single women—I emphasize “older” because I do feel the needs are different for younger generations of single women. Does the church provide a social, economic and religious refuge which energizes single women and helps them flourish? It can happen if it’s not already happening in your church! Put a group of single sisters together and they will take over, making it the best support group ever! v


Fran Huetter Fran Huetter is a member of Home Moravian Church. She has served the Moravian Church in many capacities as a church educator and missionary to Alaska. The concept and way of life of the Moravian single sisters were totally new to me until I studied at seminary. It was while I was at Moravian Theological Seminary that I was introduced to the single sisters and their devotion and ministry within the church’s structure. I found that I could identify with Penry. Various parts of her life reflected on the value of having ongoing fellowship beyond the single sisters’ world. As a child of God, I recognize the need for wholeness, which includes life beyond the daily demands of work within the church. I find and found it a challenge to step outside the perimeters of my work: due to schedules (no weekends off ), energy levels (preparation and fulfillment), and economic factors. However, my activities as part of the church staff and within the life of the church somewhat parallels the single sisters’ daily schedule of work and devotion, which enriched both phases of their lives. These two phases of devotion and work enriched life inside and beyond the single sisters’ house, which I recognize in my own life. The single sisters’ agenda included community and individual worship and supportive fellowship which fortified them to “live in the world of the Savior” and yet, in the world. I truly accept these vital daily experiences. Self-discipline and encouragement from dear friends have aided me along the way as a servant of our Lord. We all need people who are reliable listeners. I needed and valued this gift. The structured world of the single sisters offered mutual acceptance and social benefits. These attributes are difficult to find when one is alone; this was especially true for me in my early years of church work. One must be constantly aware of how to balance these needs. Again, I identify with Penry in her constant concern about her finances and ways to meet her needs. She used her skills and talents, recognizing her budgetary limits. Remuneration for women in our culture most often does not honor skills, talents, and education with adequate compensation. As Penry aged, her skills and income depreciated. So, too, today living longer means more challenges to limited financial resources. I have endeavored to live a frugal life, so as to stretch my funds. Penry had a meaningful and fulfilling life. I’d like to do the same for myself. v

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Laura Gordon

As a single woman serving the church, I appreciate that Dr. Gordon places the role of single women in a historical Moravian context as a jumping-off point for discussion about how we might consider the place and role of single women and men in today’s church. In this age when being single is the new norm,1 one does not need to seek marriage for economic stability. In fact, it is possible to remain single and provide for oneself—many women have more opportunities and greater earning potential available to them and thus can afford to live on their own. But many do not. There are still many of us who struggle to make ends meet financially, who desire to find a place of spiritual sustenance, and who feel apart from a church that remains focused on traditional marriage and family. As a member of the “Sex and the City” generation, I wonder: what models of singleness exist for women that include spiritual nurture without entering a convent? What about our single men? Ministry to singles extends far beyond mixers that seek to pair up young people and marry them off. It extends far beyond young adult ministry that seeks to include singles of a wide range of ages, lumping them into the same developmental category when in fact they are not. In my midthirties, I was often invited to young adult events open to ages 21–35. As a 35-year-old woman I had little in common beyond my marital status with many 21-year-olds, yet there was no other place in the church for women like me who were unmarried and without children. I knew I was loved by my church family, but it was lonely to be the solo single in the midst of married people and mothers. We also live in an era of “arrested development” when more and more young people find themselves moving back home because of economic constraints. Student loans, low wages, and unemployment weigh heavily on the souls of many young people whose ability to move into adulthood fully can be stunted by their circumstances—no doubt their spiritual growth is included. How does a young, single person claim his or her own identity when he or she is forced to return to the role of a child? Ministry to the single soul is a pertinent aspect of church ministry that is often missing in a church that continues to define family by midtwentieth century standards. What of those who find themselves at the crossroads of family—not quite apart from their family of origin, and not yet ready to begin a family of their own? What if one never marries? How can the church be present to singles of many ages and circumstances, offering a third dimension of family—the one we create for ourselves with brothers and sisters who share the love of Christ? [Continued]

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The Rev. Laura Gordon is the pastor of Advent Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


Here, I believe, is an opportunity for the church to extend its ministry beyond the boundaries of where it has been. Yet, we need not look far for inspiration—it’s right there in our history and right here in our present. As Dr. Gordon writes, our Moravian sisters and brothers of the eighteenth century lifted up the sacredness of singleness in how they lived, attending to the spiritual, psychological, physical, and financial needs of singles from diverse backgrounds via the choir system in a day and age when being single was not the norm. In this day and age of the single majority, current and newly developing ministries such as intentional communities provide the physical and sacred space where singles can live and grow in faith together. While many of these intentional communities have been focused on young adults, is it possible to expand this to include adults of many ages who covenant to live and work together in community? We must not forget that singleness is not a station in life to be passed through on the way to marriage. How can we offer space for those who are single adults further along in life? Whether never married, divorced, or widowed, single adults have specific needs that we are called to honor and address. Dr. Gordon writes that eighteenth century “Moravian choir houses provided single women…with a sense of belonging and of self-worth, which stemmed from the opportunity to contribute productively to a spiritual, economic, and social unit.” I wonder, how can the church of today provide similar spaces for single women and men of all ages? v

Endnotes

1 Nora Daly, “Single? So are the majority of U.S. Adults,” The Rundown (blog), PBS, September 11, 2014, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/single-youre-not-alone/.

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Heather Robinson The Rev. Heather Robinson is a pastor of the Moravian Church in Jamaica. Singleness1 in the church has never been an obvious topic for me until I became a minister of religion. I recalled being called to the rural parts of Jamaica to serve in a particular circuit of churches. I was warmly welcomed by the majority and ministry was my priority. Interestingly, each time I met someone new in the community or visited a home to engage in shut-in communion someone would ask, ”you’re really a minister and you’re so young?” Immediately following that was the question, “are you married?” Each time I say yes to being a minister and no to being married, disappointment would immediately cover the faces of these people. Every corner of the parish I went to serve in one capacity or another, people would strongly encourage me to get married. Am I therefore saying that 1 Corinthians 7:7–82 has lost its relevance? Is Paul’s firm persuasion to remain unmarried, as he was, a figment of our imagination? It is my hope to address such issues and to reflect on the social security, economic refuge, and spiritual enrichment one might find within the Moravian Church community. Last year August was an interesting time in the life of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, not because we had our provincial convention, rather because of the focus of the litany. The element of surprise was the invitation for all singles to stand as they shared in a prayer specially crafted to address the level of singleness within the community; the solution presented in the prayers was a request for marriage. When I reflected on Dr. Gordon’s paper, “Moravian Single Sisters,” I realized that much has changed within the Moravian customs and practices since the eighteenth century; perhaps single Christians are seen as “the lepers of today’s church” for no longer are ministries fully created and geared toward such a lifestyle. Much time is spent on family life sessions, and members are encouraged to get married and have babies, for it’s only through such media that the church will grow. As I journey as a young minister, members and even colleagues strongly counsel with me for they believe marriage would enhance my ministry. If the pressure is this strong on me, I can only imagine what other singles, especially women, are facing. Unfortunately almost gone are the Mary Penry and Mary Tippet days, when safe havens are created for those who choose a life of singleness. Almost gone are the days when single women of God are given that space where they can live and work together in community. Partially existing are the days when there is social commonality among women. While there exists an active women’s fellowship in most churches, this body does not focus entirely on concerns of singleness. Married people and singles alike [Continued]

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come together monthly to share spiritually and socially with their mantra being “Help Somebody Today.” The help given is normally extended to young girls or women in need; as much as the women’s fellowship finances can share. While we are grateful that some semblances of the choir system of the eighteenth century find their roots right here in Jamaica, wherein women can come apart for worship and feel a sense of belonging and women are empowered socially and economically, more can be done to affirm the calling of singleness. There must be a place and space for the Penrys, Tippets, and Reyneirs of our day. The Moravian Church cannot continue to perpetuate the mindset of Count Zinzendorf where we promote marriage and demean singlehood. More teachings must be done to address the holistic nature of such a path; after all, it’s the apostle Paul who reminds us that it’s a higher calling in Christ to remain single. Further to the women paying keen attention to singleness, the pastor along with the joint boards should celebrate both options; for while spiritual maturity, economic viability, and social enrichment are all good, what would be the worth of ministry if one feels incomplete? v

Endnotes

1 In legal definitions for interpersonal status, a single person is someone who is not in a relationship or is “unmarried.” In common usage, the term single is often used to refer to someone who is not involved in any type of serious romantic relationship, including long-term dating, engagement, or marriage. 2 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

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Fran Saylor

According to recent polls, the number of single people in America is at the highest that it has ever been. Some of these numbers can be attributed to people choosing to get married later in life; some of the numbers reflect groups of people who have lost spouses to divorce or death; some of the numbers represent people who are not allowed to marry because of their sexual orientation; and some of those singles included in these polls are single simply because they choose to be. While the number of single people is on the rise in the larger culture, the opposite seems to be true in the church. Sadly, many adult singles are leaving the church. Singles who leave the church cite a variety of reasons for leaving, but most seem to include the feeling that churches are good at nurturing their married members in the life of the church community but are not so good at doing the same for their single members. Many churches, whether intentionally or unintentionally, have created a culture of “marriage privilege.” I find it ironic that in the early years of the Christian faith, the church took a rather countercultural stance in a society that valued marriage. In teaching that singleness was a virtue to be desired, it was thought that if a person remained single that they would be better equipped to fully love and serve God. Today, in many church communities the opposite seems to be true: marriage is now seen as the virtue to strive to attain because married couples can love and serve God together. Conversely, the culture outside of the church embraces and encourages singleness. Perhaps the church has been influenced more by society in this matter than we would like to admit. The Moravian single sisters choir houses provide the modern Church with a powerful example of what it means for the Church to embrace singles. We do not need to go back to a choir system to be able to do that. Those who are single, whether by choice or by circumstance, have all of the gifts, strengths, and leadership skills to fully love and serve God and the Church. The Church is enriched by the gifts of all of God’s people as we strive to serve together. v

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Fran Saylor is a recent graduate of Duke Divinity School and a candidate for ordination in the Moravian Church. She is a member of Raleigh Moravian Church.


Jill Vogt Rev. Jill Vogt is pastor of the Moravian Congregation at Herrnhut in Germany. In his article Strength from Community? Single Sisters’ Choir Houses in Early Pennsylvania, Dr. Scott Gordon raises an interesting question when he asks what the Moravian Church can do to help energize and encourage single women (and all singles) so that they may flourish today as they did in the choir houses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His investigation into the lives of Mary Penry and Mary Tippet reveals the unique security, both financial and social, that single women found in the Moravian Church at a time when most single women were particularly vulnerable. I believe it is important to point out that it was not the choir house itself that provided this security, but rather the choir system, where believers were grouped according to their age or marital status for common worship, spiritual development, and fellowship. While the choir houses had a particular meaning for non-married members including single brothers or widows, all members of a Moravian community, whether they lived in a choir house or not, had access to spiritual encouragement and a supportive community within the larger congregation through their respective choir group. I would credit Zinzendorf with being way ahead of his time in creating the small group system now so popular in mega churches! The question is whether this system can speak to our reality today, or if it is just an outdated model. As the pastor of the Moravian congregation in Herrnhut, Germany, I can say that this is a question that still concerns us as we try to provide support to all our members in a way that speaks to their particular situation and phase of life, but also reflects the reality of our culture. While I do agree with Dr. Gordon that we often define marriage as the ideal status in the church, I think that in Europe, marriage is far less idealized than it is in the U.S. Annually, the number of marriages in Germany continues to decrease, and even in the church we find many people who are not married but may live together with their children. It is not uncommon for a church wedding celebration to include the baptism of the couple’s common children. In Germany there has been little uprising at the notion of equal marriage rights, and same sex marriage has been legal for over a decade. The institution of marriage simply does not hold the same level of cultural status or importance as it does in the U.S. But this is not to say that singles are always given the same status as married couples. In Herrnhut, for instance, the choir system has slowly eroded away with many choirs disbanding and the choir festivals no longer being celebrated. The exception to this is the “Married Couples Choir” which refused to disband and still celebrates an annual choir festival and has a leadershipgroup that carries out visitations (mostly birthday visits) on all married [Continued] THE

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people. This kind of pastoral care also occurs for the “Widows’ Choir” with the help of a group of women (some who are married, some widows themselves) who visit all of the widows and provide a monthly gathering for all older sisters. But it is very clear in all this that what is lacking is a group for single brothers and single sisters. The challenge for the choir system is that the groups of the eighteenth century no longer reflect our current reality. We often struggle with the question of where divorced brothers and sisters belong or where to put those who are not married but live in some kind of community or common household. The lines today are simply not as clear-cut as they once were and when we try to squeeze people into artificial groupings, the effectiveness of the system breaks down. In Herrnhut we recently had a discussion about the color of ribbons on sisters’ caps that are still worn for serving at lovefeasts or for passing out candles on Christmas Eve. Until recently, different ribbon colors have been used to signify whether women were single, married, or widowed. Many women said they felt uncomfortable at being identified as to their marital status or that it seemed to go against the principle that we are all equal. We decided for the time being to switch to a uniform color, green, as a sign of solidarity and sisterhood. The traditionalists may not be pleased, but all agreed that the most important thing is to make people feel comfortable, valued, and included. Another issue for us is that of the actual choir houses. In Herrnhut, as in many other Moravian settlements, the congregation still owns some of the old choir houses. Our “Widow’s House” contains about 22 apartments, many of them indeed housing widows. There are also single brothers, older married couples, young families, and young singles. A recent look in one entryway showed a baby carriage, childrens’ bicycles, and a wheelchair all lined up neatly. While not all of the residents are members of the Church, there is a distinct sense of community in the building and every one looks out for each other. Neighbors will gather to sing for a person’s birthday. A newspaper left on the doorstep too long will mean a check to see if that person is all right. Our Board of Elders would like to encourage this as a multi-generational house, adapting it to make it handicapped accessible and doing our best to encourage fellowship among the residents. Other congregations are having similar discussions about their buildings, also looking to see if some space can be made to house people seeking asylum. While the traditional communities of a choir house no longer exist, there is a great opportunity to use our buildings to create some of the same kind of supportive environment that was the original goal. Today, however, single women are usually not as vulnerable as they were in the eighteenth century. Instead, we need to care for those who are elderly, particularly those who are living longer and have little or no family to help them. We also need to provide support for single parents or adults with mental dis-


abilities. As community breaks down in our culture, our choir houses could be used to build up a caring, multigenerational community that provides security and fellowship for those who are particularly in need of it. I thank Dr. Gordon for raising and important issue and for pointing out the unique contributions of the Choir system to creating strong communities. v

Scott Paul Gordon’s Response to The Hinge I am grateful for these thoughtful testimonies from Moravian pastors and church members from around the globe that Moravian communities continue to care for their “singles.” Above all, these responses make clear that we need to separate “single” from “solitary” or “alone.” The Single Sisters group in the Unity Moravian Church (North Carolina) is just one example of fellowship among a diverse group of “singles” (widowed, divorced, or never-married women). In the old choir houses in Herrnhut, as the Rev. Jill Vogt describes, single men and women, as well as widows, find community with young and older married couples. These responses remind us that “singles” are men and women, individuals who never married and individuals who are single again after marriage, widows and widowers. One may be single, as Fran Saylor notes, by choice or by circumstance. What unites these very different individuals in very different circumstances is that they fall outside of the norm as the twenty-first century church defines it: marriage. And the Moravian Church, as most of these responses witness, participates in this “culture of ‘marriage privilege.’” The Rev. Heather Robinson’s experiences convey the persistent power of this norm, which was brought home to her each time that a new acquaintance expressed disappointment upon learning that she was not married. Too often, still, singleness is considered a problem for which marriage is the solution: church members are “encouraged to get married and have babies,” since large families seem one means to ensure that the “church will grow.” What should we make of these circumstances? I feel as Rev. Laura Gordon does: “here, I believe, is an opportunity for the church to extend her ministry.” This might be another way to ensure that the church will grow. What would happen if Moravian churches and communities continued to remind themselves that, for a large number of people, “singleness is not a station in life to be passed through on the way to marriage”? We live in a time of “singles majority”: in 2014, 50.2% of all Americans who were 16 years or older were single and over 30% of America’s adult population [Continued] THE

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had never married. The opportunities that the eighteenth-century Moravian church offered single women differentiated it from other denominations, and in Mary Penry’s day the single sisters’ choir houses in Moravian communities swelled with devoted women of all ages. I do not have the answer to Rev. Gordon’s question of “how can the church of today provide similar spaces for single women and men of all ages?” But I know that asking such a question, and gathering together to try to answer it, is an important step. “Every act of social change,” Brad Evans and Henry Giroux have written, “begins with imagining a better world, imagining better conditions, imagining a better everyday life.” So: can you imagine single men and women, of all ages, filling the seats in your Moravian church? What has brought them there? v


A Response to the 2014 Moses Lectures Editor’s Note: In the last issue of The Hinge, I inadvertently omitted printing Br. Gordon Sommer’s response to Jørgen Bøytler’s 2014 Moses Lectures. I apologize to Br. Sommers and to the readers of The Hinge for this mistake.

Gordon Sommers The Rev. Dr. Gordon Sommers is a retired Moravian pastor and currently works with Moravian Houses in Bethlehem. Gordon served as president of the Eastern District Executive Board, the Northern Province Provincial Elders’ Conference and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. The presentation by Brother Jørgen Bøytler at the recent Moses Lectures is a marvelous gift to the Moravian Church. He brings wonderful personal gifts, experiences and insight to the subject: as missionary, as theologian, as worker in the practical service of the Church during the transition from colonialism in East Africa to self-government, and as one who is very knowledgeable of the world-wide Provinces of the Moravian Church. The Church is most fortunate to have a scholarly presentation and the Lectures Committee is to be commended for choosing him and the subject. The invitation to look beyond our customary division of the History of the Moravian Church into Ancient and Renewed periods and to think of a third characterization as “globalized” is both perceptive and practical. Much of the Church is not as impressed with the historic two-fold distinction as are Moravians of Europe and North America. The realities of world-wide Unity compel us to acknowledge quite different realities than those defining the historic division. He identifies and articulates those well. I experienced them also in my service of the Church on three continents where the “client-patron” relationship persisted and with a reciprocal discomfort. I subsequently wrestled with the unity we seek given the significant cultural and economic differences of our Provinces and Missions through Unity Synods and Board meetings and visits to nearly all Provinces of the Unity. The most intriguing analysis Br. Bøytler addresses is the issue of representation in the Unity’s decision making. We’ve never faced up to the tension between the strength of numbers in an admittedly democratic process and the capacity for financial support of the Unity undertakings. He offers a practical and compromising resolution that needs to be considered by the Unity. Financial strength alone should not shape decision-making nor can numerical strength be the sole deciding factor. The Unity has previously been unable to acknowledge these disparities, or at least see any [Continued] THE

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approach to handling them in an acceptable way. This issue is not different from the inequalities in income and living standards facing the whole world. The Renewed Moravian Church, with service and social ministry implicit in its missionary undertaking, has always been ready to face the issue. The problems are just far greater than we or any other social service institution are able to meet. I am hopeful that the nations of Africa are on the way to better economic conditions. Despite sharp increases in population, including Dar es Salam, the capital city, GDP is growing, with 7 percent in Tanzania alone—much more favorable than in North America and European nations. Despite the turmoil of Nigeria, its petroleum-fueled economy has grown. This aspect of the dichotomy in representation in our Unity’s decision making should give us hope. The challenge of membership disparity is a much more subtle challenge to us. I recall my first Unity Synod in 1988 when reports on membership were reviewed. The then four Provinces of Tanzania reported incredible growth. By comparison, the Provinces of Europe, Britain and North America spoke of decline or, at best, in the Northern Province, at that time, “holding our own.” At one point, one of the Tanzanian delegates shook his head and, genuinely mystified, asked: “I don’t understand. Don’t you love Jesus?” Of course all of us in places where Church membership is in decline would quickly and, genuinely, respond: “It’s not a matter of loving Jesus. It’s much more complicated. It has to do with population shifts and mobility and internal dynamics that keep people from organized religion where statistics seem to matter. You just don’t understand.” The decline in Church membership has persisted in the ensuing 26 years. Church buildings across Europe are closed and used for other purposes. New church construction in North America is almost at a halt. The underlying issue remains with us: “How can we grow our churches? How can we start more congregations, to grow the Church as is done in Tanzania? Even if we can’t experience the growth in Church membership, as does the Moravian Church in Eastern Africa, can we halt the decline? Can we start new congregations? Drs. Peg and Bill Hoffman, missionaries in Tanzania, reported recently at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem that five new congregations among the Sukuma people, an ethnic group in the Western Province not previously evangelized, have been organized in the past few years. The people from the Sikonge congregations where the Hoffmans are working witnessed to them. The Sukuma people want to know Jesus and want to know the Bible. This is internal growth and evangelization. To say that starting new Moravian congregations can’t happen in our context is an assertion that needs to be questioned. In the decade of the 1980s, six new congregations were organized in the Eastern District


of the Northern Province. I recall the initiatives taken for each of them. Claire Yoder spoke to me when first I met her in Uhrichsville, Ohio to say: “I’m from Columbus, but there is no Moravian Church where I live.” My response was: “Let’s get one started.” Church of the Redeemer eventuated from that conversation. A small group of mostly John Hus, Brooklyn church-members were gathered in a Lutheran Church in Queens. “We wish we had a Moravian church closer to where we live,” they asserted. “We don’t know how to organize one.” We studied what was required to have a congregation organized according to the Book of Order and within a year Grace Church of Queens had been organized. Maxine Garret, active at St Paul’s Church in Upper Marlboro and residing in Washington, DC, observed: “The Nation’s Capital should have a Moravian Congregation.” Immigrants from the Caribbean and Nicaragua followed her lead and Faith Church in the Nation’s Capital came to be. Similar stories could be told of New Dawn (Toronto), Evangel (Toms River, N. J.) and Fellowship (Brooklyn). We are not too far away in time to recall those productive efforts in evangelism. Admittedly, those were the days of Church Growth emphasis to which Brother Bøytler refers in his lecture. However, we need to believe that people still seek to be in communities of faith and that the call of Jesus to us is to facilitate and enable this to happen. It is the way the Church has always grown. The power of the Holy Spirit is still at work in the world calling us to bear witness to the power of God’s grace and to gather believers into communities of faith. Let us pray that Brother Bøytler’s call to view the current Moravian Unity as “globalized” will serve to inspire us with new vision and determination to believe that the Church can grow in all Provinces of the Unity. When we can gain such insight and inspiration from our brothers in the worldwide Unity we will truly be a globalized Moravian Church. v

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5th Bethlehem Conference on Moravian History & Music

Call for Papers October 27-29, 2016 This conference explores Moravian history and music from the fifteenth to twenty-first centuries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia. We are now accepting proposals for papers, panels or lecture recitals on any topic related to Moravian history and music but special consideration will be given to the following themes:

1. 275 years of the City of Bethlehem, its music and history. 2. Moravian encounters with friends and strangers. Please submit a proposal of no more than 300 words by March 31, 2016 to: www.moravianconferences.org/submit-a-proposal/ The program committee will notify accepted applicants by May 1, 2016. A limited number of grants for housing and travel costs are available. We encourage submissions from undergraduate students for whom there will be special panels and poster sessions.

Visit our website for more information and updates:

www.moravianconferences.org Sponsored by the Moravian Archives, Moravian College, and the Center for Moravian Studies, in partnership with the Moravian Music Foundation, Moravian Historical Society, Moravian Theological Seminary, and Historic Bethlehem Partnership. Heikki Lempa, Conference Director Department of History Moravian College hlempa@moravian.edu Moravian College seeks to provide an accessible and hospitable learning and working environment for all, while ensuring full compliance with federal and state regulations. Our community welcomes and encourages persons with disabilities to participate in our programs and activities as faculty, staff, students, and as visitors to the College. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided for an event on our campus, please contact the event sponsor at least two weeks in advance of the event.

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INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

FOR THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Hinge is published with the assistance of the Center for Moravian Studies of Moravian Theological Seminary and the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in America. All rights are reserved. Co-Editors: Craig Atwood and Janel Rice Send letters to the editor, articles, book reviews, and other contributions to Craig at atwoodc@moravian.edu The Hinge Editorial Board: Zachary Dease, Laura Gordon, Sam Gray, Sarah Groves, Hans-Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Janel Rice, Justin Rabbach, David Schattschneider, Neil Thomlinson, Livingstone Thompson, Volker Schulz, Peter Vogt, Jane Weber Copy Editor: Layout/Design: Renee Schoeller, IBOC Mike Riess, IBOC Hinge illustration by Todd Tyson of Kernersville, N.C. Wood cover design by Colleen Marsh, Bethlehem, Pa. The cost for subscribing to The Hinge is $30. Send checks payable to: The Hinge c/o Jane Weber Moravian Theological Seminary 1200 Main Street Bethlehem, PA 18018 Contact Jane (jweber@moravian.edu) to change your subscription information or to request additional copies of The Hinge. Single issue rate: $7 The Hinge is provided free of charge to Moravian clergy, thanks to the generosity of the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Theological Seminary. Recent issues of The Hinge are available online 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.


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Hinge 21.2: Strength from Community: Single Sisters' Choir Houses in Early Pennsylvania  

by Dr. Scott Paul Gordon

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