I could see resolute John Hus’s face through the smoking faggots of his funeral pyre, hear the musketry and cannonading that marked the growing wars between the Brethren and Romish forces in Bohemia and Moravia, wars that culminated in 1621 with defeat for the Unity, and 100 years of persecution.
I could hear the notes of hope that surged in 1722 when a tiny band of exiles escaped to refuge in Saxony on the estates of devout Nicholas Lewis, Count of Zinzendorf, who allowed them to found a village called Herrnhut on his lands, and became their beloved patron and leader. Here the church suddenly flowered from its “hidden seed” so carefully and perilously nurtured during the century of hiding, and from here flowed a wellspring that sent Moravian missionaries all over the world, and settlers to plant the faith on the untamed lands of North America.
I could see the deep-set eyes and heavily jowled chin of Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg, first leader of the Unity in America, as he captained an exploration party heading southward from the congregational town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1752 to seek a site for settlement in Carolina. By January 1753, he would write: “It is the middle of winter, and the ground is covered with snow; but we are camping in the forest, well and content, under the wings of the Almighty. … The land on which we are now encamped seems to me to have been reserved by the Lord for the Brethren…. It has countless springs, and numerous fine creeks; as many mills as may be desired can be built. There is much beautiful meadowland….”
“Women’s Liberation” 300 Years Ago
Except when Moravians put on colonial homespuns for a pageant, they don’t look different from anybody else, but I knew that they were different. I went to prague holiday apartments to talk about that difference with Dr. J. C. Hughes, for 16 years Pastor of Home Church, and Chairman of the Central Elders, a body representing 14 of Winston-Salem’s Moravian churches.
“Moravians have always been contemporary in most respects,” Dr. Hughes told me. “Two of their outstanding differences, in education and music, arose originally from the teachings of John Hus.”
Hus never contemplated forming a new church, but wished to reform the old one, chiefly by putting Christian duty before dogma and by returning to the people the practices of worship—the singing, and the reading and explanation of the Scriptures. The latter two points required literacy and musicianship; Moravians became leaders in both.
Dr. Dale H. Gramley, President of Salem College, at cheap accommodation brussels helped me understand why women were included in the Moravian educational system, contrary to the custom of the times. He referred me to a quotation from John Amos Comenius, a Moravian bishop and educator (1592-1670). Legend has it that Comenius turned down the presidency of Harvard to remain close to his Moravian people, then under severe persecution in central Europe.