Archive for the ‘Alaska Moravian Church’ Tag

Expanding Horizons for Better and Worse: Moravians, 1995-2015   1 comment

Books February 24, 2015

Above:  My Copies of the Moravian Book of Worship (1995) and Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook (2013)

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART V

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The Moravian Book of Worship does not slavishly demand one style of tune or text, but attempts to recognize the wide diversity in our congregations’ worship patterns.

Moravian Book of Worship (1995), page iii

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This post stands in lineage with the Preface and Parts I, II, III, and IV.

This post concludes the Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America series.  The process of researching and preparing the entries in this series has been an intellectually rewarding one, for I have learned much, and I have an inquiring mind.

I have not endeavored to provide thorough descriptions and analyses of the elements of the Moravian Book of Worship.  For that I refer you, O reader, to the Manual for Worship Planners and the companion volume to the service book-hymnal, which the Interprovincial Board of Communication sells.

Worship patterns in congregations of the Moravian Church in America (the Moravian Church in North America when one includes the Canadian congregations of the Northern Province of North America) have long been diverse.  This diversity has increased with the arrival of Moravian immigrants from Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean Basin, as well as with the spread of contemporary and charismatic forms of worship in the Protestant mainline since the 1970s.  My perusal of websites of North American Moravian congregations has confirmed summaries of the diversity of worship I have read in official denominational resources.  I have found evidence of the existence of styles of worship ranging from traditional, classical Moravian worship (brass choirs, et cetera) to Low Church, Southern Gospel music to contemporary “seeker” services to charismatic practices.  I also know that the rise of the charismatic movement within the Unitas Fratrum has divided or played a supporting role in the division of several provinces (Honduras, Czech Republic, and Alaska) of the global Moravian Church.

Official worship resources of the Northern and Southern Provinces in North America reflect the diversity of practice in their congregations.  The logic of that fact makes sense to me.  As I age, however, I find myself becoming more liberal and collegial in many matters theological and socio-political yet more conservative in matters liturgical.  European classicism appeals to me, and I have no desire to dilute that very much.  Guitars in church always make me uncomfortable, for not once have I heard classical guitar music in church.  Once, about fifteen years ago, at a conference in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, someone handed me a tambourine in the vain hope that I would play it.  I returned the instrument immediately silently as I looked at that person with an icy gaze.  Here I stand; I will do no other.  If that reality offends someone, I offer no apology, for I have committed no offense.

Now, without further ado, I commence the body of this post.

II.  MORAVIAN BOOK OF WORSHIP  AND SOME RELATED VOLUMES (1995)

Moravian Book of Worship (1995)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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General Comments

By 1995, the year the Moravian Book of Worship debuted, ecumenical influences had also transformed worship in the Moravian Church in America.  Celebrations of Holy Communion had become more frequent in many congregations.  Also, the Northern and Southern Provinces had adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The-gesimas were gone and Sundays after Pentecost replaced Sundays after Trinity.  These changes are evident in each annual edition of the Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book, available from the Interprovincial Board of Communication.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014

February 2015 01

February 2015 02

Scans by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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One of the most obvious differences between the Moravian Book of Worship (1995) and the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969) is the contemporary nature of the current service book-hymnal.  The services are in modern English, even providing two forms (King James and contemporary ecumenical) of the Lord’s Prayer.  52% of the hymns are new to American Moravian hymnals.  The 1995 hymnody is also more ecumenical than that of 1969, for 21% of the texts (excluding translations) are of Moravian authorship.  Many of the “new” texts are actually new and the products of authors alive in 1995.  Likewise, 42% of the tunes in the Moravian Book of Worship are new to American Moravian hymnals.  Many of those tunes are works of composers alive in 1995.

Hymns and Other Music

The Moravian Book of Worship, a new service book-hymnal, not a revision of its predecessor, offers more diversity of musical styles than does the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969).  Most tunes in the 1969 volume were for four voices, with a smattering of other styles and arrangements.  In the 1995 book, however, one can find numerous representations of Lutheran chorales, Moravian chorales, contemporary four-part chorales, rounds, unison hymns, chords for guitar or autoharp, antiphonal songs, spirituals, and folk songs.  Also available is Singing from the Heart:  A Shorter Moravian Hymnal and Liturgies (2010), an abbreviated version of the Moravian Book of Worship with guitar chords included.  Singing from the Heart also contains thirteen original “Congregational Prayers for Moravian Worship,” brief forms for worship.

The arrangement of the 559 hymns is topical, with the church year establishing the first categories.  Hence the first category is Advent.  The count of 559 hymns in the Moravian Book of Worship is down from 594 in the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969) and 952 in the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923).  The 1995 book contains 33 selections of service music and 20 entries in its Psalms and Canticles section of the Liturgy.

On One Hand Yet On the Other Hand

Ecumenical convergence has its virtues, especially in liturgy.  Jettisoning the -gesimas and the Season after Trinity Sunday is good, as is adopting the Revised Common Lectionary, a near-twin of the current Roman Catholic lectionary.  These are visible signs of Christian unity.  Addressing God is “you,” not as “thee,” is also positive, for using the contemporary form of English restores the familiarity of language present in older forms of English when God, one’s parents, one’s friends, and one’s neighbors were all “thee.”  Much change is actually a return an older tradition.

As positive an ecumenical convergence is much of the time, it is not always a good thing, for it can lead to a “vanilla” hymnody.  I, as a collector of hymnals and service books-hymnals (especially old ones), like diversity in hymnody.  Moravian hymnals have always included a healthy representation of ecumenical hymnody, as they should.  I have found, however, that many wonderful ethnic hymns, present in older hymnals, seldom make the cut in subsequent hymn books.  (A comparison of U.S. Lutheran hymnals of the twentieth century, as ethnic synods merged into non-ethnic denominations, is an especially good way of documenting this fact.)  Sometimes ecumenism becomes an altar on which hymnal committees sacrifice beautiful ethnic hymns and quality texts.  Thus sometimes the best way to balance one’s heritage is to use more than one book, lest wonderful hymns fall into disuse and obscurity.

The Liturgy of 1995

The thoroughly revised Liturgy of 1995 bears many similarities to that of 1969, for the new Liturgy retains much of Moravian tradition–in modern English, however.  There is also evidence of textual nipping and tucking, one of the oldest games in liturgical practice.  The Liturgy of 1995 continues another Moravian practice–flexibility.  There are many rubrics such as the one on page 4, in General Liturgy 1:

All may join in The Church Litany, or the Shorter Church Litany, or the Service may proceed as the liturgist directs.

“Or…as the liturgist directs” occurs often in the Liturgy (pages 1-254 of the Moravian Book of Worship).

The Liturgy of 1995 contains six sections, which I will unpack in order:

  1. General Liturgies,
  2. The Church Year,
  3. Topical Liturgies,
  4. Rites and Sacraments,
  5. Services for Holy Communion, and
  6. Psalms and Canticles.

General Liturgies

There are seven General Liturgies.  (The Hymnal and Liturgies of 1969 has four of them.)

  1. General Liturgy 1, which contains the Church Liturgy and the Shorter Church Liturgy, is a variation on the traditional Moravian service.
  2. General Liturgy 2–Reconciliation contrasts divine perfection and the sinful world.
  3. General Liturgy 3–Adoration, unlike its 1969 predecessor, uses the Nicene Creed, not the Apostles’ Creed.  The Church in the Nicene Creed is “Christian,” not “catholic,” however.  There is an asterisk then a note explaining the original text reads “catholic” and states that “catholic” means “universal.”  (The Protestant Reformation, by traditional counting, started 497 and 1/2 years ago.  Can we finally get past a Protestant hang-up with Roman Catholicism, please?  Should not anti-Roman Catholicism be a thing of the past?  I write as one who, although not a Roman Catholic, acknowledges the riches of that tradition.)
  4. General Liturgy 4–Creation, a new service, contains contemporary music (by Jaroslav J. Vajda and Martin Nystrom) and a statement of faith drawn from the Ground of Unity in the Unity Book of Order.
  5. General Liturgy 5–Grace combines elements of the 1969 Liturgies of Confession, Trust, and Covenanting.  It also features a different statement of faith drawn from the Ground of Unity in the Unity Book of Order.
  6. General Liturgy 6–Discipleship combines traditional and contemporary music.
  7. General Liturgy 7–Celebration, a new service with a non-traditional arrangement of traditional elements, combines traditional and contemporary hymns.

Church Year

Some of the services in the Church Year section retain titles from the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969):

  1. Advent and Palm Sunday,
  2. Advent 2,
  3. Christmas,
  4. Easter Morning,
  5. Easter,
  6. Trinity, and
  7. All Saints.

The Liturgy of 1969 offers just one service in Lent, but the Moravian Book of Worship includes two–Lent 1 and Lent 2.

Two services in the Church Year section have slightly different names than their 1969 counterparts:

  1. “Epiphany and Christian Witness” has become “Epiphany and World Mission,” and
  2. “Pentecost (Whitsunday)” has become “Pentecost and Spiritual Renewal.”

New to the Church Year section is “Reign of Christ/Second Coming,” for the Sunday immediately preceding Advent more than any other Sunday.  The existence of this service indicates that the Moravian Church has authorized the observance of Christ the King Sunday, which the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated on the Sunday immediately preceding Advent since 1970.  And, just in case you, O reader, wonder about the linguistic difference between “Christ the King” and “Reign of Christ,” it is not just a matter of inclusive language (although Jesus was male).  The Bible does contain a distinction between a kingdom and a royal reign, as I have learned by reading scholarly books.  That reading has also taught me that often the distinction is one without much a difference, for the reality of a reign does imply the existence of a kingdom.

The Liturgy of 1995 omits the service for the Ascension, due to the rare use of that rite from the Liturgy and Hymnals (1969).  The Moravian Book of Worship does not include Ascension themes elsewhere, however.

Topical Liturgies

Most of the titles of the Topical Liturgies are new; only three repeat from the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969):

  1. Education,
  2. Thanksgiving, and
  3. National Occasions.

The other titles are:

  1. A General Prayer of Intercession,
  2. Intercessions in a Time of Crisis,
  3. Christian Hymns,
  4. Christian Unity,
  5. Evangelism (“The Spread of the Gospel” in 1969),
  6. New Year and Anniversaries,
  7. Peace and Justice, and
  8. Stewardship.

The National Occasions service contains a line as troublesome to me as those to which I objected in the Hymnal and Liturgies (1923) and the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969) in Part IV of this series.  On page 141 of the Moravian Book of Worship one can find the following petition:

Enable us to accept the authority of government for your sake….

Is there no embrace of civil disobedience?  And what about the authority of tyrannical governments?  (Sometimes I like to turn to my inner Mohandas Gandhi.)

Rites and Sacraments

The Moravian Book of Worship contains four Rites and Sacraments:

  1. Baptism,
  2. Confirmation and Affirmation of Baptism,
  3. Marriage, and
  4. Memorial Service and Burial.

One must consult the Manual for Worship Planners (1995) to find seldom-used services which would fit into this section otherwise.  They are:

  1. Ordination of a Deacon,
  2. Consecration of a Presbyter,
  3. Consecration of a Bishop,
  4. Special Celebration of Holy Communion (formerly Private Communion),
  5. A Service of Word and Sacrament,
  6. Groundbreaking for a Church Building,
  7. the Laying of a Cornerstone, and
  8. Dedication of a Church Building or other Structure.

Services for Holy Communion

The Liturgy of 1995 offers eight Services for Holy Communion, four of which the Moravian Book of Worship contains.  Those four are:

  1. In Celebration of Christ’s Coming,
  2. In Celebration of the Atonement,
  3. In Celebration of the Resurrection, and
  4. In Celebration of the Holy Spirit.

Four others are available in Services for Holy Communion (1996):

  1. In Celebration of the Chief Eldership of Jesus Christ (for November Thirteenth),
  2. In Celebration of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday,
  3. In Celebration of Unity and Renewal (for August Thirteenth and the Martyrdom of Jan Hus), and
  4. In Celebration of the Anniversary of a Congregation.

Psalms and Canticles

I have summarized the Psalms and Canticles section of the Liturgy of 1995 already.

End Matter

The church calendar, the obligatory acknowledgments, and a set of indices (minus biographical notes) complete the Moravian Book of Worship.

III.  READINGS FOR HOLY WEEK (1995)

This is an appropriate venue to write about another liturgical volume and its predecessors.  The Readings for Holy Week (1995), which exists in a regular edition, a large-print edition, a music edition, and an organ edition, is a successor of a series of books, reaching back to the time of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760).  He prepared the first Moravian harmony of the Passion accounts in the canonical Gospels for liturgical use.  A second edition, picking up the story the day before Palm Sunday, debuted in 1769.

The line of English-language Passion Week Manuals began in 1771.  I found an 1877 edition at archive.org.  The Northern Province printed a new edition in 1932.  The innovative aspect of that version was printing hymn stanzas at appropriate places in the narratives.  Prior to then liturgists were supposed to select the hymn stanzas.  The following year the Revised Bethlehem Edition of the 1932 Passion Week Manual debuted, adding choir music and using the American Standard Version of the Bible (1901).  The Southern Province published its Passion Week Manual in 1943, using the text of the Authorized Version of the Bible and using fewer and different hymn stanzas than its Northern Province counterpart.  Readings for Holy Week (Passion Week Manual) (1969), keyed to the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969), succeeded the 1932 and 1943 Passion Week Manuals.  The innovation in this edition was to cease breaking up the readings into different services, therefore allowing for more variety in congregational observance.

The Readings of Holy Week (1995), keyed to the Moravian Book of Worship (1995), uses the text of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989) and combines traditional and contemporary hymns from various genres.  The various editions (such as regular and music) break up the composite narrative by day and provide a resource for corporate and private devotion.

IV.  SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG:  A NEW MORAVIAN SONGBOOK (2013)

Sing to the Lord a New Song (2013)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Hymnody and written liturgy is always changing–often for better, but sometimes for worse.  It is certainly never like an insect preserved for millions of years in amber.  Although I am a self-described and practicing European classicist and a liturgical conservative, I do not reject the new because it is new and affirm the old because it is old.  No, I seek quality and affirm it regardless of its age.  Unfortunately, much of recent church music is of inferior quality; mind-numbing praise choruses with few words one sings repeatedly come to mind immediately.  Verbose, theologically dense texts appeal to me, and most of those are old.

Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook (2013), a product of the Moravian Music Foundation, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, contains gold, dross, and much in the middle.  The texts–liturgies, prayers, hymns, and songs–are all new, as are some of the tunes.  Most of the tunes, however, are standards.  Three examples follow:

  1. “Passion Chorale” is the tune for the familiar “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.”  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for “Walk With Me Each Day, Savior.”
  2. “Slane” is the tune for “Be Thou My Vision” and “Lord of All Hopefulness” in many hymnals.  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for “We Humbly Gather in This Place.”
  3. “Tallis’ Canon” is the tune for “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” in many hymnals.  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for a new Communion hymn, “Gather All Sisters and Brothers.”

Those are three examples of good texts.  Unfortunately, some of the texts are bad.  Exhibit A in my case is a Christmas song, “In This Crowd, Sing Aloud,” set to “Jingle Bells.”    The unimpressive lyrics include the following:

What a big surprise!

The Savior was a child!

The Christmas story goes to show God’s plans are really wild!

That text is far removed from the exalted standards of the Moravian Youth Hymnal (1942), a volume whose creators sought to give young people “the best in sacred music.”

Sing to the Lord a New Song contains eight liturgies, some prayers, and 78 or so hymns and songs.  The liturgies are:

  1. Liturgy of Servanthood,
  2. The Good Shepherd,
  3. Examine Prayer,
  4. Reflections on Psalm 121,
  5. A Journey Through Psalm 23,
  6. Mothers’ Day,
  7. Fathers’ Day, and
  8. inTending commUnity:  A Reflection.

Some of the liturgies and prayers are of a higher literary quality than others, but I propose that none of the authors can claim to be stylistic heirs of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556).

My verdict regarding Sing to the Lord a New Song is that one should pretend that the liturgies, the prayers, and some of the hymns and songs do not exist–like Jar Jar Binks, Howard the Duck (1986), and the Sixth Doctor’s garish outfit.

Revelation of the Daleks (1985)

Above:  The Doctor and Davros in Revelation of the Daleks (1985)

A Screen Capture I took via PowerDVD

One can use most of the book in a spiritually and intellectually profitable manner, however.

The church calendar, the obligatory acknowledgments, and several indices complete the volume.  An index of hymn tunes is glaringly absent, however.

V.  CONCLUSION

I grew up in the State of Georgia–the southern part longer than in the north thereof.  There is only one Moravian congregation in the state–in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, to be exact.  Since 2005 I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to the northeast of Atlanta.  The combination of the these facts means that I have viewed the Moravian Church from a distance and never entered a building of a congregation thereof.  My experiences of Moravian music and liturgy have come via books, compact discs, radio programs, and Internet videos.  Classical Moravian music has become one of my favorite genres and has functioned as the soundtrack to much of my blogging–especially regarding Moravians and the Moravian Church.

Much of what I have learned while researching and writing this series of posts bothers me.  Members of the Unitas Fratrum are heirs to an illustrious heritage of quality–one which many, to their credit, maintain.  More of them should honor it and extend it into the future.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSONE AND ARAPAHOE

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Updated and Corrected Slightly on April 25, 2015

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Burcaw, Robert T.  Discovering the New Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Women’s Board of the Moravian Church, 199

__________, ed.  The Moravian Book of Worship Manual for Worship Planners.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Publications and Communications, 1995.

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1995.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in North America, 2013.

Moravian Youth Hymnal.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Christian Education, 1942.

Readings for Holy Week.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2000.

Readings for Holy Week.  Music Edition.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2000.

Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2013.

Singing from the Heart:  A Shorter Moravian Hymnal and Liturgies.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Church in America.  2010.

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Prelude to the Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America Series   8 comments

Moravian Hymnals July 13, 2014

Above:  Some of the Moravian Hymnals I Own:  1923, 1942, 1961, 1969, 1995, and 2013

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Last Summer I wrote about U.S. Lutheran liturgy.  This Summer I wrote about U.S. Dutch Reformed liturgy and left that series in such a state that I will be able to resume it and write about narrowly defined topics in subsequent posts.  Now, however, I turn to the Moravians, but I choose not to call the series “U.S. Moravian Liturgy.”  There are excellent reasons for this decision.

The Moravian Church consists of the global Moravian Unity (the Unitas Fratrum) and related denominations outside the worldwide church.  The Unitas Fratrum (Latin for “Unity of the Brethren”), with its Unity Board, consists of, as of May 2014, twenty-one unity provinces (those with voting rights on the Unity Board), six mission provinces, and thirteen mission areas (most, but not all, under the supervision of a unity province).  Four of these provinces are in North America.

  1. The Moravian Church in America consists of the Southern Province (1753), headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the U.S. congregations of the Northern Province (1741), headquartered in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
  2. The Moravian Church in Canada consists of the Northern Province congregations in Alberta and Ontario.
  3. The Northern and Southern Provinces constitute the Moravian Church in North America.
  4. The Alaska Moravian Church (1885), a.k.a. the Alaska Province, headquartered in Bethel, Alaska, has been working with indigenous peoples for almost 130 years.  Its founders were missionaries from the Northern Province.  It uses hymnals, songbooks, and rituals in indigenous languages as well as in English.
  5. The Moravian Church in Newfoundland and Labrador (1771), or the Labrador Mission Province, ministers among the Inuit people there.
  6. The Northern Province has 93 congregations, excluding fellowships.  Eight of these are in Alberta and one is in Ontario, for a total of nine churches in Canada.  The other churches are scattered across twelve states and the District of Columbia–from California to Maryland–with the greatest concentration (twenty-three) in Pennsylvania.
  7. The Southern Province has fifty-seven congregations, excluding fellowships.  These exist in four states, with North Carolina having the greatest concentration (forty-eight).  There is one Moravian congregation in my state of Georgia–to my southwest, in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
  8. The Labrador Mission Province has four congregations.
  9. The Alaska Moravian Church has twenty-four congregations.

Newfoundland and Labrador Flag

Above:  The Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador

Image in the Public Domain

The Unity of the Brethren, which Czech immigrants to Texas founded in 1903, does not belong to the Unitas Fratrum, but does relate ecumenically to the Northern and Southern Provinces and support the seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  This denomination has twenty-seven congregations–twenty-six in Texas and one in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Texas Flag

Above:  Flag of Texas

Image in the Public Domain

My study so far of the Moravian Unity has revealed diversity in worship styles–from traditional liturgies and trombone choirs on the classical end of the spectrum to Southern Gospel hymnody to Charismatic services.  The Charismatic movement has become quite popular with parts of the Unitas Fratrum and divided three provinces.  Thus there are a unity province and mission province each in Honduras and the Czech Republic, for example.  And Alaska has had, since 2012, its province and a “ministry group” (not quite a mission province).

Before I proceed I feel the need to make a few points clear:

  1. I am a staid, orderly Episcopalian.  On the head-heart spectrum of Christianity I give more priority to the former than to the latter.  I, unlike John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, to which I belonged as a youth, have never felt my heart strangely warmed.  I have never had a “born again” experience, but I have known God for as long as I can remember.  Experiential Christianity, which the Moravian Church emphasizes, is not my cup of tea.  I was born to be an Episcopalian.
  2. I have no interest in designating any person or party in the Alaska dispute a hero, villain, or anything else.  My goal relative to it is to summarize reality accurately while avoiding becoming lost in details.
  3. My Internet-based research via official Moravian websites has answered many questions and created others.  The latter category is unimportant to me, for I choose not to pursue many details unrelated to my primary interest here–the analysis of liturgies and hymnals in the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Unitas Fratrum.

Alaska Flag

Above:  Flag of Alaska

Image in the Public Domain

The “ministry group,” as the Unitas Fratrum‘s Unity Board defines it, is the United Alaska Moravian Ministry (UAMM), which broke away from the Alaska Moravian Church in 2011.  As best as I can determine, UAMM consists of four churches, one or two fellowships, and a preaching station in the southern part of the state.  The flagship congregation is Anchorage Moravian Church (old website here; current website here), a fellowship of the Alaska Province from 1973 to 2001.  Since the church left the Alaska Moravian Church for UAMM in 2011, the Alaska Province planted a new congregation, First Moravian Church of Anchorage, in 2012.  The Senior Pastor of Anchorage Moravian Church and Bishop of UAMM is the Right Reverend William Nicholson (born in Dillingham, Alaska, in 1951, and raised in the Russian Orthodox Church).  He has served as Senior Pastor of that congregation (with an interruption in his tenure) since 2001.

A Moravian bishop is a spiritual leader, not an administrator per se.  Often a Moravian bishop serves as President of the Provincial Board and is therefore an administrator in that capacity, but the episcopal office is a spiritual one.  The first indigenous Bishop of the Alaska Moravian Church was the Right Reverend Jacob Nelson, who served from 1983 to 2013.  The Synod elected Nicholson to serve as a bishop in 2008, and thus the Province had two bishops.  The Synodical records from 2009 spoke of the two bishops.  Then, in 2010, something happened, for the Alaska Provincial Board removed Bishop Nicholson from his post as Senior Pastor.  Church bulletins from the time listed the position of Senior Pastor as vacant (until an Interim Pastor was present) and Nicholson as the Church Administrator.  Synodical records from 2011 referred a resolution to endorse the Provincial Board’s decision to terminate Nicholson’s ministerial duties in the Alaska Moravian Church to that Board.  The UAMM, with Nicholson restored as Senior Pastor of Anchorage Moravian Church, started its existence apart from the Alaska Synod in 2011.  As of January of that year, however, Anchorage Moravian Church was still part of the Alaska Moravian Church.

The Unity Board of the Unitas Fratrum met in 2012 and rendered a decision relative to UAMM.  The new group, now under the supervision of the Unity Board, became a “ministry group.”  The Unity Board also encouraged reconciliation between UAMM and the Alaska Moravian Church, requested that Nicholson seek guidance from other Moravian bishops, instructed him to refrain from ordaining anyone until a province commissions that act, and forbade him to compete with the Alaska Province in villages.  The Unity Board also deferred a decision regarding mission province status for UAMM.

My research into the Alaska dispute indicates at least two major factors–the Charismatic movement and rural-urban differences–in the schism.  Official records of the Alaska Moravian Church indicate the presence of the Charismatic movement as well as opposition to it in that province.  The dispute had been brewing for a period of some years in 2010, when the Synod rejected, by a vote of 21 to 39, a resolution affirming both traditional and contemporary worship as “vital to bring life, retain the younger generation, and possibly bring revival to the Alaska Province.”  And, since 2006, some congregations had been celebrating Spiritual Feasts, informal gatherings of people for the Holy Spirit-led praise of God consisting of testimonies, songs, and brief sermons then a potluck meal.  Revivalism was nothing new to the Alaska Province, whose Book of Order permits revivals, but the Charismatic movement made many people uncomfortable.

The Anchorage Moravian Church (abbreviated as AncMC online) websites (former and current) have proven especially helpful to me, for they have, among things, included many bulletins.  Detective work has led me to identify (by matching hymns to hymn numbers) two of the hymnals that congregation uses.  They are The Celebration Hymnal (1997), a hymnbook for blended worship, and the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969), a resource of the Northern and Southern Provinces.  These bulletins also reveal a combination of Moravian liturgies (used in the Sunday morning service) and the absence of them (in the Sunday evening service).  And further evidence of the Charismatic nature of the congregation and UAMM is the ministry group’s covenant relationship the Honduras unity province, the Charismatic Moravian province in that country.  (The mission province is the traditional group.)

The rural-urban thread comes from the current website of Anchorage Moravian Church.  As Bishop Nicholson wrote:

In November 2012 because of being far removed from rural Alaska and its “Spirit-filled” Missions emphasis, the AncMC is now recognized as a member Church of United Alaska Moravian Ministry (UAMM), a Moravian Group recognized by the Moravian Unity Board. UAMM is seeking Mission Province status with the Moravian Unity Board. UAMM is made up of growing Moravian Fellowships and Churches in Manokotak, Big Lake, Kenai and Anchorage. UAMM’s mission is to “Further the Gospel” on the Alaska highway system and to other non-Moravian areas of Alaska and the world.

So ends that thread of this post.

I choose to focus the upcoming series of Moravian-related blog posts to the Northern and Southern Provinces because, in so doing, I contain the content to material I can cover well.  If I cannot do something well, I prefer not to do it at all.  Researching and writing that series will require time, more reading, and much concentration, all of which will be good for my mind and my spirit, especially as I analyze liturgical materials, one of my favorite activities.  Such tasks constitute a form of prayer for me.

Until later, O reader…A bientot.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10–THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, PLAYWRIGHT AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS SOLANO, “THE APOSTLE OF AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF ORANGE SCOTT, ABOLITIONIST

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UPDATE:

On February 24, 2018 Bishop Williamson of the United Alaska Moravian Ministry Group (not affiliated with the Worldwide Moravian Unity, the website says prominently) joined with other Moravian churches to form the Global Fellowship of Moravian Revival Churches (GFMRC) at a ceremony in Kenya.  The GMF describes itself as an “undefiled and evangelical movement.

KRT

April 24, 2018

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