Archive for the ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ Tag

Adjusting to America: Moravians, 1735-1848   12 comments

04087v

Above:  A View of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Publication Date = May 20, 1761, by Thomas Jeffreys

Artist = Thomas Pownall (1722-1805)

Painter and Engraver = Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-04087

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART II

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Grant us to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that hate us;

Have mercy upon our slanderers and persecutors; and lay not this sin to their charge;

Hinder all schisms and scandals;

Put far from thy people deceivers and seducers;

Bring back all that have erred, or have been seduced;

Grant love and unity to all our congregations;

Hear us, gracious Lord and God!

–From the Church Litany, in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Protestant Church, of the United Brethren; New and Revised Edition (1809)page x

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This post stands in lineage with the Prelude and Part I.

Immigrant and emigrant traditions intrigue me.  One reason for this fact is the reality of my ancestry, for I descend primarily from English people, some of whom settled in North America during the colonial era.  Some of my ancestors fought under the command of General George Washington during the U.S. War for Independence, in fact.  So I, a Caucasian, English-speaking male with deep roots in the United States of America, feel as non-ethnic as one can.  The closest I come to a sense of ethnicity is, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan’s H. M.S. Pinafore, “I am an Englishman.”  Indeed, “God Save the Queen,” er, “My Country, “Tis of Thee.”  Do you want tea with that?

People whose roots do not run deeply in the country in which they live occupy a different cultural space than do the rest of us.  Xenophobes and nativists consider that different cultural space inherently negative.  I reject the extremes of ethnocentrism, which holds up one’s culture as the ideal, and cultural relativism, which rejects the existence of standards and considers one culture just as good as any other.  No, I stand in the middle, where I welcome the positive influences and reject the negative ones, regardless of cultural origin.  Emigrants and immigrants have enriched this nation in countless ways, from cuisine to physical infrastructure.  Nevertheless, my digestive tract rejects much of their spicy food, so I practice considerable caution in the realm of culinary multiculturalism, much to the approval of my innards.

One of my the themes of this post is the struggle of many American Moravians with many of their fellow Americans who misunderstood them.  “Why do you use different hymn tunes than we do at the Methodist (or Baptist, Presbyterian, et cetera) Church?’ some asked, sometimes with hostility.  “What is the reason you insist on being different from other Protestants?” many wanted to know.  And, given the prominence of the nativistic politics of the American Party/Native American Party/American Republican Party in the middle third of the nineteenth century, these were serious questions which pointed to profound issues with which the Moravian Church in America had to struggle.

One lesson I have learned is that, despite the frequency of repetition of the ethic of “live and let live” or even to embrace and learn from certain differences, many people are unapologetic conformists.  This reality becomes obvious in a plethora of locations, from schools to places of employment.  I argue, however, that if God had intended us to be alike, God would not have created us to be different.

A few words about sources are appropriate before I delve headlong into the material.  I have listed hardcopy sources at the end of the post.  You, O reader, will find links to other posts behind parts of the text.  And I have found much useful information in an academic paper, “A Look at Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century American Moravian Liturgy” (December 2011), which Michael E. Westmoreland, Jr., wrote for his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree at Wake Forest University.  I found the paper via an Internet search and downloaded the PDF file.  That document will also prove useful when I start taking notes for Part III of this series.

II.  GERMAN LEGACIES

The origins of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum were, of course, Germanic.  Central to it were Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) and his estate near Berthelsforf, Saxony.  On that estate, in 1722, Moravian exiles had settled and formed a community, Herrnhut.  Developments there and elsewhere in Europe functioned as background to American settlements and influenced them.

Rituals

Many of the influences (some of which I covered in Part I) pertained to rituals of varying degrees of formality.  There was, for example, the Church Litany, based on a litany which Martin Luther had revised from the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Saints.  Luther had translated that text into German and removed all references to saints and the Pope.  The revised version was never as popular with Lutherans as with Moravians.  The Moravian revision debuted at Herrnhut in 1731 and became the center of Moravian liturgical practice and reinforced the communal nature of Moravian religious life.

More informal was the Singstrunde, or the “Singing Hour,” which started in 1727.  Across the Moravian world in the 1700s this constituted a standard part of evening devotions.  At Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, for example, the community held such a service each Saturday, in the late 1740s.  The form of Singstrunde was to sing stanzas and half-stanzas of hymns based on  a theme, thereby creating a sermon in song.  This, of course, required great knowledge of hymnody.  By 1770 readings from the Bible had become part of the service.

Related to the Singstrunde was the Love Feast, which had become the high point of Moravian festivals by the 1750s.  Composers wrote anthems for Love Feasts, which included common meals.

The Moravian practice of saying the Litany of the Wounds every Friday in communal settings in the 1700s pertained to the fact of Good Friday.  When people said it less frequently, they did so at least once a month, one week before Communion Sunday.  (The scheduling of Moravian Communion services has varied from once a quarter to once a month.)  Other times for the saying the Litany of the Wounds included days in the season of Lent.  Since 1753 the Litany has existed in two parts:  the Litany of the Life, Suffering, and Death of Christ, and the Hymn of the Wounds.

Forms were ordered and usually simple, although occasionally elaborate.  The purpose of worship was to promote love for Jesus and each other, and the forms were flexible with constant cores, so as to meet needs in various circumstances.  Related to that norm of ordered simplicity was the basic ministerial garment for Baptism, Communion, Marriage, and Confirmation.  The white surplice (often with a white belt) debuted in Moravian worship at a Communion service in Europe on May 2, 1748.  It, like other vestments, functioned as a uniform, thereby preventing the minister’s wardrobe from becoming a distraction.  My survey of websites of North American Moravian congregations has yielded images of clergymen and clergywomen leading worship while wearing a white surplice, a black Geneva robe (without a stole), and secular clothes.  This is consistent with the optional nature of Moravian vestments outside of those four rites.

The focus on divine (rather than on human) authority became more apparent than it was already in the Moravian Church in 1741.  There has been a series of Chief Elders, spiritual leaders of the Unitas Fratrum.  That year, however, Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) resigned the position.  The job had become impossible due to the recent global expansion of the Church.  Also, Dober had no desire to function as a kind of Moravian Pope, which was what his office might have come to entail had he not resigned his post.  On November 13, 1741, the Church announced formally that Jesus Christ was the Chief Elder.  Since then November 13 has been the Festival of Christ the Chief Elder.  The designated parament color is White and the readings are Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24; Psalm 8; Hebrews 4:14-16; and John 10:1-10.

Settlements

Moravians arrived on the North American mainland in 1735.  The first group settled in Savannah, Georgia.  The initial Georgia mission (1735-1779) failed primarily due to internal divisions.  Outside pressures made matters worse, for the pacifistic Moravians refused to take up arms against the Spanish in the late 1730s.  This fact did nothing to endear them to the British military authorities.  Most of the Georgia contingent departed for Pennsylvania in 1740 and founded the settlement of Nazareth the following year.  The founding of other Moravian settlements ensued, such as at Bethabara (1753) and Salem (1766), in North Carolina.

Early Moravian settlements were communes which emphasized the self-sufficiency of the community and members’ responsibilities to and for each other.  Musical skills carried a high priority, but church music did not require professionalism.  Practice time was important and distracted people from dubious pursuits, but too much practice time detracted from communal duties.   Survival mattered, as did the rigorous daily worship schedule, which included morning, midday, and evening prayers.

Hymnals

The hymnals were mostly in German during the 1700s.  In fact, the first English-language Moravian hymnal rolled off the printing presses in England in 1742.  The Tunes for the Hymns in the Collection with Several Translations from the Moravian Hymnbook, with supplements in 1746 and 1749, was a personal collection which James Hutton had prepared.  The original edition had only 187 hymns, thus it was small by Moravian standards.  A Collection of Hymns of the Children of God in All Ages, From the Beginning Till Now; Designed Chiefly with the Brethren’s Church (1754), with Bishop John Gambold, Sr. (1711-1771), as the Editor, contained 1,055 hymn texts, however.  These spanned the time from the Early Church to the-then contemporary age and included works by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.  Only fifty-one hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Next in line was  A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren (1789), with a mere 887 hymns plus liturgical texts dispersed among the hymns.  Given the fact that American Moravians used imported British and German worship materials prior to their 1851 hymnal, many of the Brethren in North America knew these English-language materials well.  For a long time, however, German was the main language of worship on this side of “the pond.”

Count Zinzendorf published the Herrnhuter Gesangbuch (1735), thereby starting the Moravian tradition of words-only hymnals for congregations and tune books for church musicians.  The 1735 hymnal offered 999 texts, 208 of which Zinzendorf had written.  Only two hymns came from the Ancient Unity.  Subsequent editions published through 1755 added a total of twelve appendices and four supplements.  Modern Moravian sources consider much of the textual content of hymnals from the “Sifting Time” (ending about 1750) as lacking good taste and exhibiting an excessive–even childish–emphasis on the wounds of Christ.

The next major development in German Moravian hymnody was the “London Book” of 1753-1755.  Alt und neuer Bunder Gesang, a.k.a. Das Londoner Gesangbuch, debuted in two parts.  It contained 3,264 hymns arranged chronologically, from the Early Church to then-contemporary times.  Of these texts, 1,096 came from Moravian sources.  The texts, in German and English in parallel columns, emphasized the fact that the Moravians thought of themselves as standing in continuity with the Early Church and as part of the Universal Church.  This great accomplishment in hymnody also corrected much of the childish language of earlier Moravian hymnals.

Christian Gregor (1723-1801), a bishop from 1789, was responsible for the next great leap in (German) Moravian hymnody.  He, the “Father of Moravian Music,” composed hundreds of hymn texts, introduced arias and anthems into Moravian worship, and stabilized the denomination’s hymnody.  He edited the Gesangbuch (1778), with its 1,750 hymns, more than 300 of which he wrote or revised.  Six years later the Choralbuch, intended for organists, appeared.  The Gesangbuch contained only words and the Choralbuch offered only music.

German-language hymnals remained in use in the United States throughout the 1800s.  A domestically published volume from 1848 contained 836 hymns and went into new printings in 1854 and 1861.  The revision debuted in 1885.  By then English had become the main language of worship, however.

III.  THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL ASSIMILATION

The transition to English was part of a process of cultural assimilation and adaption to the dominant culture.  I would be remiss if I were, O reader, to leave you with the mistaken idea that all linguistic developments among American Moravians at the time moved toward the English tongue.  There were, for example, missions among Native people.  Hence there was, for example, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the Christian Indians, of the Missions of the United Brethren in America (1803), which missionary David Zeisberger prepared.  The second edition debuted in 1847.

The first printing of a Moravian hymnal in the United States occurred in 1813.  The volume in question was A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of the Protestant Church of the United Brethren–New and Revised Edition (1801) with its 1808 supplement.  The 1809 composite hymnal served well in Britain until the publication of its successor in 1826; another revision followed in 1849.  The U.S. Moravian hymnal of 1851 was a revision of that volume, hence the division between Parts II and III of this series.  The 1801-1808-1809 book was itself a revision of the 1789 Collection of Hymns, which John Swertner had also edited.

The two volumes were similar yet different.  Both, consistent with Moravian practice of the age, had words only.  The 1789 hymnal offered 887 hymns, but the 1801 book contained 1,000.  The 1808 supplement thereto added 200 hymns.  The 1789 hymnal dispersed the liturgies among the hymns, but the 1801-1808-1809 volume grouped the liturgies at the front of the book.  Those forms were:

  1. The Church Litany;
  2. Doxologies at Ordinations;
  3. Easter Morning Litany;
  4. Baptismal Litanies;
  5. Holy Communion; and
  6. Liturgy for Burials.

Another important volume was Hymn Tunes Used in the Church of the United Brethren (1836), which Peter Wolle (1792-1871) edited.  The core target audience was Moravian, but Wolle intended it for other Christians also.  He edited the traditional Moravian tunes to make them less foreign.  That fact indicated that Moravians were feeling pressures to conform to the practices of others.

I have read enough in the realm of liturgy during the last few years to develop a firm grasp of the difficulties inherent in linguistic and cultural changes in the public worship of God.  Among many culturally Germanic Lutherans (especially in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) in the United States, the transition to worshiping in English entailed the loss of traditional texts.  Much of this transition was abrupt, for domestic hysteria and vandalism during World War I (a time when many people relabeled Sauerkraut as “Liberty Cabbage”) compelled its acceleration.  The Dutch-language worshipers from the Christian Reformed Church in North America felt much of the same pressure during the Great War.  Their transition was mostly complete by 1940, at the cost of much grief and many tunes and texts.

Language carries culture, which influences one’s identity.  Thus those who dismiss the “other” as automatically and inherently defective because it is different not only engage in ethnocentrism but inflict harm on others.  Those nativists and xenophobes also harm themselves, for their insistence on homogeneity deprives them of positive influences from other cultures.

American Moravians, who were making the transition from German to English as the primary language during the first half of the nineteenth century, experienced an awkward time.  There were still many older church members who knew the German hymns and litanies by heart, but many of the younger Moravians knew English, not German.  And copies of the English-language worship resources were frequently scarce.  One result of this situation was having many people reading the services badly from books (of which the supply was often insufficient) and generally being lost in the ritual, thereby diminishing the traditional services.  Those services were also becoming less frequent, for changing lifestyles rendered the former rigorous worship schedules obsolete.  Also, many Evangelical congregations (such as those of Baptists and Methodists) attracted many young Moravians.

Were traditional Moravian melodies bad because they were different?  Of course not!  Yet many non-Moravians thought so.  I have listened to some traditional Moravian music and concluded that is superior to much traditional American Protestant (especially Baptist and Methodist) music, actually.  Then again, I am an unapologetic European Classicist.  Nativism and xenophobia, however, led to opposition to such foreign influences.

IV.  CONCLUSION

The story of adaptation to America will continue in Part III, which will start with the British hymnal of 1849, the basis of the U.S. hymnbook of 1851.  This series will continue with summaries of revisions in the hymnody and liturgies of the Moravian Church in America as it adapted to changing circumstances.

The allegation that Moravians were somehow foreign or insufficiently American was false.  In fact, an examination of the germane facts belies it, not that bigots care about objective reality.  The first documented celebration of July 4 occurred at Salem, North Carolina, in 1783.  The Moravians there observed the occasion with a Love Feast.  As a common expression states, “enough said.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

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

Hutton, James E.  A History of the Moravian Church.  London, England, UK:  Moravian Publication Office, 1909.  Reprint.

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 Church Desk Calendar & Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

Moravian Daily Texts 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2013.

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