Archive for the ‘Southern Province’ Tag

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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