Today in Christian History – June 17

1722 – The Moravians felled their first tree to begin building a house. They named their village Herrnhut, meaning “The Lord’s Watch,” with the idea that the Lord would watch over them and they would watch for the Lord.

Zinzendorf prayed with them in that first house and made strong efforts to convert everyone living on his estate. He also accepted other refugees. This resulted in a mixed group of believers—Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, Separatists, Reformed, and Brethren living side by side. Amidst such diversity, tensions developed.

The Moravian Church (Latin: Unitas Fratrum, meaning Unity of the Brethren; Czech: Moravští bratři); German, Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine, from the place of the church’s renewal in the 18th century, (meaning Brethren’s Congregation from Herrnhut) is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the world, with its heritage dating back to the Bohemian Reformation in the fifteenth century.

The name by which the Church is commonly known comes from the original exiles who fled to Saxony in 1722 from Moravia to escape religious persecution, but its heritage began in 1457 in Bohemia (and its crown lands, Moravia and Silesia), then an autonomous kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. This region today is part of the Czech Republic. The modern Unitas Fratrum, with about 750,000 members worldwide, continues to draw on traditions established during the eighteenth century. The Moravians continue their long tradition of missionary work, for example in the Caribbean. This is reflected in their broad global distribution. The Church places a high value on ecumenism, personal piety, missions and music.

The Church’s emblem is the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) with the flag of victory, surrounded by the Latin inscription: Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur (English: „Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him”).

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