bullet BDHP Glossary



Definitions provided by 
Otto Dreydoppel, Jr. and Katherine Faull

Abendmahl (German) - Communion or Lord's Supper.

Acolyte (Acoluth-German) - A Member of the Moravian church who has been formally marked for lifetime service within the Church but who is not ordained.  An acolyte can assist the ordained minister in the distribution of the elements of Holy Communion but cannot administer the sacrament independently.

Agape (Greek) - See Lovefeast.

Allemängel (Allemaengel) - site of a former Moravian congregation in present day Lynn Township, Lehigh County Pennsylvania.

August 13 - One of the two chief festival days of the Moravian Church. On August 13, 1727 Moravian refugees at Herrnhut, Germany, along with others who had joined them seeking religious freedom, underwent a memorable spiritual renewal in the nearby Lutheran parish church at Berthelsdorf.  The Herrnhuters had been experiencing conflict within their community, and the August 13th experience gave them a new resolve to work together and to go out in mission.  The Moravian Lovefeast tradition grew out of this historical experience.  The worldwide Moravian Unity commemorates August 13 as the spiritual birthday of the Renewed Moravian Church.


Bands or Classes- Small groups dating back to 1727 in Herrnhut.  They were intended to foster spiritual growth within the congregation.  They met informally for prayer and intimate discussion of personal experience.  A member could apply to join any group to which he or she felt drawn.  But the leader had the right to decline the application.  Following the institution of the Choir system the members of each band were customarily drawn from the same Choir and the group was more commonly known as a class. (This definition is taken from The Bethlehem Diary Volume I, 1742-1744.)

Barby -Town on the Elbe River in Germany.  From 1748 to 1809 there was a Moravian congregation here.  Zinzendorf made this his headquarters for a time after he was allowed to return to Saxony following his banishment (1736-1748).  In 1749 a theological seminary was founded here.   In 1789 the seminary was moved to Niesky and the boys' school was moved here. The congregation was never very large, and after the boys' school returned to Niesky in 1808 the community was abandoned.

Berthelsdorf-The home village of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf located three miles from Herrnhut.  It was in the Lutheran parish church here, still in use and once again accessible to visitors, that the Moravian Pentecost of August 13, 1727 occurred.  Zinzendorf's manor house still stands, but is in very bad condition.  This is the house from which Zinzendorf had food sent to the praying Moravians on August 13, beginning the lovefeast tradition.  The house is the architectural model for Zinzendorf's residence in Herrnhaag, as well as for Nazareth Hall in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Bethabara - The first Moravian settlement in North Carolina. Established in 1763, this site is now part of Winston-Salem.

Bethanien or Bethania - Founded in 1759, it is the second oldest Moravian settlement in North Carolina.

Bethel - A former Moravian congregation located about 80 miles southwest of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Bettag (German) - See Gemeintag.

Bohemia - The westernmost area of what is now the Czech Republic.  This area, along with Moravia, served as  the point of origin for the members of the Unity of the Brethren.

Bohemian Brethren  - Members of the Unitas Fratrum in the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries.

Brother (Bruder-German) - Term applied to a male communicant member of the Moravian Church.  Their term is not applied to nonmembers of the Church.

Brother Joseph - Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg.

Brüdergemeine - Unity of the Brethren (German).  This term designates the worldwide Moravian Church (both male and female members).  This is also called the (Moravian) Unity.


Choir - This is the term used to designate a segment of the congregation constituted of all the individuals of similar age groups or sharing the same sex or marital status.  In its peak the system included Choirs of Children, Little Boys, Little Girls, Older Boys , Older Girls, Single Brethren, Single Sisters, Married People, Widowers, and Widows.  During many years the Single Brethren, Single Sisters, and Widows lived, labored, and worshiped together in close fellowship within their respective Choir Houses. 

Choir Festival (Chorfest-German)  - A Special day of prayer and reconsecration put aside for each of the Choirs of the Congregation.  March 25-Festival of all the Choirs; April 30-Widows' Choir Festival; May 4-Single Sisters Festival; June 4-Greater Girls Festival; July 9-Greater Boys Festival; August 17-Children's Choir; August 29-Single Brother's Festival; August 31-Widowers' Choir Festival; September 7-Married People's Festival.

Choir Helper (Chorpfleger/in-German) -  Person in a Choir to whom the spiritual life of the Choir is entrusted.

Choir Labourer/ess (Chorabeiter/in-German) - An individual appointed to spiritual leadership within a Choir.  The term could also be applied to a Choir warden or business manager as well.

Christiansbrunn - Located about two miles from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, this settlement was comprised of Single Brethren.

Classes -  see Bands 

Comenius, John Amos (Jan Koemnsky-Czech) - (1592-1670) - The last bishop of the Bohemian Brethren also known as a theologian, philosopher, linguist, diplomat, and the "Father of Modern Education."  In 1622, when the 30 Years war made life untenable for them in their homeland, Comenius led a band of Brethren into exile in Poland.  He died in Holland.

Congregational Council (Gemeinrat-German) -  A gathering of members, which was held weekly during the early period and provided them with an opportunity to consider all matters affecting the life of the congregation.  Regulations regarding membership in the body and the degree of authority that it possessed were frequently modified throughout the following years.

Congregation Day  - See Gemeintag.

Congregational Settlements -  Exclusive communities established by the Moravians in various parts of the world.  In them only members of the Church could own property (but no land) or carry on business, and only very friends of the Church were allowed to reside who would agree to observe its regulations.  Segregation from the world without was intended to strengthen the members' faith, deepen their convictions, and develop the qualifications they would need when engaging in evangelistic activity among persons indifferent or hostile to the Christian faith.  Such settlements, it was also hoped, would be shining examples of Christian piety for the encouragement of earnest believers within other denominations.


Daily Texts -  A manual meant to assist congregations or individual member in their daily devotions.  The Moravian Church has published it annually since 1731.  In the earliest years its format varied considerable.  From 1760 on, the watchwords (Losungen) and the doctrinal tests (Lehrtexte) have been distinguished by the way in which they were selected.  Since 1788, the watchword has been drawn by lot from the Old Testament.  The Doctrinal Text is not drawn by lot but rather is selected from the New Testament to underscore or expand the thought contained in the watchword.  Moravians early came to trust in the spiritual guidance afforded them by the tests for each day.  The Daily Texts are now distributed throughout the world and translated into forty-one languages and dialects.  It has been described as "probably the most widely ready daily devotional guide in the world, next to the Bible."

Deacon/ess (Diakon/in-German) - First order of the Moravian ordained ministry.  A Moravian deacon can administer the sacraments and rites of the Church and serve as pastor of a congregation.  The feminine term was applied sometimes to the wife of a minister, who was also ordained and assisted in the spiritual work among the women of a congregation, and, through 1760, it could also be applied to unmarried women selected for service in the Church.

Diaconie -  From the Greek diakoni meaning "service."  The financial organization of the Church as a whole, or of a congregation or a Choir, with special reference to any business carried on in that name.

Diaspora  - Scattering (Greek). The term originally referred to the Jewish community scattered after the Babylonian Exile (587 BCE) and later to the Christians dispersed across the Greco-Roman world in the first century CE.  For eighteenth-century Moravians it designated a ministry of revivalism and spiritual renewal carried out among members of the European State churches.

Diener (German) -  Servant.  In the eighteenth century, the Diener/in was one who held a special office or carried out a specified responsibility with the Moravian community. Among contemporary Moravians the term refers to one who serves the Lovefeast meal.

Donnegal - town in northwest Ireland and a town in southwest Pennsylvania.


Easton - county seat of Northampton County, Pennsylvania.



Friedensthal - a small Moravian settlement outside of Nazareth, Pennsylvania.


Gemeine (German) - Community.  Among eighteenth century Moravians the term carried several meanings: a congregation, a communal settlement, the worldwide Moravian organization, and the spiritual fellowship of Moravian brothers and sisters.

Gemeinhaus (German) - Community or congregation house.  In a Moravian communal settlement the Gemeinhaus usually included a large room for gathering and worship (the Saal), rooms fore administrative use, living quarters for church officials, rooms for visitors, and often space for school purposes.

Gemeintag (German)  - Congregation Day.  In the eighteenth century this was a monthly congregational festival dedicated to prayer, discussion of matters of moment to the congregations, the reading of letters and reports from other congregations and the mission field, and receiving of members, etc.

General Economy - The period from 1742 to 1762 when Bethlehem was operated communally.  Land, buildings, and all equipment belonged to the community.  Although the holding of private property was not forbidden, individuals contributed their talents and labor to the community and received in return the things that they needed.

Gnadenhütten - Moravian mission settlement established in 1746 at the mouth of Mahoning Creek at present day Lehighton, Pennsylvnia. Also the name given to another mission settlement in Ohio, which was established in 1772.

Gnadenthal - The first farm operation on Nazareth, Pennsyvlania land.

God’s Acre (Gottesacker-German) - Term based on St. Paul's figure of speech in I Corinthians 15:42-44 and often used throughout Germany for a graveyard.

Great Sabbath - The day before Easter.  Moravian congregations frequently held services on the Great Sabbath to commemorate Jesus' day of rest in the tomb before Easter Sunday.


Heiland (German) -The Saviour.  This was the preferred name by which eighteenth-century Moravians referred to Jesus Christ, the spiritual focus of individual and communal life.  Moravians often referred to Jesus Christ as "The Lamb," using a biblical image of the one whom they believed was sacrificed for their atonement.

Heimgang (German) - Going home.  A term referring to the death of a Moravian.

Helper (Helfer/in or Pfleger/in-German) - A church official, usually responsible for the spiritual life of the congregation or one of its Choirs, often the ordained pastor or one of his assistants.  When the Helpers meet as a deliberative body it is termed the Helfer Conferenz, the head pastor presided as primus inter pares.

Herrnhaag- Town in Wetteravia, western Germany.  Looking for a place that could serve as a refuge for the Moravians in Herrnhut should they be expelled from Saxony, Zinzendorf obtained permission in 1738 from the Count Ysenburg-Büdingen to buy land in his territory and establish a congregation.  It became a settlement congregegaiton and was the location for much of teh religious enthusiasm and theological experiemention durting the so-called "Sifting Period" (approx. 1738-1752).  The new Count of Büdingen demanded religious and financial concessions from the Moravians.  The Moravians refused and evacuated from Herrnhaag. 

Herrnhut -Town in Upper Lusatia region of Saxony in southeastern Germany.  In 1722 Count Zinzendorf allowed Moravian refugees to settle at Herrhut and became the first of a series of settlement congregations.  In the years after 1722 Herrnhut became the home base for evangelistic efforts in Europe and for misison enterprises worldwide.  As the Moravian Church took on a denominational structure, Herrnhut became the headquarters.

Hope - a Moravian congregational settlement in New Jersey.

House Congregation (Hausgemeine-German) - The members constituting the local resident congregation who by labor and prayer sustained the nonresident members, or "pilgrims," active in evangelistic or educational work.



Jünger/Jüngerin(German)  - Disciple.   Generally used to refer to Nicholas Ludwig von
Zinzendorf and Anna Nitschmann.

Jüngerhaus (German) - Disciple's house.


Kiss of Peace-See I Peter 5:14.  In the apostolic Church the kiss of peace of kiss of love appears to have had recognized place in its ritual as an expression of brotherly affection and trust.  The Moravian custom was a conscious effort to restore this ancient rite.  It was most frequently referred to by them as the kiss of peace.  In time, the giving of the right hand of fellowship was substituted for this symbol.

Lebanon or Libanon - was a Moravian congregation for Brethren about 15 miles from Bethel, Pennsylvania.

Lebenslauf (German)-Memoir.  An (auto) biographical account of the life of a member of the Congregation, which was supposed to give special attention to spiritual struggle and progress.  The Choir Helper described the final illness and deathbed scene.  The memoir was preserved and read at the departed's funeral.

Liebesmahl (German)-See Lovefeast.

Lindsey House-once the home of Sir Thomas Moore, this Chelsea, England mansion was leased by the Moravians in 1750.

Litany of the Wounds (Wundenlitaney-German)-Composed by Zinzendorf, his son, Christian Renatus, and Zinzendorf's future son-in-law, Johannes Langguth (later von Watteville) in 1744, the Wundenlitaney contains some of the most pervasive and realistic images of Christ's life and Passion.  Among Moravians it was a particularly popular and frequently sung litany that, through its drastic representation of Christ's Wounds, enabled the individual to establish a more intimate relationship with the Savior.  Despite being the subject of some of the heaviest criticism of the Moravian Church from its opponents, its influence stretches far beyond the 1740s, with images occurring well into the 1770s and 1780s. 

Lititz/Warwick- a town in Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) that served as a center for Moravian  itinerant  preachers.

Liturgy-A formal prayer used in Moravian worship including hymns and scripture verses interspersed to develop a spiritual theme.

Loosung (German) - Daily Text

Lot -In the eighteenth century Moravians made frequent use of the lot in an effort to determine the will of the Lord in any situation in which their right course of action was not clear to the.  They were convinced that they could in this way rely on Christ's guidance because of their acknowledgment of Him as the Chief Elder of their Church.  After a prayer, the Elders would draw one of the three lots ? there were usually three possibilities, positive, negative, and blank.  A blank was interpreted to mean "wait."

Lovefeast - A service instituted by the Moravian Church in 1727.  It has come to represent the New Testament agape.  In the middle of the eighteenth century it served both as a social gathering and as a happy religious service, offering the members of the Bethlehem congregation one of the few opportunities for relaxation.  A Lovefeast could be observed by groups within the church fellowship or by Choirs or be the entire congregation.


Mama-Anna Nitschmann.

Marienborn -Town in Wetteravia, western Germany.   A castle located in Marienborn was leased by Count Zinzendorf as a residence during his banishment from Saxony.  A  Moravian congregation was established here.  When the Moravian's lease to teh property expired in 1773 the congregation was closed. 

Mahony or Mahoni - Where the Mahony Creek joined the Lehigh River (near present day Lehighton, Pennsylvania), the Moravians established the Moravian Christian American Indian village of Gnadenhütten.

Moravia - region of the Czech Republic.  This area, along with Bohemia, served as  the point of origin for the members of the Unity of the Brethren.


Nain - Moravian Native American settlement established in 1755 about a mile from Bethlehem. At the onset of Pontiac's Rebellion (1763-1766) the Native Americans located at Nain were moved to Philadelphia marking the end of the settlement.

Nazareth - Originally purchased by George Whitefield and later sold to the Moravians, this 5000 acre tract was located ten miles north of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Nitschmann, Anna (1715-1760) - Born in Kunewald in Moravia the former shepardhess became an influencial leader in the Moravian Church.  At the age of 15 she was made the Eldress of all the women in Herrnhut.  She arrived in Pennsylvania in 1740 and returned to Europe in 1743.  She married Count Zinzendor in 1757. 


Ode- A series of appropriate hymn stanza selected and arranged for a Singstunde, Lovefeast, or other special service.

Ordinary/Ordinarius- Term sometimes applied specifically to Zinzendorf or to the presbyter or priest (second rand of ordained ministry) and hence usually the leading minister of a congregation.

Ortsgemeine (German)- Place Congregation.  The official term for a congregation settlement, as distinct from a congregation whose members lived in a town that already existed.  The Ortsgemeine was established by the Moravian Church, and its civic and ecclesiastical life was regulated by the Church authorities.  In an Ortsgemeine an individual had to obtain permission from these authorities to reside in the settlement, to lease land, or trade in it.


Papa-Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

Pfleger/Pflegerin -See Helper.

Pilgrim Congregation (Pilgergemeine-German)- In America this term designated those brethren and sisters used by the Church as its missionaries to evangelize all who were will to hear them, whites, Indians, and Negroes alike, or to preach to those members of other denominations who were without pastoral care, or to teach children who had no opportunity for schooling.  In Europe, centering at Marienborn in Wettervia, the Pilgergemeine designated a group of dedicated men and women who were closely associated with Count Zinzendorf and ready at and shortest notice to travel from place to place in the service of their Savior.

Pilgrim's House (Pilgerhaus-German) - A pilgrim's house was a building in which a pilgrim congregation ? or the Pilgrim Congregation ? lived.  The Pilgrim Congregation stood at the head of affairs during the years of Zinzendorf's banishment from Saxony.  It consisted of a group of men and women (Zinzendorf and his family and the most prominent members of the Moravian Church at that time) who moved from place to place, London, Berlin, Zeist, as was needed to spread the message of Moravianism.

Pietism - A renewal movement within European Protestantism in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  Pietists emphasized religious experience, personal commitment, and an intentionally Christian way of living at a time when Protestant Orthodoxy was defined by assent to correct doctrine and participation in the institutions and rituals of the Church.  Count Zinzendorf was influenced by Pietism and, with the Moravians under his care, developed a unique interpretation and application of it which stressed the joy and peace found in heart relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pilgergemeine  -  See Pilgrim Congregation.

Plan  -  An agreed role or set of instructions (in accordance with the Saviour's intentions) and the place or area where it is to be carried out.



Reception - Men and women were received into a congregation sometimes quite a long time before they became communicant members.  The decision whether or not to receive a petitioner into the Congregation was made through use of the lot. 

Renewed Moravian Church - The Unitas Fratrum after 1722, when refugees from Bohemia and Moravian arrived in German Saxony and were received by Nicholas  von Zinzendorf and reorganized under his patronage.

Rose - A Moravian-operated inn located in Nazareth.


Saal (German)- The term was used by the Moravians to designate the place in which the congregation or one of its Choirs met for worship.  Even when separate buildings were set apart for worship, the use of this term persisted.  Originally, the word resulted from a conscious effort of theirs to distinguish their meeting houses from the "churches" of other eccleiastical bodies, the State Churches in particular.

Sea Congregation - In the eighteenth century, when a group of Moravians traveled together on shipboard, they permitted their usual activities to be interrupted as little as possible.  Thus they organized themselves as a congregation, maintaining services, discipline, physical care of the individual travelers, etc.

September 16 - On that day in 1741, during a synodical conference in London, leading Moravians became convinced that it was their Lord's will for them no longer to fill the office of Chief Elder of their denomination but to let their Saviour Himself be their Head and Elder.  This day thereafter was observed as a covenanting day for the ministers of the Church.

Shecomeco/Shekomeko - in Dutchess County, New York.  In 1740 the Moravians established a Native American mission at this location.

Shomokin/Shamokin - A town on the Susquehanna River; now Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

Singstunde (German) - Singing Hour.  A service devoted to singing.  The congregation would join in a series of hymn stanzas, which the brother or sister in charge of the service had carefully selected to develop some specific devotional theme, thus making the service resemble a sermon in song.  Ordinarily no address would be delivered in it, although the service would be opened with prayer.

Sickroom (Krakenstube-German) - A room specifically set aside for the care of the sick.

Sickwaitress (Krankenwärterin-German) - Nurse.

Sinner (Sunder-German) -Term used to denote someone who has acknowledged sinfulness in a given situation, assumed full responsibility for it, and has humbly repented.  The adjective form "sinnerlike" is frequently used in memoirs and has a positive connotation, suggesting humble reliance on the Savior's mercy.

Sister (Schwester-German) - Term used to refer to a female communicant member of the Moravian Church.  Not used for nonmembers of the Church.

Society - An association of people affiliated with the Moravian church and served by a Moravian minister but not fully organize as a Moravian congregation.  Members of a Society usually lived in towns, cities, or surrounding country areas, too far away to allow them to attend services regularly.  Membership requirements were less stringent than those for a Gemeine.

Spangenberg, August Gottlieb (Brother Joseph) - (1704-1792).   A former professor at Jena Univerity, Spangenberg became an influencial leader in the Moroavian Church and was ordained a bishop in 1744.  He served the Church as the administrative head in Bethlehem from 1744 through 1749 and again in 1754 through 1762.

Speaking - On stated occasions, especially prior to Communion, every communicant belonging to a congregation was expected to have a private interview with the pastor or choir helper.  In this interview the individual's spiritual life and preparedness to partake of the sacrament was discussed.  Speakings sometimes also took place when there were particularly pressing circumstances.

Synod  - Highest legislative body in the Moravian Church, composed of clergy and lay delegates from the congregations.  In the eighteenth century the administration of the worldwide church was done from Germany, with delegates from other areas participating in the deliberations.


Unitas Fratrum (Latin)  - The Unity of the Brethren, the official name of the Moravian Church.


Vorsteher (German) - Overseer or supervisor.


Wachau/Wachovia - Named for one of Count Zinzendorf's estates, this large tract of land was purchased by the Moravians from John Carteret, Earl of Granville, in 1753. On this land, the settlements of Bethabara and Bethania were built.

Watchword - The daily text of the Moravian Church, drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures and chosen by lot.

Weequetank/Wechquetank - A Moravian American Indian village north of Bethlehem in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

Whitfield, George (1714-1770) -Anglican evangelist (and an associate of John and Charles Wesley) who led revivals both in England and in the American colonies.  Whitefield met the Moravians in Georgia and transported them to Pennsylvania, having engaged them to build a school for Black orphans on his property in Nazareth.  Whitefield evicted the Moravians from his land after a theological difference with their leader, Peter Böhler, but later sold the Nazareth tract back to them.  The structure which they began building under his commission, was eventually completed, earlier called "The Stone House" and then "Ephrata," used variously as a school building and residence, and eventually named the Whitefield House in his honor.

Wyoming/Wajomik - A valley in north-central Pennsylvania.




Zeist/Zeyst -Town in Holland, southeast of Amsterdam.  The "Slot" (castle) here was once residence of Louis XIV of France.  When the Moravians purchased the barony of Ysselstein in 1745 it included the entire village, as well as the castle.  In 1746 the estate became the Moravian congregational settelment  of Zeist.

Zinzendorf, Nicholas Ludwig von (1700-1760) - German Lutheran nobleman.  Zinzendorf received refugee members of the Bohemian Brethren in 1722, allowed them build a settlement on his land, reorganized them into a society for world mission and spiritual renewal, and eventually became a bishop of the Renewed Moravian Church. Count Zinzendorf resided in Pennsylvania from late 1741 until early 1743.  On December 24, 1741 he gave the new Moravian settlement of Bethlehem its name.


Updated: 1 September 2005

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