1757 - A short, reliable report from the church of the Unitas Fratrum...
To care for different needs of the community, the Brethren have Diaconos and Diaconissas, whose function is the same as the Diaconi, described in section XXI. Because it is necessary to care for the housing of their workers, it is done so out of the funds provided by a donated tax paid by the congregation members. When there was not enough, then they fell back occasionally upon the Vogtshof and the family of Count Zinzendorf. For certain small items they charged the inhabitants a tariff, just like in other communities. Examples are the candle fund for the chapel and tables, the fountain fund, the watch money, and the fund for vagabonds, so that they do not have to beg door to door for money.
They have caretakers for alms who use money from the donations in the poor fund to bring help to the elderly or to families in desperate need. The sick and the poor who are unable to help themselves, who are single, and the widows and widowers, are taken care of by their respective choir houses, just as the poor children and orphans are taken care of in their home.
On the whole, this business has been effectively dealt with since 1722 without ever coming to a final agreement on its deputation. There have been no beggars or debtors in their society. In terms of the particulars of the system, one can be certain that the left does not know what the right does.
In their clothing, they are very simple, and for the most part alike. The world (outsiders) is given pause that many Brethren are made equals they (outsiders) actually come here out of envy, because none, even of the lowest class, goes naked and mean,
but rather all cleanly if not glamourously, such does their clothing appear). So too the nobility by and by have desired to resign their otherwise accustomed freedom as an annoyance.
The women do not have any required dress code. However, since the traditional clothing in and around Herrnhut was simple and noble, decent and comfortable the first common women who came here took up this manner of dress. The ladies then did so as well, although unwillingly at first, so as to not be distinguishable from the others. Because their headdresses require bands to hold the bonnet closed, the different choirs and ages are distinguished by the color of the band. The children wear green or red choir bands, the single women wear white and red or rose red bands, depending on their age, the wives wear blue bands, and the widows wear white choir bands. The pregnant or nursing women show their condition by wearing a longer brown robe fitting to their leisureliness, as opposed to the ordinary, multicolored nightgown.
The Brethren do not have rules for wills and inheritances that would interfere with the general flow of things. Nothing hinders the execution of the will in either the local rules or in the statues of the land where they live. In fact, very few of them had official wills, but preferred to leave their wishes to the surviving members to interpret. This practice was often disapproved of, especially because of out of town relatives who usually took the opportunity to do the opposite of what was wished. He who goes out of time [dies] while living in a choir house and leaves
behind no known friends, will often think of his house in his will, as this will also help pay his debts and fees resulting from his death. Otherwise, the wife inherits from the husband, the children from the parents, and vice versa.
Another characteristic of the Brethren is that, wherever they settle, they stipulate a freedom from oaths and the carrying of weapons. Many of them have misgivings about abandoning this or that adjuration. That the original Moravians did not want to go to war is, in and of itself, good. They separated themselves from not only the Hussites, who were good soldiers, but also from the Waldenses of that time and chose to live a quiet, peaceful life and do the best for the city into which they had brought the Lord. They did this by following the most sensible path according to their knowledge and without further guidance. Their leaders dispensed judgment, with scrupulous consciences, and accept promises as just as worthy as, or indeed better than, the normal oaths, better than kissing a book or a salute with a hand. The Duke of Argyle, in a beautiful speech that he gave in support of the Act of the Brethren in the Upper House of the Parliament of Great Britain, so thoroughly did [supported the Act], as it suited and was deserved by the highest judge in Scotland. They are completely free of any obligation to bear arms or of valuation, partially due to their consciences and the incapacity that arises from it. This freedom is also partially due to the usefulness of their artisans. Sometimes, a personal contribution to the protection of the region is given in the form of an equivalent sum of money.
In the public worship service the congregations use a canon that is different from other canons, but they have a liturgy that does not vary much among the congregations themselves. Just as one finds different rituals in the Catholic community and different agendas in all of the Evangelical religions, there are variations between the congregations of the Brethren as well.
Their ceremonies and customs are partially the same as the old church, or, at the very least, they do not contradict it. In some cases, out of fear that the service would seem too similar to a Catholic mass, the old Brethren made their services too refined and strayed too far from a liturgical base. The current Brethren have changed this by making it a central tenet of their agenda: One should forever continue to change and improve things that are in need of improvement. Every Ordinarius can do so temporarily, within his own congregation. Only the Synodus can permanently change it for the entire church. Even so, the congregations cannot be forced into performing all ceremonies in exactly the same way. Each congregation is dependent upon the situation in the region where they live, yet they willingly try, as much as possible, to match their actions to those of the rest of the church.
Those teachers who have been assigned to perform the public worship services do so in a church, chapel, prayer house, or a hall, just as is done in other Evangelical denominations, but simpler. Services are held on Sunday mornings and afternoons, and once on the rest of the days, or numerous times, depending on the settlement and the needs of the different community houses. In the disciples house, it is customary to have services five times a day: a blessing in the early morning, a reading at mid-day, a daily liturgy service in the winter at dusk, when a candle is lit, an hour of song at eight in the evening, and the evening blessing between ten and eleven at night.
The morning blessing is customarily held by each housefather with his own family, and is held in every choir house communally. Each choir holds the evening blessing separately, but all choirs celebrate at the same appointed time.
The daily liturgy is only held in certain places. It is held at mid-day in the summer, and in the fall and winter, at the time that separates day and night. The service in the disciples house is sung from the Common Prayer or the Liturgy booklet (a collection of different church prayers, litanies, hymns, and collections). On Sunday, the "Litany of the Life and Sufferings of Jesus" is sung and, on the following days, the Te Deum laudamus, the Te Jehova, and the Te Abba are rotated through. Wednesdays are called the Disciples Days because the mail from other congregations is opened, just as it is opened on the monthly Congregation Day. The Liturgy of the Trinity or a combination of special prayers to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is sung on Wednesdays. On Fridays, the Passion Vesper is sung, usually accompanied by the Hymn "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden." On Saturday the Liturgy of the Church of God is sung.
The Kyrie Eleison, or the Litany of the Churches, is prayed on Sunday morning and on every Congregation Day in each community. The upper and lower official of every congregation are prayed for by name. A prayer is said for everyone, and for all the congregations of the Brethren and for Christendom as a whole. In addition to these prayers, the Prayers of the People are offered. Individuals who feel called to do so offer these prayers day and night, without a pause. This is called the Church or Prayer Watch, and each individual turn, the Prayer Hour.
The evening service is a collaboration of the congregation. The teacher sings about a biblical text using all manner of songs gathered from the material at hand. The congregation sings along without the aid of books. They call this the Singing Service and hold it in high regard. It is better heard than described. Because the Bohemians are born musicians, and also to enhance harmony and drown out the occasional grating voice, there is no lack of well-played accompaniment on certain festival days, often comprised of an organ, violins, and horns. These are the instruments which God himself introduced in the Old Testament. The musicians dutifully and carefully play the simple melodies and do not stray towards embellishment, except in a few festival canons. No one could hear the music and consider it worldly. If anyone should consider it so, then it must be a spiritual hypochondriac, a spiritually proud soul, or a congregation that lives in a region where all ceremonies, even the simplest and most necessary are contested.
The Brethren celebrate the church holidays that appear in all of Christendom after the fashion of the region in which they live. In their celebrations, they are filled with grateful remembrance and with copious gratitude for the grace given to humankind. Those holidays which are celebrated in other Christian churches, depending on the region and denomination, as the festivals of Encaenia, or the sanctification of the church, the Apostle and Patron Saint days, the reformation festivals, and other such memorial days correspond to the Brethrens twelfth of May, thirteenth of August, sixteenth of September, thirteenth of November, and so on. Such festivals are usually celebrated with a short memorial
to the occasion of the holiday and a prayer of Thanksgiving. If the daily text deals with an especially important piece of the Holy Truth, then the day will be called a Day of Teaching. If the text pertains specifically to one of the choirs, then the day will be called a Choir Day. One day a month is set aside to publicly read the messages that have been received from all the other congregations, settlements, and missions to the heathens. These messages are otherwise dispensed from the disciples house. This day of messages is called the Congregation Day and is usually held on the Monday after the Last Supper. At the end of this day the choirs recite the Congregation Day Pericope. The Pericope is a prophecy of the status of the congregations in the new league. The individuals who are requesting the care of the congregation cannot be denied and, after their declarations of such intent are delivered, they are received into the congregation with the Kiss of Peace. They, the community, and all of the scattered children of God are recommended to their Lord in a kneeling prayer. This Reception does not bind anyone to the church, but is instead assurance on the part of the congregation that they will, according to the heartfelt request and expectation of the received, take more care in looking after these individuals. The congregation will do everything it can, without damaging itself, to bring the received into the care, promise, and blessing of the Economy of the time. As soon as it is appropriate, the received will be admitted to the community of the body and blood of the Lord.
The Holy Baptism is the bath of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, the sign of ones connection to and blessing by the Lord, and the sign of ones attribution of all good things to God. As in other Evangelical churches, the Brethren perform these baptisms in public gathering places near the community, particularly with children. In emergencies, the baptism can be performed at the home of the mother. After all the children who are present have been examined on the passages related to the Holy Baptism and after some appropriate
arrangements have been sung, each child is held by its godparents as water is liberally poured over the childs heart. The water is poured three times from a basin and the child is then baptized in Jesus death, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Some of the congregation laborers lay their hands on the head of the child, as do the godparents, if the parents have selected any.
The Exorcismus, which one does not need for children unless someone specifically requests it, is usually used in adult baptisms, and is always used in the baptism of heathens. Thereupon they are baptized under the same words as the children, but they kneel before the basin and water is poured three times over their heads, covering their entire bodies. After receiving the church blessings, they prostrate themselves before the league of God to thank him for the grace they have received. They are then raised up by congregation laborers or their godparents, or by laborers from their own nation, in the case of the heathens, given the Kiss of Peace, and are ushered into a room for quietude.
Those Negroes who were baptized in their childhoods by Catholic Missionariis are accepted into the congregation if they ask the Brethren for their care. When a set of parents is not baptized and their parenting skills cannot be spoken for, children are not baptized directly after their birth. If the parents request it, the children will be blessed with a prayer. Each child who was not baptized during its tender innocence is denied participation in the sacraments of the Brethren until it has acquired the necessary inner capabilities and has grown to a certain maturity and understanding. They do not consider it
necessary to give a public declaration of ones beliefs before being baptized, if one has undergone sufficient lessons and private testing of the state of ones heart. Such a requirement would distract the soul of the one being baptized from the main point of the baptism. In addition, it is known that these declarations are only learned answers which attest to nothing more than a good memory and which do not even offer proof of a healthy Judicium, much less a healthy heart.
The Brethren hold the holy act of celebrating the Last Supper, when the body of Jesus is savored and his blood is drunk, in a public gathering place. Only when a person is ill is communion celebrated in a home. The celebration usually occurs each month either on Saturday or on Sunday, according to the habit of the community, and is held at midday or, preferably, in the evening. The entire congregation celebrates on the same day and an effort is made to see that as many congregations as possible celebrate on this day. Afterward, every communicant is spoken to by a servant of the church or reveals the status of their hearts through writings.
The process for this celebration is as follows:
Directly following the open general announcements and absolutions
The consecration of the bread with the appointed words and
The breaking of the bread. (*) The Brothers are served by a priest and by the Diaconum, while the Sisters are served by a priest and by the Diaconisse. The Diaconus passes the priest a piece of blessed bread out of a basket and the priest breaks the bread into two pieces. During the dispensation the Consecrator begins the Hymnum: O dass
(*) In their chapels, the Ordinarus Fratrum usually performs the consecration after the distribution in order to erase the qualms of those of a tender conscience.