1757 - A short, reliable report from the church of the Unitas Fratrum...
At sunrise on Easter morning everywhere, the Brethren care for and visit the graves of their deceased Brothers and Sisters, in the fashion of the oriental church. They call this the Easter Liturgy, during which the names of all of the Brethren of the community, and some from other places, who have gone to sleep since the last Easter are read from the Diptycho. They are introduced to the eternal unity and are prayed for. The solemnity and liturgical beauty of this ceremony would be hard for any other Christian persuasion to find fault with the Brethren. Out of concern for the bodies of their fellow Brethren, they keep Gods Acre in a more orderly and delicate manner than anyplace else. It is a garden arranged and planted for the Lord, a kind of inheritance funeral that was given for the patriarch Abraham, but instead for their fellow Brethren. One of their wishes comes from the old Lutheran song:
Dein Lieb ein Raeumlein goenn bey seiner Brueder Grab,
Damit er seine Ruh an ihrer Seite hab.
[Let your body be as a small room at his grave, so that he may have his peace at your side.]
In the 21st year of the reign of our sovereign ruler George II, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland by the grace of God, and defender of the faith and the Propogationes begun and upheld by the Parliament, which will continue until the 29th of November 1748 A.D. as the second session of the current Parliament, the following was proclaimed in Westminster on the 10th of November 1747 A.D.
An Act inviting those known as the Unitas Fratrum or the United Brethren to settle in
his Majestys colonies in North America.
Following this invitation, many members of the church and congregations of the Unitas Fratrum, or, the United Brethren, settled in his Majestys colonies in America and lived there as a quiet, diligent, and decent people. Many others of the same type came to these colonies as well, intending to found larger establishments at their own cost, yet with total freedom of belief and religious practice. Some of these like-minded brethren thought about swearing fealty and taking up arms, or personally entering into military service. They were also willing and ready to pay a sum of money to protect and uphold his Majesties person and reign. These communities were deemed to belong to the old Protestant, Episcopal Church and were protected and mercifully recognized by the Queen of England, his Majesties predecessor. This invitation for all the named peoples to settle themselves in America was hoped to populate the colonies.
His Majesty has deigned to grant the request placed in the name of the United Brethren, called the Moravian Church, and in the names of Abraham, Baron of Gersdorf, Louis, Baron of Schrautenbach, the free lords of Lindheim, David Nitschmann, Carl Schachmann, Baron from Hermsdorf, and Heinrich Cossart. In addition, his Royal Majesty, with the advice and affirmation of the spiritual and worldly lords and officials gathered in the current Parliament has decreed that, on the 24th
day of June in the year 1749, each of the persons who is a member of the Unitas Fratrum, or the United Brethren, who used to live in Moravia and Bohemia, and then in Prussia, Poland, Schlesien, Lausitz, Germany, the Netherlands, and also as Protestants in his Majesties realm, and is a member of the Episcopal church cannot be pressed into swearing fealty or oaths, even in situations where the lord has a right to call for oaths of fealty. Instead of using the normal format, their agreement or affirmation can be given with the following words:
I,______, affirm in the presence of the almighty God, that what I say is the truth.
This celebratory affirmation suffices, according to our decree, in all courts and places where oaths are required, in the kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in all colonies and communities of his Majesty in America. It shall be accepted in place of the customary oath.
In addition, by the authority formerly mentioned, if one is convicted of knowingly affirming or agreeing to something which is false, or of being deceitful, in the same manner as someone swearing an oath would be convicted of knowingly swearing to something that is false or deceitful, then that person is subject to the same physical and monetary punishments as an oath swearing individual would be,
according to the rules and laws of the region.
It is herewith decreed that, according to this Act, no one from the so-called Moravian or United Brethren churches and communities is capable of giving testimony in a criminal case, or sitting on a jury. The opposite could be understood in this Act, if we do not declare this point.
It is further decreed that anyone who is a member of this church or community, who lives in one of his Majesties colonies in America, and who is called into military or war service after the 24th of June, 1749 A.D. should be released of this duty by the Governeur, or the lead general of the colony or province where one is called to duty. This can also be done by the officer who has mustered the troops. It is required that those who wish to be free of such duties pay a specified amount of money, which will be recognized as ones personal contribution just as donations of money or goods are recognized from other residents of the colonies or provinces who, due to age, sex, or other weaknesses cannot serve.
To prevent all doubt about whether or not individuals belong to this church, this authority decrees that every person who is a member of
this church that wishes to make use of the rights granted in this Act must obtain a certificate from the nearest bishop or priest at the time of making such a claim. They will be examined on the contents of the certificate and its execution. Those who have, to the best of their knowledge, obtained a certificate in the correct manner, or who have reliable witnesses as to the above mentioned certificate being filled out by such a bishop or priest and therewith asserts that they are indeed a member of this church and have been seen to be such, are eligible to claim these rights.
It is further decreed that if one knowingly attempts to obtain false or deceitful certificates, or claims to be a member of the church when, in reality, such an affirmation is false, one will be subject to all physical and monetary punishments as an oath breaker would be, under the laws and rules of the region in which one lives.
In order to know if such bishops and priests who sign these certificates under the name of the Unitas Fratrum or the United Brethren really belong to these churches, it is decreed that the current Advocatus of the named church or community of the United Brethren keep an
index of all of the bishops who are allowed to bestow such certificates in the archives of the commercial and colonial Collegio. Copies of their handwriting and insignia should be kept with the index. The Advocatus should periodically update the names, signatures, and insignias in the manner described above for those bishops who are initiated and deployed. The names of priests who have been given the power to issue such certificates in his Majesties colonies in America by bishops or the Advocatus should be sent to the archives of the commercial and colonial Collegio.
Finally, as decreed by the aforementioned authority, it is announced that this Act is recognized publicly as a part of the laws of the kingdom and should be revered and accepted as such by all judges, judges of the peace, and citizens of the kingdom, even when it does not specifically affect them.