Consecration of the Moravian Church
As recorded in the Diary of the Congregation,
May 18 and 20, 1806
TRANSLATED BY W. N. SCHWARZE
Friday, May 16, 1806
The whole congregation, the children excepted, met in the church (Old Chapel). Brother Loskiel urged the brethren and sisters, first of all, to attend the services very regularly in the new church, the consecration of which we had before us, in order that they might not, through needless neglect of a service, deprive themselves of a blessing, which could not be compensated for by anything else. Then he communicated to the congregation one and another desire of the Elders' Conference concerning the regulations to be observed in our new church and closed with a prayer, all kneeling, wherein he thanked the Saviour for all blessings enjoyed in the old place of worship, implored forgiveness where we in the same had not been to His joy and glory, and besought Him that His blessing might accompany us into the new place of worship.
Sunday, May 18, 1806
This day designated for the consecration of our new church (Kirchensaal) was announced from the belfry of the same early, at five o'clock, with the sound of trumpets, trombones, and other wind instruments. A bright morning gave promise of a beautiful day, and every one awakened with a heart attuned to happiness and festal enjoyment. At eight o'clock, the congregation assembled for the last time in the old church, in which it had held its services for more than fifty years, and, after Brother Loskiel had exhorted the brethren and sisters to thankfulness for the never-to-be-forgotten blessings enjoyed in the same, the congregation proceeded, with the wish that these blessings might accompany us and, indeed, that the Lord Himself might go with us, and to the strains of the stanza, "Unsern Ausgang segne Gott, unsern Eingang gleichermassen" etc. (The Lord preserve our going out and our coming in, etc.,) in the following order, first the laborers and laboresses among the, brethren and the sisters, then, our children and youth of both sexes, and, finally, all the brethren and sisters. As soon as the liturgist entered the church auditorium (Saal), the trombonists from the choir-gallery began to play the tune of, "Now thank we all our God," etc. Hereupon the choir of voices sang to the assembling congregation, "Enter into his gates with -thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." No words are adequate to describe the mighty, all-pervading sense of the gracious presence of God our Saviour, which filled the whole church auditorium (Saal) and came upon all with such affecting power that all as with one voice might have cried out, "Surely, the Lord is in this place!" Inspired of such heart-lifting feelings, the assembled congregation sang, "Heiliger Herre Gott, heiliger starker Gott, heiliger barmherziger Heiland, Du ewiger Gott, Segne die Gemeine durch dein Leiden, Blut und Tod! Kyrie, eleison!" (Most holy Lord and God, Holy Almighty God, Holy and most merciful Saviour, Thou Eternal God; Bless Thy Congregation Through Thy sufferings, death, and blood: Have mercy, 0 Lord.) and "Hebe auf die durchgegrabnen Hände über die Gemeine und vollende alle die Segen, die sich in deinem Herzen für uns regen!" (Lift up Thy pierced hands upon Thy congregation and fulfill all the blessings that are stirred in Thy heart for us!)
With these words the congregation fell upon its knees and thanked the Saviour in a fervent prayer led by Brother Loskiel and with outpouring of many tears of joy and thanksgiving for the happy completion of the building, for the help and sustaining power wherewith He has furthered the work of our hands, and for the protection and overruling care He had vouchsafed those who labored on this house of God, so that none suffered any serious injury and, then, dedicated this house of our Lord to the honor and glory of His name, for the proclamation of His saving Gospel, and for the manifestation of the spirit and power of the Word of the Cross and of the blood of reconciliation.
After the congregation had again been seated, the liturgist declared that now since the point has been reached, after the waiting and longing for many years, when we can assemble in a church answering to our wishes and needs and we have solemnly dedicated the same to God our Lord, we join in covenanting before His countenance to make use of it as His heart desires and as it may be well pleasing unto Him. Hereupon Brother Loskiel in the name of the congregation thanked all those who had labored on this structure and had by their art and skill contributed to its appropriate arrangements and adornment, those who had supervised and directed building operations from the beginning to the end, and, finally, all those who had contributed liberally toward meeting the costs involved and wished for them individually and altogether God's rich blessing.
Although all possible precautions had been taken to guard against the pressing of strangers into this first service, it was not possible entirely to prevent it, and we were glad that they preserved quiet and order, so that they caused no disturbance. Afterward the pressure of the multitude streaming in from all sides was so great that the sacristans were hardly able to place enough benches in the church auditorium (Saal) for the sermon, and before this could begin the place was so filled with people that no room for sitting or standing remained. According to rough estimate, the number of people in the church was between two and three thousand. Brother Loskiel preached the first dedicatory sermon and spoke from the pulpit fixed above the seat of the liturgist, which was dedicated to the Lord in a special prayer, on the words of the text, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men." Rev. 21:3. He pointed out that though these words strictly applied directly to the heavenly Jerusalem, which all believers hoped at some time to see, this church (Saal) now dedicated may also be represented as a tabernacle of God with men, since properly all churches and meeting-houses designated for the service of God are to be regarded as tabernacles of God with men. Basis therefor is (1) that God does not wish to be separated from men and will, therefore, in this church meet with them, (2) that in this church the will of God concerning our salvation is to be proclaimed and that, therefore, the Saviour as the mercy-seat is to be so made known and depicted before the eyes of men as if he were crucified among us, whereby we, though with sadness, should be obliged to deny salvation to all who would not turn to this mercy-seat and abide there to the end, (3) that here, too the will of God shall be made known with respect to our conduct and it be shown how our walk and conversation must conform with faith in the Gospel, (4) that here, likewise, the love of God shall be taught with respect to our sanctification, (5) that in this place prayer shall be offered to God and there be weeping before Him. In short, God and men would here meet one another, God with the riches of His grace and men with their wretchedness and all their needs. This, then, be reason enough for rejoicing over this new church (Saal) as a tabernacle of God with men and summon us to unite our voices with thankful hearts in the hymn, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir, Herr Gott, wir danken dir," etc. ("0 God, the Lord, to Thee we raise," etc.), which was, then, sung at the conclusion of the sermon.
The concourse of people continued to increase during the time of the preaching service, so that it can be assumed that toward 6000 people were assembled, of whom, of course, the church could accommodate only about one third. The main street from the Inn to the Brethren's House was as though sown over with people. A remarkable stillness and order ruled this great throng, for which next to God we were indebted to the arrangement that no strong drinks were served the strangers but only beer and baked foods and that two government officials had been secured to control behaviour.
In the afternoon, at three o'clock, there was the English dedicatory sermon, which Brother Benade delivered on the text I Kings 9:3, "And the Lord said unto him (Solomon), I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." Brother Benade took from this gracious answer of the Lord to the solemn prayer wherewith Solomon had dedicated the temple at Jerusalem the opportunity to put forward, in the first part of his sermon, the idea that this church had been erected with no other intention than that it might please the Lord to put His name there forever, that, therefore, the same had been consecrated to the name of the Lord alone, and, indeed, to that name of which the Lord Himself had spoken in the Old Covenant, when He passed before the face of Moses and which in the New Covenant has been revealed so gloriously in the work of our salvation, that Christ and Him crucified shall here be proclaimed, though thereby we should be mocked of all the world, and that to Jesus the Friend of sinners all men shall here be invited, since no other Name is given them, whereby they must be saved. The second part dealt therewith that since we had dedicated it to Him with prayer and supplication, we now expected in faith that He would deal with us as graciously as He dealt with Solomon and the people of Israel, that He has heard our prayer and supplication and Himself has sanctified this house and that the assured feeling of His presence in this place permits us to hope in confidence that He will grant us and continue to us the beautiful and comforting promise that His eye shall be here perpetually, directed in love and mercy upon all the poor and wretched and His heart pierced for us shall ever be open to souls needing salvation and hungering for grace.
Since many strangers, especially those who dwell 12 to 16 miles away from here had started for home soon after noon, the church was not nearly as filled for this sermon as for the first. In course of both sermons the constant going out and in caused unpleasant disturbance alike for those speaking and those hearing. We hope, however, that many will have taken home with them a blessed impression of that which they heard.
Toward evening, few strangers were left here, so that the brethren and sisters could attend unhindered the German preaching service,. which began at 7.30, when Brother Herbst of Lititz considered the passage II Tim. 2:19, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." He emphasized, first, that the firm foundation of God is none other than Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation upon Whom the whole church of God on earth is reared, as each member of the same in particular, must be fixed upon (rooted in) Him and that, then, on His part, it necessarily follows that He recognizes each one as His own and has entered with each one upon His covenant of grace and peace, and, on our part, that we forswear all fellowship with sin and through faith, love, and obedience prove ourselves to be His disciples and followers.
With this meeting the services of this festal day were brought to a close.
The collections gathered after the preaching- services reached a total of 185 dollars.
Tuesday, May 20, 1806
As it was known beforehand that the customary great concourse of people in this country on occasions of church dedications would prevent the holding of all the accustomed congregation services without disturbance, it had been decided to devote the dedication-day of our new church (Kirchen Saal), as above referred to, mainly to the strangers in the manner described. And it had been contemplated thereby to arrange for the congregation a special day of thanksgiving and rejoicing, on which the congregation might dedicate its church (Saal) undisturbed in accordance with the congregation spirit. For this purpose the 20th of May had been fixed by the Elders' Conference of this congregation and approved by direction of our dear Lord.
On this day, May 20, the first service was held in the morning at 8.30 o'clock. The choir sang, '-'0 come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 0 come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." The liturgist saluted the congregation, "Welcome, 0 congregation, in this house of the Lord, be joyful or weep, thy Friend welcomes both! If tenderness of heart be the motive, abide with the Man of Sorrows, Whose object thou art." Hereupon Brother Loskiel said that on this day, which the Lord Himself has made for us, we appear before Him as a living congregation of Jesus, whose desire it is that He may dwell among us and walk in our midst and that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as often as we assemble here in His name, may be near us 1 in the Man of Sorrows. And then he called upon the brethren and sisters to renew their covenant with the Lord our God, to be His alone, to live for Him according to our doctrinal text of the day, (Little children abide in Him. I John 2:28), to "abide in Him." Then the congregation kneeling dedicated this church (Saal) to the Saviour, particularly, both for our general and special congregational services and prayed of Him that He might especially acknowledge us as His own in the observance of the sacraments today as in future in grace and with blessing.
At 10 o'clock, the congregation assembled for the baptism of the adult nineteen-year old Sarah Rothrock, who sometime since had received permission to come to this settlement congregation and was now to be received, at the same time, into the congregation through holy baptism. During the singing of the stanza, "Komm sünd 'rin komm, jetzt sind die Gnadenstunden, komm es ergiesset sich das Blut der Wunden," etc. (Come sinner, come, these are the hours of grace, Come, the blood of the wounds is poured forth, etc.), the candidate for baptism was conducted into the church (Saal) by two laboresses among the single sisters, who acted, at the same time, as sponsors. She took her seat before the liturgist between the two sisters named. After Brother Loskiel had spoken appropriately and with reference to the solemn act to be performed on the watchword of the day, "Zu der Zeit word sich der Mensch halten zu dem der ihn gemacht hat, und seine Augen werden auf den heiligen in Israel schauen." Jes. 17:7 "Der auch so angenehm mein Heil bedacht hat," 346,5. ("At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel." Isa. 17:7 "Who that my soul might live, Assum'd my nature"), he directed a heart-felt and searching charge to the candidate for baptism and put to her the questions customary on such occasions, which she answered with heart-felt joy in the affirmative, prayed to the Saviour for her and baptized her with threefold aff usion, giving the name Sarah Louise. During the singing of "Amen Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah!" the congregation knelt and the one baptized lay prostrate in adoration, suitable stanzas being sung meantime. Hereupon the one baptized received from the assisting sisters the kiss of peace, and, after the benediction had been pronounced, she was conducted from the church auditorium by the sisters referred to above during the singing of the stanza, "Sein Friede der höher als alle Gedanken, der müsse nie von dir entweichen noch wanken," etc. (His peace that is higher than all thinking, must ne'er waver nor depart from thee, etc.). This transaction under a strong feeling of the presence of God made a specially deep impression on many of those present who witnessed the baptism of an adult, for the first time.
In the afternoon, at three o'clock, the whole congregation enjoyed a happy love-feast service, at which a psalm specially prepared for the occasion by Brother Loskiel was sung. The collection gathered afterward amounted to 154 dollars. In the evening, the Saviour affixed His seal to the blessings experienced by this congregation in these days through an exceedingly blessed enjoyment of the sacred elements of the body and the blood of the Holy Communion. And since the limited space in our old church for Communion observance occasions had been one of the strongest reasons for proposing a larger edifice, it gave us particular satisfaction to celebrate this holy transaction in a manner befitting its sacred dignity. In every respect, this was a day which the Lord had made for us and which will remain unforgettable for us and the visiting brethren and sisters who had come from the nearer and more distant settlement-, town-, and countrycongregations for the festive dedication ceremony. Very few strangers were present, so that the solemn and quiet stirring of the spirit so characteristic of a congregation was not disturbed by anything. The weather today, as on Sunday, was bright and beautiful and all things seemed to join to complete our joy in our beautiful, roomy church (Saal), most comfortably arranged to serve all purposes of our services. The Saviour grant that His Name may be glorified in the same in and through us.
* from Garth A. Howland. "An Architectural History of the Moravian Church." Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. 14 (1951).
Back to Architecture
Updated: 18 January 2006