Today the church remembers an obscure, but important saint, especially for those of us who find ourselves Lutheran in the Carolinas.
Today we honor Nicolaus Ludwig, Count von Zinzendorf, who may be considered the founder of the modern Moravian Church.
Zinzendorf was raised in an Austrian Lutheran family, and trained at Wittenberg University. Being of noble heritage, he took up a post in the court of King August the Strong of Saxony.
While there, he opened his home to Austrian Protestant immigrants, mostly of Bohemian descent. His hospitality, and the colony growing under his care, flourished, and he resigned his political post to attend to “the Lord’s watch,” as it came to be known.
He was a little too pious even for the Lutherans, but all the same was considered a Lutheran theologian. He was exiled from Saxony for his extreme piety, and founded communities in the Baltics, the Netherlands, England, the West Indies, and North America.
In 1737 he was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Czech Brethren, a branch of the church that John Hus followers formed after his death. Because the church was founded around Moravia, it became known as the Moravian Church.
Zinzendorf also had great concern for social justice, a streak which continues in the Moravian Church to this day.
In the United States, and particularly Pennsylvania and the Carolinas, the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America maintain a special relationship. Here in Carolina it’s not unusual for families to have both Lutheran and Moravian members, and for churches close to one another to work together in mission. We are close theological cousins, and though there are certainly differences, we share pastors and are in full communion.
While many might know Moravians for their thin, wafer-like sweet cookies (and a pretty good thing to be known for!), they should be known more-so for their continued care for the poor and the oppressed around the world.