The Moravian Church on Staten Island

Moravian seal celebrating 550 years

LMoravians have been serving Christ on Staten Island since 1763. As members of a Protestant denomination, we join together in a rich community life, in joyful worship, in faithful response to the community and in search of a heartfelt and deeply spiritual relationship with God. We share a common desire to bring the message of God’s unconditional, all-inclusive love to our children and to the neighborhoods we serve. Located in the Park Hill, Castleton Corners, New Dorp and Great Kills communities, our four congregations are each distinctive. They are full of families and individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We pray that you will visit and worship with us. Join with us as we draw strength from one another and go forth to serve God in the World.

A Brief History of the Moravian Church

Spread around the world in 15 different provinces, the Moravian church began 550 years ago in the area now known as the Czech Republic. In the early 1400’s John Hus, a Catholic priest and professor at the University of Prague, held that the Bible is the authority in matters of faith and life; and he led efforts to translate the Bible and hymns into the everyday languages that people understood. He also spoke out against the sale of indulgences.

After John Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, several different groups emerged to carry on his principles. In 1457, the groups coalesced into the Unitas Fratrum, or the Unity of the Brethren. Members of the Unity translated the bible into Czech. They also produced hymnals in Czech and German in order to involve the laity (lay persons) in worship, and they insisted on serving the laity both the bread and the wine during communion. By 1517, the Unitas Fratrum grew to include at least 200,000 members and over 400 parishes.

Throughout its early history, the Unitas Fratrum experienced periods of persecution. By the 1620s, members of the church were forced to go into exile or to go underground with their faith. Bishop John Amos Comenius, known for his innovative educational theories, led the church through this difficult era, called the period of the “hidden seed.”

In 1722, a group of refuges from the old Unitas Fratrum came out of Czechoslovakia and settled on the estate of a Lutheran Pietist, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. Nicknamed the Moravians because many of them came from a Czech province called Moravia, the group gradually reclaimed and redefined its identity. Feeling a call to missions, the Moravians began to send missionaries to the West Indies in 1732. Settlements in Bethlehem, PA. and Salem, NC were begun to provide economic support for missionaries serving Native Americans. By and large, the Moravians felt called to send missionaries where no one else would go. This mission movement spread so that today, there are more Moravians in developing countries than in Europe and America.

Today, the Moravian church is a small Protestant denomination known primarily for its history in education, music, and missions. As in its past, there is a strong emphasis on education both in local congregations and in institutions of higher learning, on the involvement of the laity in worship especially through music, on participation in ecumenical work, and on missions. “Mission work” has now come to mean cooperative exchanges between all the provinces of the Unity. It also means striving to assist people with basic needs such as of food, shelter, and clothing. Respect for diverse viewpoints is also an important value which the church seeks to foster. It attempts to live by its motto:

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things love.”

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