Author Archives: theflamingheretic

Craig D. Atwood is the Charles D. Couch Professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA an is Director of the Center for Moravian Studies. He came to Moravian in 2010.

Leaving COP22

cop22-marrakechI am in the Madrid airport waiting to board my flight to Philadelphia. It was a good, but exhausting week in Marrakesh. One thing that became very clear to me is that people all over the world, from scientists to religious leaders to community organizers are working to find solutions to climate change. Some are working on mitigating the rise in temperatures. Some are working to remove carbon from the air. Others are helping people adjust to the epic changes in the environment. But the recent American election was a pall on the whole community. Only America has leaders who deny there is a problem and who are working to make things worse rather than better.

On the last day of COP22 I went to a very interesting session on the work of faith communities toward climate justice. They argued that climate change is a peace issue since the stress on the environment will lead to violence as people are forced to migrate and compete for scarce resources. The Pentagon is very aware that global warming is a threat to peace and security.

Two of the presentations were very helpful to me. One drew upon the recent history of transitional justice to address how to move forward. Many countries in the 20th century had civil wars or oppressive regimes that were devastating to the people. Crimes were committed and people wanted the perpetrators to be punished. But that would only prolong the violence and would force the guilty to hide their culpability. South Africa under Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela pioneered a process of Truth and Reconciliation that gave amnesty to the guilty if they revealed the extent of their crimes.

lion-made-of-tires-cop22The speaker argued that something similar could be done to deal with climate change, but on a global scale. Some countries in the Northern hemisphere are guilty of having done the most damage to the world. Much of this damage was done before climate scientists knew the effects of industrialization and can be dismissed as ignorance. But for the past 20 years there has been overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing because of human industry. And there have been many powerful people who continued to profit from industries that are threatening the lives of a billion people.Even those of us at the COP contributed to global warming by flying to Morocco! The truth needs to be acknowledged but the threat of retribution makes it hard for the guilty to participate in creating a more hopeful future.

The other presentation was by a Quaker representative who spoke about the “quiet diplomacy” she has been involved in with the national negotiators. They had dinners where they could speak freely off the record. Often the negotiators are constrained by nationalist politics and cannot publicly disagree with their governments. But they spoke freely about their grief and fear. The speaker argued persuasively that people are more willing to participate in addressing climate change when their human rights are respected. As we work to reverse the damage done by burning fossil fuels, we must also care for those whose livelihoods are affected. This needs to be seen as the top national priority for all nations since all nations will be affected. She said, “We are the problem, but we are also the solution.” A scholar in the audience responded to the papers by stating that what needs to happen is that we reclaim a sense that the earth is sacred. Why is that so hard for American Christians?

The earth is the Lord’s


This is a picture of a mother bear and her cub who became stranded on an ice floe. They could no longer hunt for food because they were at sea. This is what climate change looks like. This is just part of the damage that we are doing to the world. These two creatures of God starved a few days later.

For nearly 300 years Moravians have used daily watchwords from the Bible as part of their spirituality. The texts for each day are chosen in Herrnhut more than a year in advance. I was wandering around the COP22 exhibitions yesterday (Nov. 17) when I received the texts for the day in my email. They were perfect for the occasion:

Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Deuteronomy 10:14 (NASB)

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. Romans 1:20

One of the most distressing things for me in the recent election is that so many Christians voted people who deny climate change and who believe that humans have no responsibility to care for the earth. I have found that many Christian churches, including the Moravian Church do not place the doctrine of creation at the center of their theology, but the Daily Text reminds us that the earth is the Lord’s. This world is God’s creation and God loves the world.


I meditated upon these texts while looking at the NASA display of carbon in the atmosphere. Most of that carbon came from humans burning fossil fuels and other things. Some of it is from the wildfires that have increased because of climate change. The earth is the Lord’s and yet we are covering the skies with greenhouse gasses and ruining the health of the planet.

It is sinful to mar God’s creation wantonly and without regard for the harm that we do. We Christians are called to love God and love our neighbors. Surely that includes taking steps to address the climate change problem even if it means that we need to change our economy. It is time for Christians to repent. If our politicians do not lead, the people must.

Wandering and wondering in Marrakech


I walked several miles around Marrakech today, in part because I was lost. I wandered far from the tourist zone and walked past shops where men were repairing cars and other items. I was angry and frustrated for awhile and then reminded myself that I was in one of the great cities of the world and it was a beautiful day with blue skies. Eventually I found the Souk just off the main square – Jemaa el-Fnaa. It is a medieval labyrinth filled with shop after shop. Many of the people were selling spices and dried herbs. But they also had oils, perfumes, soaps, pottery, jewelry – you name it. I wandered deep into the souk into the area where people buy their poultry (hanging up in the window), meats, eggs, and vegetables. The fish stalls did not improve the smell, but around the corner there were fragrant spices. It was hard to pass through without buying anything, but I managed it.

When I came out of the souk I found I was at the Bahia Palace, which I had gotten lost trying to find. It is a large, 19th century palace with lovely mosaics. Every doorway is a work of art. For some reason it reminded me of King George’s little place in Brighton Beach. After the palace I had a large lunch sitting on the square. I was disappointed there were no snake charmers or other performers, but the king does not always get his wish. 2016-11-16-12-09-54

After lunch I went to the baths for a hamman, which is a special Moroccan form of steam bath. It is a square room with a ceiling that comes to a point. The walls are heated. I’m so broad it was hard to lie on the bed without touching the walls. Just when I thought I couldn’t take the heat any more the attendant came in and gave me a scrub with sea salt. Felt much better than I expected, but it left me feeling a little raw. So I really enjoyed the goo she covered me with after. Slimy, but aromatic. I chose the one with grapefruit in it. After another long time in the heat, I showered and was led to a room to recover with mint tea and water. Then it was time for the massage, which was just perfect after my long walk. All this for only $70!

2016-11-16-17-55-24I felt so great after the hamman and massage that I went to a shop I had seen on the first day. Mufasa still had my business card. We drank tea and he helped me find presents for the girls in the family. And then we went upstairs to the rugs. Mountains of rugs. Berber, persianesque, arabic. They showed me about a dozen. They were all too expensive, but we finally made a deal on a Berber rug and all the presents. I’m sure he got the better of the deal, but it seems to be a reputable place. And it fits in my suitcase. A fellow from the shop gave me a ride home on his Vespa carrying the rug. So I got to do something I really wanted to do, which was to cruise through a foreign city on a Vespa.

Tuesday at COP22

Today was the day that the heads of state arrived at COP and all of the high level folk gathered for ceremonies and meals and speeches. I’m just a lowly observer with a RINGO and so I spent part of the morning viewing the displays. I had a long chat with French marine biologist who had a display on the effects of carbon on the oceans. She was surprised that I was interested in the topic and actually knew something about what is happening as the oceans grow more acidic. [Thanks to the New Yorker magazine and Elizabeth Kolbert!] I told her that I am a theologian, not a scientist, and I am very concerned about the oceans.

The seas have already absorbed enormous amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, which has the positive impact of reducing the greenhouse gasses, but the carbon in the water is reacting to the calcium in  sea shells producing acid. Not only does this weaken the shellfish, the acidity of the water threatens all forms of life in the seas. It is accelerating the death of the coral reefs. The marine biologist gave me a video and more information, but what she really wanted to talk about was why I was at COP and asking about the oceans. I told her that I think climate change is a theological and ethical issue. God used the oceans to bring all things to life and the oceans continue to be the source of much of our existence. It is no wonder most of the world’s population lives by the sea. We talked about how many Christians in the US voted for Donald Trump who has vowed to end the US involvement in the struggle to protect the climate. She knew that Pope Francis has come out strongly in favor of the effort to reduce carbon emissions and was surprised that so many Catholics voted the way they did. I explained that many voters were concerned only about outlawing abortion and not about the cataclysm that will accompany the rising sea levels, the toxicity of the oceans, and the increased numbers of tropical storms.

I accompanied Diane Husic, the dean of Moravian College’s new School of Health and Natural Sciences, to a meeting at Cadi Ayyad University. It was sponsored by the RINGOs and focused on the role that universities can play in helping countries build capacity for addressing the effects of climate change. It is not enough to do research and write papers. Is there some way that universities in the industrialized nations can work with universities in those countries that are already suffering the effects of climate change in joint efforts to address current problems while working for long term solutions? It was pointed out that universities are among the oldest and most sustainable institutions on the planet, but most universities currently do not have robust research agendas that can help with climate change. A representative from Uganda proposed that a new consortium be created so that universities can play a greater role in implementing the Paris Agreement.


I introduced myself as a theologian, which caused some heads to turn. There were a few non-scientists in the room, including an Italian professor of social work, but I was the only theologian. I spoke with a man from Uganda after who was very interested in getting the Christians of Uganda working to address climate change. He asked why this is so hard for churches. My response was that churches have tended to focus on personal salvation and personal well-being – or the wellness of the congregation. Christian theology has not paid as much attention to Creation and the ethical obligation to care for creation as it has the doctrine of redemption. I am trying to change that in my church, but it is difficult. My friend Rick Sides started an Eco-Camp for young people in North Carolina, and some of the pastors in the Moravian Church were opposed to it. They felt it was not Christian enough even though the refrain for the week is “The Earth is the Lord’s.”

This evening I walked from our house to the old city (Medina) to have a Moroccan meal. As I was walking there were motorcades, police cars, and heightened security for all of the heads of state and other dignitaries at COP22. It was rather exciting seeing the various military, security, and police uniforms. I hope their meetings went well. My dinner was lovely.


2016-11-14-12-05-25This morning my colleague Hilde Binford and I walked from our rented house to the COP22 conference. The walk was about a mile further than we expected and we got a bit sunburned on the way. And by the time we made it through security and got our badges, it was 11:30. Since we hadn’t eaten since the night before (or had coffee) we decided to head straight for the onsite food places. Before long I was sitting down to a plate of sushi, which seemed appropriate at such an international conference.

The conference is an amazing tent city, with tents the size of small warehouses. I have been to lots of conferences in my life, but nothing like this. I am simply overwhelmed by the organizational skill it takes to manage a conference on this scale. I have been to several international conferences, but never to one that is so truly international. The presidents of most of the African nations will be here this week along with high ranking officials from most of the countries that signed the Paris Agreement and Kyoto protocol. I am not accustomed to simply being an observer at a conference and watching serious people intensely engaged in their conference work while I can wander to and fro attending sessions and viewing displays.

The exhibition tents have displays from many different countries highlighting the effective ways that they are addressing the problem of carbon emissions. Solar farms in Qatar, for instance. The United States exhibit includes information from NASA. They are using satellites and the international space station to gather data and images that clearly show the increased carbon in the atmosphere and the rising temperature of the world’s oceans. They have used satellite imaging to find illegal logging camps in Latin America. One of the most beautiful displays was digitally enhanced film of all the world’s oceans where you can see the currents flowing with different water temperatures. NASA makes this information freely available online for anyone in the world.

2016-11-14-13-17-51Morocco seems to be an incredible host. At the second session I attended Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco spoke. She is President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection and is the sister of the current king. Apparently Morocco is one of the major drivers of the global climate initiative, and everywhere I go I see solar panels. The heads of UNESCO and UNFCCC also spoke at that session. One of the speakers talked about the importance of education in helping people recognize that the problems of the world are their problems. He was not talking simply about putting climate change information in the science curriculum, but the important role that the liberal arts play in helping people think critically and engaged other cultures and people with empathy. A presenter from MIT spoke on the need for education that changes the hearts and minds of people. He has developed workshops that are not focused on numbers and charts but which engage people in simulations so that they can participate in the process of lowering emissions. It is what he called visceral education.

Representatives of the youth delegates to COP22 presented a strong plea that climate change information be included in all school curricula in every country at every level of education and that the scientific information be readily available in every country. Most of the discussion was about making this information accessible in poor, rural countries that do not have access to advanced technologies. The youth treated climate change as a human rights issue because we are affecting the world they must live in. I think Brexit and the US elections show how little people over the age of 55 in industrialized nations really think about the world that people under the age of 30 will have to confront.

What depressed me was the fact that in my country this information is readily available, but school boards and now even the federal government try to keep it out of school curricula. The whole world is coming together to combat climate change while the United States continues to resist the overwhelming scientific evidence that the globe is warming, the climate is changing, and carbon emissions are the primary cause. One presenter researched the effect of education on people’s view of the environment and willingness to change their behaviors. He found that in almost every country the higher a person’s educational level the more aware they are of climate change and how to prevent it. The one exception is the United States where the most educated people are radically polarized in their view of the science and the need for action.

After leaving the education session I saw a man with virtual reality equipment and I talked Hilde into letting us try it. He was working with the Red Cross and Red Crescent on developing interactive computer software to teach about climate change and its impact on natural disasters. The software also shows people why it would be better to gear disaster relief funds to prevention and proactive measures rather than having to respond to disasters after they have happened. I’ve never used virtual reality and I was very impressed with the experience. I did a program on the melting of the Arctic Ice, and I am sad to say that I correctly predicted the rate of the rise in temperature in the Arctic over the next 30 years and when the ice would be all gone (2050). The guy developing the software was really nice and so glad that he had people to show off to. Hilde and I thought of several ways to use this technology in teaching at the college level, and he also told us about the many new Indie computer games that teach people the effects of their actions socially and environmentally. He was certainly the highlight of the day.

We topped off an exhausting day with an early dinner at a French restaurant, complete with wine and creme brule!


Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016

I arrived in Morocco about 1 p.m. this afternoon. I am here for the COP22 meetings sponsored by the UN. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, which means the countries that have agreed to address Climate Change through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the 22nd such meeting since 1994. At the Paris meeting last year most of the world’s nations agreed to the Paris Accords that set the goals for each country to reduce carbon emissions. I am here with faculty and students from Moravian College who are primarily observing and learning at the conference. We are one of the RINGOs – Research and Independent Non-governmental Organizations. It is exciting being part of such an enormous international conference, but already the American presidential election is the major topic of discussion. Donald Trump has vowed to pull the US out of the UNFCCC, especially the Paris Accords, and to cut all funding for combating climate change.

It is now 8 p.m. in Morocco, and I am worn out from traveling. Julie took me to the Philadelphia airport for my flight across the Atlantic to Madrid yesterday afternoon. It was only a six hour flight, but then there was a three hour layover before the flight to Marrakech. I slept a little on the planes. It took a while to find the house we are renting, but eventually the cab driver found it, and I was glad Hilde Binford was here to let me in. We walked about a mile to the old walled city and had a very nice Moroccan dinner and wandered in the the shops.

I am very excited and happy to be here. I have always loved Moroccan food, art, and culture, but this is my first visit. The people are so beautiful and so friendly. Many people have congratulated me on the election even though they would have rather that Hilary won. They are mainly impressed by the peaceful transfer of power America has every four years. I am trying not to worry about what the new president may or may not about the environment and focus on learning what I can at the conference while also enjoying this beautiful city.

Death of my mentor

Yesterday we buried the ashes of the Rev. Dr. David Schattschneider. It was a beautiful memorial service that David and his wife Doris planned. David chose the music (mostly Bach) and the Scriptures (Philippians and John). The church was crowded with friends from different aspects of his life. There was a section of Moravian pastors, a section of Moravian College and Seminary folk, a section of people from his congregation, and even several people from the model train club he loved. The head of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church, Betsy Miller, read her memoir of David’s life. We all learned things about David and his family that we did not know. His daughter, Laura, read one of the scripture passages and I read the other as if I were part of the family. It was hard to read through the tears in my eye because David was my second father in so many ways.

I had received word that David was going into hospice care just a week before his funeral. I read the email just ten minutes before I had to teach the same introductory church history course David had taught for so many years. It seemed fitting somehow that I would be carrying on his work as he prepared for his passage into the next life. You see, I am now a professor at Moravian Theological Seminary and one of the successors of David Schattschneider. I work in the same office that he used before he was promoted to the Dean’s office.

My life intersected with David’s in many ways. After I graduated from MTS with my MDiv, David hired me as the Assistant Dean. We worked closely together and sometimes joked that I was responsible for all of the extroverted things (admissions, recruitment, alumni affairs, and student life) while he took care of the introverted things like faculty and curriculum. David supported me through one of the darkest periods of my life as my first marriage collapsed and he ordered me to seek therapy. I lost many friends in those years, but David stayed true to me. I was honored that he was willing to preside at my second marriage. David wrote recommendations for me for graduate school, and he allowed me to teach my first graduate-level course while I was still working on my dissertation. Eventually I was hired to teach Moravian theology and history at Moravian Seminary, but David had already retired at that point.

The morning after I learned David was in hospice, I served communion at a retreat for Moravian pastors and church educators. It was hard to say the words of institution and the remembrance of the death of Jesus as I thought about the death of my teacher. But it was when I looked into the eyes of my former students who are now pastors that I began to weep. David was my mentor, my friend, my father, my Obi-Wan Kenobi. I wondered if my students ever think of me that way and if they would grieve one day as I grieve now. Have I been as good a teacher and mentor to them as David was to me? After communion I checked my email and learned from his wife Doris that he had already died before I celebrated communion. When I had said to the congregation that we were communing with all of the saints who have gone before us and live in eternity with Christ, I did not know that David was already part of that invisible choir. Or perhaps I did. It certainly felt like David was there with us.

I met David when I first enrolled at Moravian Theological Seminary in the autumn of 1984. He was the second youngest member of the faculty, but he had already been at the seminary since 1968. I remember sitting in his office and petitioning to be exempted from the required introductory course in church history. Lane Sapp and I did a double major in college in history and religion, and David agreed that it would be a waste of time for us to sit in his intro class. I did take four other courses that he taught: American Religious Experience, Moravian History I and II, and History of Worship. ARE was a delightful class with a tradition of creative group projects. I still remember Lane dressing up as an Episcopal bishop illegally ordaining the first women priests. My group focused on the religion of the African American slaves, and I still use some of the research from that project. David had one of the driest wits I have ever known, and frequently I was one of a handful of students who got his jokes in class. He encouraged my research and my pursuit of a PhD. He also taught me a lesson in humility when he awarded the annual Moravian history prize to someone else. David was also the professor that allowed me to vent about the other professors from time to time. They could be a frustrating group of people.

David chose me to be part of the Inter-seminary seminar that brought together students from Moravian, St Charles Borromeo Catholic, Philadelphian Lutheran, and Eastern Baptist Seminaries. David was a life-long ecumenist as well as a scholar. The seminar was interesting, but the weekly car ride to Philadelphia was even better as he shared nuggets of wisdom about the church and life. For years David kept me up to date with developments in Moravian interchurch dialog. He also shared lots of personal stories about the great historian Martin Marty such as the fact that kept a typewriter by a filing cabinet and when he had a thought he would type it and put it in a file. When the file got thick enough, it became a book. David used to schedule the last appointment of the day with Marty so he could walk him to his car and get an extra fifteen minutes of his time. David himself was much more generous with his time for students. I also heard stories about the legendary (and fictional) scholar Franz Bibfeld at the University of Chicago whom students invented as an elaborate prank on faculty. Speaking of pranking faculty, none of us at MTS will ever forget the times that “Count Zinzendorf” would make visits and spoof the faculty.

David took me on my first trip to Manhattan and my first academic conference. The annual meeting of the American Society of Church History was in the Hilton in midtown. David had grown up on Staten Island so he knew his way around, but I was a redneck from North Carolina in the city for the first time. I felt like I was in Midnight Cowboy or some other movie. It was the 80s and New York was still dangerous so David taught me basic urban survival: “Don’t look people in the eye. Keep moving on the sidewalk. Remember Manhattan is a grid. Don’t keep all of your money in your wallet.” We took the bus to the Port Authority and walked quickly past the topless joints to get to Broadway. We didn’t have places like that in Bethlehem! We ate lunch at Le Bonne Soup where I still eat about once a year. For dinner we went to an old fashioned Italian restaurant with velvet flocked wallpaper and a maître de who looked like he stepped out of The Godfather. He said to me “Youse want wine.” It wasn’t a question, so I agreed and let him bring me whatever he wanted. The food was excellent, but I never got over the feeling that I might not survive the meal. David was amused or perhaps bemused at my discomfort. When I offered to pay, David told me that I would pay him back by taking one of my students out to dinner when I became a professor. I have taken several and I always tell them the same thing. It cost me more money than that meal, but it is worth it.

The conference was not memorable, but I later joined the ASCH and presented papers myself. David showed me how to do that. But it was also David who gave me permission to skip sessions at conferences and enjoy the city. I now choose conferences based as much on geography and cultural allurements as the topic of the conference.

I stayed in touch with David during graduate school. He was interested in my dissertation, but I think he was disappointed I did not ask him to be an official reader. It was years before he actually read my dissertation, and he was surprised at how different my interpretation of Moravian history was than his. We experienced some of the tension that fathers and sons feel as a son takes what he has learned and does something different with it. But we continued to respect each other’s scholarship. I admired his willingness to travel to obscure parts of the world (like Labrador) to lecture on the Moravians, and in that, too, I have followed his example. I only wished David had published more than he did. I learned from him that unpublished research will be lost.

One of David’s crowing achievements was securing funds to establish the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Seminary. I am honored to serve as the current director, and every two years I give the David Schattschneider award to a scholar whose work expands the field of Moravian studies. When David retired as Dean of MTS in 2001, I hoped that I would be chosen as his successor. I think he wanted that, too, but the search committee chose someone who was already on the faculty. Frank has been a worthy dean, and I was very grateful when he hired me to teach Moravian theology and history in 2010. It is strange, though, to sit in David’s old office where I had spent so many hours discussing my research thirty years before. I even have some of his old files.

David took me to my very first meeting of the Moravian Historical Society back in 1985, and if I had had a hundred dollars then I could have become a lifetime member. He later served as president of MHS and guided the society through some of its most tumultuous years. I had the honor of being elected president a few years ago and was able to bring to fruition some of the projects that David had started. I often told him that it wasn’t fair that I got to be president during the fun years while he had struggled through the dark years.

This past year I began writing a one-volume history of the Moravian Church. From the beginning I planned to dedicate it to my friend and mentor. I assumed that I would complete the manuscript while David was still alive and could present a copy of the book to him. I was able to share with him the section on 19th century American Moravian history, and once again he was the professor and I was the student as he critiqued, corrected, and disagreed with my account of the history. I was looking forward to sharing every section of the manuscript with him so he could correct and improve it. I never wanted to get out of the shadow of the great Moravian historian. I wanted him to illuminate what I wrote and be proud that my work is part of his legacy.

But now he is gone. David had a wooden sign on his desk that said “Fact” on one side and “Opinion” on the other. He used it in class to teach students about historical fact and interpretation. He used it in faculty meetings to clarify what his colleagues were arguing about. At his memorial service it sat on the pulpit. For most of the service it said “Fact.” Fact. It is a fact that David Schattschneider is dead. I didn’t want it to be true. I want to believe that he is off on an adventure, riding some train to some obscure historical site, or fishing in Canada. But he isn’t. He is gone.

I missed my chance to say good-bye with a last meal. I missed my chance to tell him that he was my second father and that my career has been an attempt to be like him. Fact. At the memorial service I saw the grief in his wife’s eyes and in his daughter’s tears. Fact. But David’s legacy lives on. His work continues in the work of his many students. This, too, is fact rather than opinion. Many of his students became pastors, church executives, and even bishops. A handful like me became scholars. In my classes, in my lectures, in my writing, and in my work in the world I try to honor the man who taught me so much about history and life.

I will miss him. I will miss his wit and his wisdom. I will no longer be able to learn from him or to share my ideas with him. But in many ways he is with me every day.




I lectured at the University of Jena on Thursday, and on Friday I flew to Billund in Denmark. Dr. Jørgen Bøytler met me at the airport and drove me to the Moravian settlement of Christiansfeld in the middle of Jutland. It was built after the death of Zinzendorf, around the same time as Salem in North Carolina, and the church put a lot of energy into building it. In many ways it is the culmination of Moravian town planning. There are two parallel main streets with the square in the center. One of the streets connected to the King’s Highway, and there is still a hotel there to welcome non-Moravian visitors. The streets originally opened into the fields so that as you walked through town you easily had a view of nature. The buildings are all built of special yellow (or white) Danish bricks, which makes the town very bright and cheerful. The Moravians began with building the large buildings on the square: the church Saal, Sisters House, Brothers House, Widows House, and homes for the pastor and town manager. There is a fountain in the middle of the square.

Several years ago the congregation began an extensive renovation project funded by grants from large foundations. We went into the attic of the Saal to see the ingenious architecture that allowed the Moravians to construct the largest room without pillars in northern Europe. They’ve spent about $50 million on the buildings, streets, and interior of the settlement. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and receives lots of visitors. The Saal is currently being renovated so we had worship in the Saal in the Sister’s House, which is one of the most beautiful Moravian rooms I’ve ever seen. I was so happy to see that they still use sand to clean the unfinished hardwood floors! I was very impressed with the ways they combined modern upgrades in all of the buildings and modern usages while preserving the historical character of each building. So the Sisters House has a missions shop on the first floor and modern archive upstairs. They had a sophisticated fire control system that allowed them to keep all of the wooden doors. Christiansfeld is not a museum like Old Salem; it is a living town of 4000 people. There is a wonderful bakery with a chocolatier of international reputation; various kinds of shops from necessities to tourist items to more upscale items. The overall impression is that this is a place where it would be good live and raise children. The pastor’s house had also been renovated and may be the most beautiful parsonage I’ve seen, and it has antique furniture that has been passed down through the ages.

The Bøytlers were very gracious hosts and provided me with a guest room upstairs. We sat in the garden each night talking as long as it was light, which meant past 11 p.m. On Saturday Jørgen took me on a tour of Jutland. We started in Jelling to see Harard Bluetooth’s rune stone proclaiming that his people would Christians. There is a fabulous new Viking museum there. And then we drove to Ribe to see the cathedral and have afternoon coffee. After that we went to the West Coast driving through beautiful fields and marshlands. I got to wade in the North Sea. On Sunday we went to worship and I was included in a family reunion luncheon at the parsonage. Then I took the train to Copenhagen! I certainly hope that I will get to return to Christiansfeld for a longer stay.

Moravian Seminar in Heidelberg

Wayoming WaterfallThe main reason I came to Heidelberg on sabbatical was to teach a Hauptseminar (advance seminar) on the Moravians in the American Studies program. My co-teacher was a PhD candidate named Jennifer Adams-Maßmann who is writing a dissertation on the European and Native American women in the Moravian mission in North America. We finished the seminar on Saturday and several of us went out for hot chocolate and then four of us followed up with drinks and dinner. It was a wonderful group of students. Half were undergraduates in the American Studies program and half were theology students in the masters program. One woman about my age audited the class. There was only one man. He had to miss the last day because he was judging the fencing competitions. I was so thrilled to learn that they still have the dueling clubs in Heidelberg, and apparently members of the clubs still receive the ritual scar from a sword. I so wanted to do that when I was 15! But, except for that disruption in attendance, the students were remarkably well-prepared and engaged in the course.

You may be wondering why Professor Jan Stievemann, the head of the American Studies Program and a leading authority on religion in colonial America, would want a seminar just on the Moravians. Or why students in a German university would take three weekends to attend classes and also read well over 300 pages of material on the Moravians. It is because the Moravians were one of the most interesting and controversial religious groups in the early modern period. We began with a discussion of the Bohemian Brethren and Jan Amos Comenius’s pansophic social reform proposals. Some of the students were fascinated by the excerpts of Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart that we read. Then we focused on Zinzendorf’s theology, especially his Blood and Wounds theology, his understanding of the Mother Office of the Holy Spirit, the concept of the Mystical Marriage with Christ, and his religion of the heart. The students were amazed at the 18th century Moravian women who were ordained as deacons and presbyters. We talked about the violence against the Moravians and why so many anti-Moravian publications were written in the time of Zinzendorf. And then we focused in on the Native American mission, especially the role of women in the mission. Unfortunately, I ended the seminar with a 30 minute lecture on what happened to the Moravians after the death of Zinzendorf, especially how they developed in the 19th century. We talked honestly about the way that slave-holding corrupted their original inclusive vision and the fact that the Moravian avoidance of politics meant that they did not participate in any of the great social crusades of the Second Great Awakening – except for Temperance. I’m afraid that some of the students were visibly and vocally depressed by what happened to this radical, expansive, and innovative religious group.

In small ways I try to encourage modern Moravians around the world to embrace their ancestry and learn from the theologies of Comenius and Zinzendorf, but I know that institutionalization takes its toll on every charismatic movement. I don’t think my teaching and writing will significantly alter the future of the Moravian Church, but I do hope that non-Moravians will be inspired by this history and will learn that there was a moment in history when Europeans from different countries put aside their differences to worship the Savior, and that when they did so they also recognized that all people in the world share a common humanity.

I am proud of the fact that my ancestors in faith were among the first white people to challenge the modern institutions of oppression and exploitation by welcoming men, women, and children of different races and tongues as brothers and sisters. Comenius, Zinzendorf, and those hundreds of courageous missionaries were far from perfect, and at times may have been a touch insane, but their insanity was fueled by a burning passion to make this world more closely resemble the heavenly kingdom. There was briefly a time in American history when a group of white people were so eager to break bread with Native Americans and enslaved Africans that they risked their lives to bring them good news about the Savior of humankind. And in some of the old God’s Acres the bodies of German aristocrats, Moravian peasants, Mohican, and Mandingo rest side by side awaiting the return of our Lord.

Moravian Synod at Bad Boll

2016-05-24 08.43.07Representatives of the congregations and agencies of the Moravian Church in Europe are meeting this week in their bi-annual synod. Normally they meet in one of the congregations, like Herrnhut or Zeist, but this time they are in the Evangelische Akademie in Bad Boll. The Moravians used to own the Bad Boll spa, and they still have headquarters for their mission work there. Synods are different in Europe than America. The Northern and Southern Provincial Synods are huge affairs with representation based on the size of congregations. I think there are typically 200 people at a synod. And synods only meet for three days every four years. The European synods (not including England) meet every two years and delegates are chosen for six years so that they build relationships. They meet for a week and engage in Bible study and fellowship as well as attending to the church’s business. It sounds like a more Moravian way of doing things.

I was only there for a day. A new friend had offered to show me around the region and visit places of historical interest. He drove me to Bad Boll, and I arrived about 3 p.m. The facility is very nice, and my room had the most comfortable bed I’ve slept on in my travels. I of course arrived in time for dinner or abendbrot (evening bread) and was glad to see some old friends like Peter Vogt and Jörgen Böytler. Böytler introduced me to two younger people (i.e. younger than me) who are interested in serving the Moravian Church as pastors. We discussed the possibility of them taking my theology course at MTS in the fall.

2016-05-24 09.30.12At the evening plenary session I was invited to address synod. Peter was kind enough to prepare a German translation of my remarks in advance – and provided helpful edits to my text since it was a bit long. I tried to draw on our church’s history to provide hope as we struggle with financial matters. This was my first time have simultaneous translation with headphones. German and Dutch are the official languages of the synod, but they also provide translation into English. Sister Goodwin was responsible for giving the German version of my talk. The assembly seemed enthusiastic about what I had to say, and they asked substantive questions. I think my style of speaking is a bit more passionate than is customary in Germany!

At the evening social time I had a long chat with Peter and his work and met a young man who is learning Dutch so he can be a pastor in the Netherlands. I also spent an hour talking to a Latvian pastor named Gundars Ceipe about the history of the Moravians in his country and how Christian David helped to end serfdom in the 1700s. He gave me a book he has even though I can’t read Latvian, but there is an English summary. We made preliminary plans to go to Riga one day and speak. If I do, I’ll also visit St Petersburg, which I’ve always wanted to see. I also spent time with Jørgen Bøytler, a young German woman who gave the standing ovation, and two Albania women who are the matriarchs of the new Albania Moravian Church. They are the vanguard of a  religious revival in one of the most atheist countries in the world. They have no pastors, so Bøytler has been visiting for fourteen years to baptism hundreds of people, most of them former Muslims (at least nominally). I did have to face the embarrassing fact that Sister Dena of Albania had tried to friend me on Facebook and I rejected it!

2016-05-24 09.30.16The next day I had breakfast with the Danes and Albanias, and then Sister Goodwin guided me to the spa where a Bible study was held in a room close to the Moravian worship hall. We discussed Paul’s encouragement to generosity. It was interesting to have a Bible study with people speaking English, Dutch, and German and participants from Denmark, England, Albania, Suriname, the Netherlands, South Africa, the U.S., and of course, Germany. And there were only 20 of us there! We shared our thoughts about sowing seeds, and I managed to croak out a few comments myself on the idea that God provides the seeds so we do not know what the fruit will be. Our task is to sow, trusting that God will bring the fruit that he wants.

2016-05-24 08.29.07After the Bible study, Sister Goodwin showed the original sulfur spring that was the basis of the health spa. It was originally for the nobility, but was later opened to all kinds of people who suffer. Under Blumhardt Bad Boll became a major Christian center with health facilities, classes, and sermons. Kind of a Chatauqua with thermal baths and mineral water! The Moravians ran the spa for several decades but could not avoid the upkeep and renovations needed and so they sold it.

2016-05-24 09.44.01I would have liked to stay longer at the synod, but my travel companion wanted to spend more time with me, and I had a long trip back to Heidelberg. So I left at mid-morning and continued my German adventure. By the time I arrived back at my apartment my cold was in full bloom, but my mind and heart were full, and my dreams were of healing waters. I am grateful to Peter and the other synod planners for the invitation to take part in this important gathering.