Unity’s Watchword for 2020

On Sunday, December 29, 2019, ushers distributed baskets of  “watchwords” for 2020 to those in attendance. Pastor Barry invited everyone to select their own personal “Watchword” for the year. He selected the following text for the congregation.

“Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15

A Note from Pastor Barry about our 2020 Watchword

It is accepted among New Testament scholars that St. Paul’s longest ministry relationship is with this new Christian congregation he started in Corinth. Today, we have two surviving letters that he wrote to this congregation. Biblical scholars have noted that within these two letters are references to five letters that Paul wrote to them and one that the congregation wrote back to Paul.
Archaeological scholars have found fragments of three of those five letters.

The city of Corinth is within 50 miles of both Athens and Delphi – the religious centers of ancient Greece. To think that it was a difficult place to plant a “new religious community” is an understatement. Not only is Paul “re-defining” Judaism and the prominence of the Torah, he is also presenting a new idea of faith in “God’s Messiah” – who is none other than Jesus, a lowly traveling rabbi who gathered a following for his cause of bringing in a new “kingdom” or new “understanding of God’s intent,” and was falsely accused, condemned, and crucified. Yet, he came back from death and inspired his disciples to continue the cause, and even appeared to Paul and commissioned him to go spread this new religious idea to the Jews who would hear and accept it, but mostly, Paul saw his mission as the messenger to the Gentiles (in this case, Greeks) who would embrace God’s mighty work of redemption for humanity through Jesus, his Messiah.

Earlier in chapter four, Paul describes his own troubles and sufferings as an accepted part of his calling. He infers this because he saw a connection with the sufferings of Jesus. And yet, for Paul,
it is through suffering, it is through weakness, it is through risking one’s own future for the sake of the “cause” that God’s grace is received.

Here in chapter four, verse fifteen, we have Paul’s affirmation that those who enter into this endeavor of bringing the gospel of Christ to as many neighborhoods as possible, will experience this
result: Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

It seems that extending grace to more and more people is our calling. This is the essential purpose. All others are ministerial – important for fulfilling needed tasks – but not our main goal.

God’s blessing be upon us as we enter the two thousand and twentieth year of our Lord; and the fortieth year of our congregation.

The Tradition of the “Watchword”

The roots of this long-standing tradition go back to the Renewed Moravian Church, a small group of refugees forming their own community of faith on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludvig von Zinzendorf, a Saxon nobleman.

On May 3, 1728, during the evening service, Count Zinzendorf gave the fledgling congregation a “watchword” for the next day. It was to be a “Losung” (watchword) to accompany them through the whole day.

Thereafter one or more persons of the congregation went daily to each of the 32 houses in Herrnhut to bring them the watchword for the day, and engage the families in pastoral conversations about the text.

From this oral tradition, the Daily Texts soon became fixed in printed form. Zinzendorf compiled 365 watchwords for the year and the first edition of the Losungen was published for 1731. Now printed in over 51 different languages and dialects and with an annual press run of nearly one and a half million, the Daily Texts is probably the most widely read devotional guide in the world, next to the Bible itself.

“The watchword is either a promise, an encouragement, an admonition or word of comfort; the doctrinal text contains a point of revealed doctrine.”

By 1812 it was established that all watchwords would be drawn by lot from a selection of Old Testament texts, and the doctrinal texts would be selected from the New Testament. By the end of the nineteenth century, the custom was established to relate the two texts in theme or thought.

Over the years, congregations began a tradition of distributing scriptures for people to select their own personal watchword (a scripture to guide or inspire them through the year) during the Watchnight (New Year’s Eve) Service or at a service held near the first of the new year.

Christmas at Unity! 2019 Events

Our neighbors and their families are invited to celebrate Christmas with us at Unity Moravian Church by attending one or all of these events:

Sunday, December 1         

Candle Trimming (5:30pm)
Bring your family and learn how to “dress” the hundreds of beeswax candles in special red paper trim used for our traditional Christmas lovefeast and candle services.  We enjoy snacks together once the work is done! Kid-friendly but fun for all ages! Free.

Salem Community Orchestra Concert (7:00pm)
Join us in the sanctuary for a merry old time! The orchestra will share a variety of carols and medleys designed to get you in the Christmas spirit! Free to all.

Sunday, December 15       

MoravianXmasInLewisvlleTransMoravian Christmas (3:00pm) and Children’s Lovefeast & Candle Service (4:30pm)
This interactive community open house and craft fair is free to everyone! Experience the history, music, and traditions of the Moravians, one of the world’s oldest churches. Buy unique gifts, chicken pies, and baked goods for the holidays. Enjoy free sugar cake, cookies, hot cocoa, and lovefeast coffee. Plenty of craft activities for the kids and young at heart. Stay for our children’s lovefeast at 4:30pm, a noisy and joyous worship experience where you can share in a symbolic meal, become part of the Christmas story, and sing carols. Come as you are!

  • 3:00pm: Moravian Christmas (crafts, baked goods, snacks, demonstrations of Moravian traditions such as star and candle making)
  • 3:45pm: Unwrapping the Christmas Creche (For children: each figure comes to life!)
  • 4:15pm: The Christmas Putz (presentation of Christmas nativity scenes)
  • 4:30pm: Interactive lovefeast and candle service begins

Tuesday, Dec. 24    

Christmas Eve Lovefeast & Candle Service (4pm & 7pm)
Join us at 4pm and 7pm on December 24th for our Christmas Eve Lovefeast and Candle Services. A brass band plays beforehand to welcome all inside for this beautiful worship service sure to get you in the Christmas spirit! Come early to enjoy the band prelude and get a seat. Nursery is provided.

All events take place at Unity Moravian Church at 8300 Concord Church Road in Lewisville, NC.  Read more about the Moravians at https://www.moravian.org/.

Please share this printable schedule with your friends and family.

 

 

Christmas at Unity! Come Join Us for the Season

Our neighbors and their families are invited to celebrate Christmas with us at Unity Moravian Church by attending one or all of these events:

Sunday, December 2        

Candle Trimming (6:00pm)
Bring your family and learn how to “dress” the hundreds of beeswax candles in special red paper trim used for our traditional Christmas lovefeast and candle services.  We enjoy snacks together once the work is done! Kid-friendly but fun for all ages! Free.

Salem Community Orchestra Concert (7:30pm)
Join us in the sanctuary for a merry old time! The orchestra will share a variety of carols and medleys designed to get you in the Christmas spirit! Free to all.

Sunday, December 9   Sunday, December 23       

The Winter Rose: A Cantata (7:30pm)
Join us after the Lewisville Holiday parade for this free concert. The performance features Unity’s choir accompanied by a talented musical ensemble. The Winter Rose incorporates both traditional carols and newly composed anthems that visit the timeless Christmas story with fresh insight. This is Jim Basta’s farewell performance as conductor of the Unity Moravian Choir’s cantatas.

Sunday, December 16      

MoravianXmasInLewisvlleTransMoravian Christmas (2:30pm) and Children’s Lovefeast & Candle Service (4:00pm)
This interactive community open house and craft fair is free to everyone! Experience the history, music, and traditions of the Moravians, one of the world’s oldest churches. Buy unique gifts, chicken pies, and baked goods for the holidays. Enjoy free sugar cake, cookies, hot cocoa, and lovefeast coffee. Crafts for the kids and young at heart. Stay for our children’s lovefeast at 4:00pm, a noisy and joyous worship experience where you can share in a symbolic meal, become part of the Christmas story, and sing carols. Come as you are!

  • 2:30pm: Moravian Christmas (crafts, baked goods, snacks, demonstrations of Moravian traditions such as star and candle making)
  • 3:30pm: The Christmas Putz (presentation of Christmas nativity scenes)
  • 3:45pm: Band prelude (intergenerational!)
  • 4:00pm: Interactive lovefeast and candle service begins

Monday, Dec. 24    

Christmas Eve Lovefeast & Candle Service (4pm & 7pm)
Join us at 4pm and 7pm on December 24th for our Christmas Eve Lovefeast and Candle Services. A brass band plays beforehand to welcome all inside for this beautiful worship service sure to get you in the Christmas spirit! Come early to enjoy the band prelude and get a seat. Nursery is provided.

All events take place at Unity Moravian Church at 8300 Concord Church Road in Lewisville, NC.  Read more about the Moravians at https://www.moravian.org/.

Please share this printable schedule with your friends and family.

 

 

Join We All: The August 13th Story

Each August 13th we celebrate the renewal of the Unitas Fratrum. This is a remarkable story of the Czech reformation Christian refugees, who, for over 150 years had been forced into hiding in the areas of Moravia and ultimately Poland. Now, they had come together with disenfranchised Lutheran Pietists and other religious non-conformists to set up camp on Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf’s land in Saxony (eastern Germany).

Would Zinzendorf allow them to stay? Would he deport these illegal immigrants back to where they came from? What is the game plan? What is it that they want from Zinzendorf and from each other? They don’t want to be Lutheran, or Roman Catholic, or Anabaptist… So, what do they want?

Zinzendorf accepted this ragtag group, and entrusted the care of this developing community to the Lutheran Pastor of Berthelsdorf, Johann Rothe. For the next two years, Pastor Rothe worked with the sixty or so folks who wanted to form a worshiping and ministering community.

These refugees then began building their village they called Herrnhut (which means The Lord’s Watch), and they worshiped in Pastor Rothe’s Lutheran church in Berthelsdorf where Zinzendorf lived – only a 20-minute walk away.

Zinzendorf began assisting with some pastoral duties, but when the Herrnhut community began to grow and quarrels and disputes became inevitable, he assumed more responsibility and authority to bring order and purpose to this group.

In May of 1727, Zinzendorf encouraged every resident of Herrnhut to sign his document called Manorial Injunctions and Prohibitions along with the Brotherly Agreement which made clear to all who voluntarily signed, that this was to be a religious community with the teachings of Christ as their core.

After the signings, Zinzendorf instituted the Bands which were made up of small groups of volunteers led by a director who assumed responsibility for the pastoral care and spiritual direction of each person in the band. (The Wesleys copied this organization model calling them “Methodist Societies.”) Christian David gives a description of the workings of the band:

We meet as bands to confess to one another the state of our heart and sinful inclinations…this is not done to give light to our imperfections, but that one may see the rightness of the heart. In this way, we learn to trust one another, to meet once a week to assist each other with the unburdening of the heart.

On Sunday, August 13, 1727 during the service of Holy Communion at the Lutheran Church in Berthelsdorf, the Holy Spirit came upon these people and they realized that they had a purpose. They wanted to be Christ’s congregation.

Zinzendorf encouraged the bands to meet and sent food from his manor house to the homes where they were gathering. These “Agape Meals” or “Lovefeasts” became important for this community as it grew together in love and in mission for Christ.

290 years ago, on August 13, 1727, the Unitas Fratrum was brought back to life in the form of the Moravian Church.

What might God have in store for us this August 13, 2017?

Blessings to all,

Barry

-The Rev. Barry Foster is pastor of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. This article was first published in the August 2017 church newsletter. 

Before the Lord Rises, We Clean the Graves

For many, Easter is primarily about giant bunnies and sugary Peeps. But Easter, for Moravian Christians, is much more. Beginning Ash Wednesday and running through Holy Week (with services nearly every night), Great Sabbath and into Easter morning (early!), we focus on the suffering, sacrifice, and, ultimately, joy of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Easter, many Moravians gather in God’s Acre (the church cemetery) to proclaim their faith in the resurrected Lord and celebrate newness of life as the sun rises. The Easter Sunrise Service gives us a chance to joyously proclaim our Christian faith, beginning with the opening words of the Easter Morning liturgy: “The Lord is risen!” We answer together: “The Lord is risen indeed!”

But we are a practical people too. At Unity Moravian Church here in Lewisville, NC, we don’t have a very large graveyard (like Salem) in which to observe our Easter service. But we take time each year to lovingly prepare the graves for our own Easter service, much in the same way the women visited the tomb that first Easter morning (see photos below). Yes, God’s Acre is a place to mourn and remember those who have died, but it is also a place where we rejoice because we know that even though our loved ones are no longer here on earth with us, they are now living with Jesus. God’s Acre is a place of peace, hope, and faith.

The links below provide some perspective on Moravian Easter, particularly as it’s celebrated in Winston-Salem, NC. Enjoy and remember, the Lord is Risen! That’s who we worship . . . a risen Christ.

We hope you join us at 11:00am Easter Sunday at Unity Moravian Church for a moving service which concludes on the graveyard, but we do also participate in a community sunrise service at 7:00am at Lewisville Square. All are welcome!

Unity’s Watchword for 2019

On Sunday, December 30, 2018, ushers distributed baskets of  “watchwords” for 2019 to those in attendance. Pastor Barry invited everyone to select their own personal “Watchword” for the year. He selected the following text for the congregation.

“We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” -I Corinthians 2:12

The Tradition of the “Watchword”

The roots of this long-standing tradition go back to the Renewed Moravian Church, a small group of refugees forming their own community of faith on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludvig von Zinzendorf, a Saxon nobleman.

On May 3, 1728, during the evening service, Count Zinzendorf gave the fledgling congregation a “watchword” for the next day. It was to be a “Losung” (watchword) to accompany them through the whole day.

Thereafter one or more persons of the congregation went daily to each of the 32 houses in Herrnhut to bring them the watchword for the day, and engage the families in pastoral conversations about the text.

From this oral tradition, the Daily Texts soon became fixed in printed form. Zinzendorf compiled 365 watchwords for the year and the first edition of the Losungen was published for 1731. Now printed in over 51 different languages and dialects and with an annual press run of nearly one and a half million, the Daily Texts is probably the most widely read devotional guide in the world, next to the Bible itself.

“The watchword is either a promise, an encouragement, an admonition or word of comfort; the doctrinal text contains a point of revealed doctrine.”

By 1812 it was established that all watchwords would be drawn by lot from a selection of Old Testament texts, and the doctrinal texts would be selected from the New Testament. By the end of the nineteenth century, the custom was established to relate the two texts in theme or thought.

Over the years, congregations began a tradition of distributing scriptures for people to select their own personal watchword (a scripture to guide or inspire them through the year) during the Watchnight (New Year’s Eve) Service or at a service held near the first of the new year.

The Advent Putz

Each year, before the first Sunday of Advent, members of Unity assemble a large nativity scene in the lobby (or narthex) of the sanctuary. This is often a family affair, with multiple generations participating in the decorating process.

A cherished tradition for young and old, the Putz (from the German word “putzen,” meaning, “to decorate”) retells the wonderful story of Christ’s birth in miniature, using rocks, moss, lighting, and small figurines. Many Moravian churches create a Putz for members and visitors to enjoy during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

For more information on the Putz and its role in our heritage, visit the Moravian Church in America website.

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Christmas Eve Lovefeast & Candle Services

Join us as we celebrate the Christmas season and the birth of a little baby who became the light of the world. We’ll hold three different lovefeast & candles services this year:

  • Sunday, December 18, at 4pm: Children’s Lovefeast & Candle Service. A noisy, joyous, and festive occasion for families with young children. We share in a symbolic meal, hear the Christmas story, and sing carols together.
  • Saturday, December 24, at 4pm AND 7pm: Christmas Eve Lovefeast and Candle Services. A brass band plays beforehand to welcome all inside for this beautiful service sure to get you in the Christmas spirit! Nursery is provided.

The first Moravian Lovefeast was served in Germany on August 13, 1727, following the Renewal of the Moravian Church. Lovefeast is styled after the common meal partaken in love and fellowship by the early Church (as described in the Book of Acts). The first lovefeast in North Carolina was held on the evening of the arrival of the Moravians at Bethabara in 1753. Warm mugs of sweetened coffee, prepared in the Moravian tradition, and authentic Moravian buns are served to the congregation. Seasonal music and Christmas carols set a festive tone while the congregation enjoys the “feast.” The candlelight portion of the service, now adopted in one form or another by many Christian denominations, began as a Moravian children’s service. Handmade beeswax candles decorated with a red paper frill are distributed to each worshiper. The beeswax candles have been variously described as symbolizing the purity of Christ and the sacrifice of Christ as the light of the world. The candles are lit while the worship space is darkened except for a large illuminated Moravian Advent Star. Often led by a child, worshipers sing the antiphonal hymn, Morning Star, O Cheering Sight. In some congregations, after the last hymn, the worshipers carry their lighted candles out into the dark world.