In essentials, unity: Christ is the one big essential. The reality of God’s love offered in Christ is what our life of faith is all about. Even though we may not understand or experience Christ in exactly the same way, Christ is the ground and source of our unity. Our faith in Christ and our commitment to live as his followers is what really matters.
In non-essentials, liberty: The list of nonessentials is as big and wide as the heart of liberty. Here we go beyond mere tolerance to acceptance of diversity. We need to be able to say that it is not only okay to have variety of the church.
In all things, love: Love affirms our unity rather than our divisions. We believe we all have much more in common than we will ever have in difference. Love has the power to make of our differences no difference at all. Love not only brings us together in God’s family but also keeps us together as a community of faith.
Moravians number nearly one million worldwide and stand in the mainstream of Protestantism. The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the world, founded back in 1457, sixty years before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a door in Wittenberg. The official name of the Moravian Church is the Unitas Fratrum, or Unity of Brethren.
We trace our roots back to John Hus, a priest and philosophy professor from Moravia in what is now part of the Czech Republic. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415 for speaking out against the corruption and abuse of the church and state of his day. Despite fear of persecution, his followers organized the United Brethren, now known as the Moravian Church.
By 1517 the United Brethren numbered at least 200,000. Using a hymnal and a catechism of its own, the church promoted the Scriptures through its printing presses and provided the people of Bohemia and Moravia with a Bible in their own language. Influenced by his beliefs as one of the Brethren, Bishop John Amos Comenius (1592 – 1670) is considered the father of modern education, espousing universal education and developmental theory.
The United Brethren were bitterly persecuted in their homeland so some fled and found refuge on the estate of Count Nicholas of Zinzendorf, a nobleman in Saxony, now part of Germany. It is here that the Brethren were given the nickname, Moravian. In 1722 they built the community of Herrnhut (Lord's Watch) where the church saw a renewal under the patronage of Count Zinzendorf who encouraged them to take the gospel to the far corners of the globe. In 1732 the first missionaries were sent to the West Indies. In 1735 the Moravians established their first successful North American settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Today, the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America are part of the worldwide Unitas Fratrum.
The first Moravians came to Canada and established missions in Labrador between 1752 and 1771. The Moravian Church in Labrador continue to exist in Inuit communities. Distinctive Moravian buildings, once characteristic of all the mission stations, still survive under the care of Parks Canada. The New Dawn congregation in Toronto, was established by Moravians coming from former mission areas in the Caribbean.
The first Moravians in Alberta came in the late 1800’s when German speaking Russian emigrants fleeing religious persecution were encouraged to come to Canada. Here religious freedom was guaranteed and Christian communities could be formed on land made available by the government. In May and June 1894, the first Moravian immigrants arrived in the Edmonton area and established the communities of Bruderheim, Bruderfeld (Millwoods) and Heimtal. In 1902, Central Moravian Church in Calgary was founded.
Currently, there are five Moravian congregations in the Edmonton area, Edmonton Church, Good News, Heimtal, Millwoods and Rio Terrace , as well as a fellowship in Bruderheim and an alternative congregation developing at the Common Ground Café in Sherwood Park. Calgary has two congregations, Good Shepherd (formally Central Moravian) and Christ Church.