Tag Archives: Moravian Church

History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees

James Mooney (from Wikipedia.org)

In reading various books on the history of the Cherokee people I kept hearing one name mentioned repeatedly: James Mooney. So, I bought his book. =)

Mooney was a first-generation Irish American who grew up on the stories of the old country. As a teenage in the mid-1800’s he started to memorize the names of all the Native American tribes in the North America. This led to a job with the newly formed Bureau of American Ethnology. From that point one Mooney would dedicate his life to recording the stories of the Cherokees and other Native American tribes across the country.

His first book, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, was published in 1891. Nine years later in 1900 his masterpiece Myths of the Cherokee was released. The first half of this book is devoted to telling the history of the Cherokees from their first contact with European explorers in the 1500’s to the end of the nineteenth century.

In order to gain the information necessary for these books, Mooney spent years living among the Cherokees. Most of the time he was in North Carolina and Georgia among the Eastern Band of Cherokees, which were those people who remained in the ancestral land after the Trail of Tears (1838-1839). However, he did make a few visits to Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma (then Indian Territory) to collaborate the stories he was hearing in the east.

On a personal level, it was awesome to hear the stories my ancestors would have told each other. Stories about creation, the animals, and the land. In researching my family, I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather Zachariah T. Langley would have been in and around the area Mooney was in the 1880s. Both he and his son, John W.D. Langley, was listed on the Eastern Band’s rolls during this time before moving to Oklahoma in 1890. Most of Zachary’s family, including his mother, would stay in the east among the Eastern Band.

The tribe was introduced to Christian in the early 1800’s. Recognizing the shifting cultural tide, the tribal leaders invited the Moravian Church to start a school within the nation. This opened the door to other groups, most of which were helpful to the Cherokee Nation as a whole. As in, several Christian pastors fought for the tribe against the US Government during the 1830s when the government was forcing them to move west. Though it would be remiss of me if I didn’t note that there were other Christian leaders who were not so kind to the Cherokees. History, like today, is a mixed bag of good and evil.

John W.D. Langley and family

As a side note, I think it is really cool that the Moravian were the first group to engage the Cherokee people. My own personal faith journey was impacted by the history and writings of the Moravian as longtime readers of this site will no doubt know. Though I have yet to personal meet anyone who journeys within that stream of the faith, they have left an impact upon my soul.

In the interest of time I will end this review. It is enough to say that I am incredible thankful for James Mooney’s foresight to record the stories of my people. I am also grateful to the elders of the tribe who told the stories to him. It is a blessing to be able to read these stories over a hundred years later.

Grace and peace.

We are God’s children now…

moravian daily textEvery day I receive an email from the Moravians with a few Bible verses to read. Some days I just delete the email…but other days, like today, I open it up and see what passage God put on their hearts for that day.

Today’s passage, 1 John 3:2, really hit me…

We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. -1 John 3:2

We are God’s children right now… this is not something that will happen in the future… it is a statement of who we are. Yet at the same time, we know that the fullness of what we are has not yet been revealed. On that Day when the King conquers death for good and all is made right, on that Day, we will be like Him and we will see Him as He really is.

Oh what a glorious day that will be!





Introducing the New Coptic Pope

Yesterday the Lord of Lords answered the prayers of His Coptic children in the choosing of a new leader for the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. As mentioned earlier, the new pope was chosen by a blindfolded child who drew the name out of a pot holding the names of the three final candidates. While this tradition may sound strange to those of us in the West, there is in fact a lot to be said about allowing God to guide the hand of chance.

If I remember correctly, the Old Testament records use of lots (similar to throwing the dices)to decide major issues. Later on the fifteen to seventeenth century AD the Moravian Church used a similar concept as the Coptic Church to choose their leaders. The only difference was that the Moravians would include a blank piece of paper, effectively giving the Lord the chance to veto the names of everyone in the running (a choice that I think the Coptic Church would be wise in adopting).

But I digress…

Continue reading Introducing the New Coptic Pope

The Moravian Daily Texts

Beginning in 1727 the Moravian Church has published and distributed daily devotional Bible readings throughout the world. While I’ve obviously haven’t been around that long, I have been receiving their daily devotional via email every day for past few months. At first I was testing the waters a bit as there are many devotional emails out there); now however, I have to say that they have now become a welcome part of my mornings.

Today’s devotional really hit me and, as such, I wanted to share it with you all as well as give you all a chance to sign up.

Holy One, sometimes we are sinners because it is simply the easiest way
to live, doing what those around us do. Empower us to see and to live
another way, the way we see in Jesus. Amen.

FYI – the below is a screen shot of the email sent out each day to give you an idea of what in included in the Daily Text.

Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

This last Sunday service was a a tad different as we looked at the church history between Acts chapter 28 and today (Act 5 Scene 2 in the Grand Story of God).

While history may not be in the Bible, this is a very, very important topic as God did not stop working after St. Luke penned the final words of Acts. He is very much active today and He has always been active within history.

There is a reason that the majority of the Scripture is written as history – Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, Matthew, Luke, Mark, John, and Acts. They are all history books detailing the work of God among humanity… and if God deemed it important enough to include the history of the Jewish people in His Sacred Text, than I feel it is important to know the history of the Church, birthed with Jesus and infused with the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks to this in the sixth chapter:

16 This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
-Jeremiah 6:16

The “ancient paths” => we are not alone on this journey. There have been many followers of Jesus who has walked this path before us. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are “surrounded” by a “great cloud of witnesses” who are cheering us on – encouraging us to finish the race set before us by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Continue reading Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

Remembering Jan Hus

Jan Hus (c.1369 – July 6, 1415)

Today marks the martyrdom of one of the great, but largely forgot about, Christian reformers. Jan Hus (sometimes called John Hus or John Huss) was a Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) priest and professor who lived from c. 1369 to July 6, 1415.

Using his position as President of the University of Prague (one of the great centers of culture during that time), Hus spoke out against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church (greed, riches, sexual immorality, pride, etc).

Only he did not stop there – instead he preached the “…pure gospel of Christ” as found in the Four Gospels to the people in Czech, not Latin. Oh, and he (gasp!!) declared that all followers of Jesus had the right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves instead of relying on priests to tell them what to do.

Matters where further complicated by the Western Schism (1378-1417) in which there were two Roman Catholic popes – one in Rome and one in Avignon, France (shoot, there was even a third one near the end of the schism in Pisa, Italy).

After many years battle both domestic and international politics, Hus was ordered to appear before the Council of Constance (1414-1418) to defend his teaching. Even though Jan was warned not to go, he trusted the Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire, Sigismund, who promised him safe passage to the council and back home again. As you can guess, this promise was broken and Jan Hus was captured, tortured and burned at the stake as a heretic.

This, however, was not the end of Jan Hus’ teachings as his followers, the Hussites, continued to grow and spread his ideas. One group of Hussites eventually became known as the Unitas Fratrum (The Unity of the Brethren) – or in modern terms, the Moravian Church, of which I have previously wrote about.

In ending this post, I would like to quote part of John Foxe’s account of Jan Hus’ execution as it draws the line forward to the reformation movement of the 1500’s lead by Martin Luther:

“When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Hus;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Hus signifying goose in the Bohemian language) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who had a swan for his arms.

History of the Moravian Church by J.E. Hutton

The seal of the Moravian Church

My first introduction to the Moravian Church was through a world missions’ class at LeTourneau University many moons ago. During this class, the story was told about this phenomenal group of believers who sent out more missionaries in 60 years then all of Protestantism combined in the pervious 200 years. This missionary fervor was fueled by a hundred year plus 24-7 pray meeting in the small town of Herrnhut, Germany (Herrn Hut means “The Lord’s Watchful care”).

After I graduated and moved to Idaho, I discovered a copy of Edmund Alexander de Schweinitz’sThe History of the Church Known as the Unitas Fratrum; or, The Unity of the Brethren, Founded by the Followers of John Hus.” Published in 1885, this book traces the foundational roots of the Moravian Church from the introduction of Christianity to the people of Moravia and Bohemia in 451 AD through the pre-reformation movement of John Hus to the founding of the Unitas Fratrum church in 1457 and eventually to the development of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum in 1722, which became the Moravian Church that I originally heard about.  It is worth noting that this book (abet the 1901 edition) is sitting on my book shelf as a testimony of the impact this particular church has had on me – both in practical living and theologically.

The sad thing about de Schweinitz’s book was that it did not cover the missionary movement of the Moravians during the mid to late 1700’s, which was my original focus…

Accordingly, I was blown over this Christmas when my wonderful wife gave me an electronic copy of Joseph Hutton’s 1909 four book volume of the “History of the Moravian Church.”

  • Book One: The Bohemian Brethren (1457-1673)
  • Book Two: Revival under Zinzendorf (1700-1760)
  • Book Three: The Rule of the Germans (1760-1857)
  • Book Four: The Modern Moravians (1857-1908)

This was the book that I was originally looking for as it dove into the ins and outs of the Moravian Church during their “hay-days” of the 1700’s. Hutton goes to great lengths to share the stories of the people as well as to outline the development of the Church into what it has become (yes, the Moravians are still around and active today in 2011).

Continue reading History of the Moravian Church by J.E. Hutton