Northfield Moravian Church was established in 1869 by a small group of German-speaking settlers, some of whose descendants remain active members today. The congregation has been at the corner of Eighth and Division in Northfield for over 125 years. That 125 years, however, comprises less than one quarter of the length of time the Moravian Church has been in existence.
So what have the Moravians been doing all that time? Well, in 1415 our spiritual founder, the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus, was burned at the stake for daring to oppose certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church of the time. This made his followers, the Hussites, unhappy. Because church and state were then linked, the Hussite cause of religious reform was enmeshed with Bohemian nationalism. Wars ensued. The next hundred years or so brought both periods of toleration and periods of persecution to the Hussites, who by then had organized officially as the Unitas Fratrum. Ultimately, they were subdued and driven underground. The Unitas Fratrum nurtured their faith in secrecy until the 1720's when a small group of members from Moravia sought refuge on the estate of Count von Zinzendorf. There, deeply influenced by the pietist understanding of faith as experiential rather than doctrinal, they experienced a great spiritual renewal. The Moravians resolved to become a missionary society. By 1740 the Moravians were supporting missionaries in more than 20 countries. Currently, the worldwide Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) has about 720,000 members. Sixty-one percent of these members reside on the African continent, four percent in Europe, twenty-seven percent in Central and South America and the Caribbean, and eight percent in North America.
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Last updated on December 2001