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A Moravian is a Protestant belonging to a religious movement that originated in Moravia, Czech Republic. This was brought to the United States in the early 1700s by immigrants originating from settlements on the estates of Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf in what is now Germany
The original attempt to found a Moravian community was in Georgia, but that attempt failed. The Moravians later found a home in Pennsylvania, where the colony provided some of the greatest religious freedom to be found in the world. The towns of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Emmaus, Pennsylvania were founded as Moravian communities. Later, colonies were founded in North Carolina, starting with Wachovia, and later Bethabara , Bethania and Salem (now Winston-Salem).
Bethlehem became the headquarters of the northern church, and Winston-Salem became the headquarters of the southern church. The Moravian denomination persists in America to this day, with congregations in eighteen states. There are also congregations in three Canadian provinces. The denomination is organized into four provinces in North America: Northern, Southern, Alaska, and Labrador. There are about 40 Moravian congregations in England.
The establishment of the Moravian church as a Christian church occurred as a reaction against certain alleged errors within the Roman Catholic Church. This movement was started by a priest named Jan Hus. Although Bohemia and Moravia had been Catholic, Jan Hus, sensitive of the church's misconducts, simply wanted to return the church in Bohemia and Moravia to the pure practices of early Christianity; using liturgy in the language of the people, lay people receiving communion in both kinds, and the elimination of indulgences and the idea of purgatory should serve this purpose. This movement had royal support and a certain independence for a while but was eventually forced to be subject to Rome.
Some of the Hussites struck a deal with Rome that allowed them most of what they wanted. These were called the Utraquists. The other followers of Hus remained outside Roman Catholicism and within fifty years of Hus's death organized the Bohemian Brethren or Unity of the Brethren.
The Moravians were some of the earliest Protestants, rebelling against the authority of Rome more than a hundred years before Martin Luther.
The motto of the Moravian church is:
- In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love.