The Moravians and Their Hymns
“The congregation made of the evening song service on Aug. 18, 1732 a farewell occasion for these pioneers (Rober and Nitschmann). Perhaps as many as a hundred hymns were sung in that epoch-making service.”
Such a simple statement by Zinzendorf’s biographer John Weinlick speaks volumes about the Moravians and their music which became for them as much a part of their adoration of the Lamb as did preaching or communion or obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.
Who knows? Perhaps the gift of song was the one thing that sustained the Brethren through the long night of their suffering. Like Paul and Silas, they sanctified their sufferings in song. They can be forgiven if, after bursting from the prison of 100 years of oppression in Bohemia and Moravia, they got a little carried away in song. With good reason it has been said, “The Moravian Church gave to hymn singing a prominence in worship not to be met within traditions of other communions.”
The first Protestant hymnal can be traced to these Brethren. The year was 1501, even before the Lutheran Reformation. In that year the Hussites, who in 1457 had formed the Unitas Fratrum, published a collection of 89 hymns.
“Some were Bohemian versions of ancient Latin hymns,” says Allen Schattschneider. “In the Catholic Church only the priests sang or chanted, usually in Latin. In the Brethren’s Church the people were encouraged to sing their faith in their own language.”
When God saw fit to give the Moravian Church a rebirth two centuries later the man he chose to be the catalyst was a man gifted in poetry, a lover of song. Count Zinzendorf wrote hymns all of his life, at night and at daybreak, on the sea or even in the midst of a service of worship. Indeed, during his stay in New York he ...