I was in Christiansfeld today, in central Jutland, Denmark, and there visited a Moravian church. It is an interesting story as I felt I entered another century and visited a true missionary society of brethren.
The Moravians are pietistic Lutherans, free congregations whose origins lie in the Herrnhuttian pietism and the Moravians of count Zinzendorf. In 18 century the Herrnhutters, skilled craftsmen and traders, founded Moravian towns in many countries, and became a missionary church.
So they came to Denmark in 1773 and founded the town of Christansfeld with the blessings and approval of the Danish king Christian VII. They purchased a land and drafted a plan of the future town. Two streets connected with the God’s Acre, a square with a fountain in the middle connecting two streets, and in front of the church. Houses for living were built, later a boarding school for girls, parsonage next to the church. The king granted them pardon of royal taxes, no military service, no need of membership of guilds, and free religious practice. Denmark needed skilled craftsmen and soon the business were opened: the hotel, a chandler’s shop, a dye works, a cigar factory, honey – cake bakery, a printer, book-binder, milliner and a rope maker… most of them still exist today and still belong to the Moravians.
Then I visited their sanctuary. It is the largest space in Denmark without supporting columns or walls – it can take up to 1,000 visitors. Painted in white, with simple wooden pews, and chandeliers with candles. It is an amazing testimony of 240 years.
This church today has more than 340 members and half of them still live in the same town. Moravians welcome visitors and have their services open to all.
PS A photo of their graveyard shows unusual small tombstones. It was their practice to bury their dead standing facing east, from where Jesus is coming again. They wanted to be ready for this occasion!