Introduction

The Provincial Elders’ Conferences of both Northern and Southern Province have asked us to explore the current usage of the Moravian Book of Worship to help determine whether it may be time to begin work on a new hymnal or worship resource for the Moravian Church in North America. 

The Moravian Church was the first Protestant church to produce a hymnal (1505). The ancient Unitas Fratrum produced hymnals at an amazing rate, often in the face of persecution when they had to dismantle and move their printing presses. The renewed church in Germany also produced hymnals very often – sometimes several hymnals or supplements within less than a decade! Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf wrote, “The hymnal is a kind of response to the Bible, an echo and an extension thereof. In the Bible one perceives how the Lord communicates with people; and in the hymnal, how people communicate with the Lord.”

The 20th century in America is rare in Moravian history in only producing 3 hymnals – 1923, 1969, and 1995. Work on the 1995 Moravian Book of Worship began with a survey of congregations and pastors in 1985, and the hymnal committee was appointed in 1987; thus it took 8 years to produce the hymnal, once the committee was formed and started to work. The 1995 book was never intended to be a long-lasting book; the committee saw it as a transitional book, to lead the Moravian Church in North America into the 21st century, since we had no idea what this century might bring. However, if our recommendation is to produce a new hymnal or worship resource, and the 2018 synods approve it, the next one is likely to come out in 2023-2025 – thus making the 1995 Moravian Book of Worship almost 30 years old!

Throughout our Moravian history, even in times of most uncertainty, financial difficulties, distress and even persecution, it seems that periods of spiritual revival and awakening, and mission activity, are often accompanied by a flourishing of new liturgies, hymns and worship songs. In the Moravian Church in North America, we are witness to widespread creative energy in missions, and in new songs and liturgies. It’s a great time to explore what our congregations are using now, and what they see as the needs for Moravian worship through the middle of the 21st century! Thank you for contributing!

T