A Moravian Manifesto - Part Two - Zinzendorf Nurtures the Young

These four posts are based on the sermon I presented on the first Sunday of 2018. I took a New Year focus because of the timing but I hope the material and personal reflection is of interest at other times of the year. I acknowledge that some turns of phrase may have their origins in the book Firstfruit that I had read last year after visiting historic Moravian sites in Europe.

I suggest you read the posts in order: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf's estate at Berthelsdorf became a recognised centre of faith and learning, and, in time, the town of Herrnhut. Although he still had government duties to perform, and, by then, his own family, Zinzendorf realised that leading the church was his passion. He gathered a team of elders to help him work for revival, publish Christian literature and establish schools for both girls and boys. He had been deeply influenced by his own education at the pedagogium in Halle, where Professor Francke had schooled both wealthy and orphaned children; he had built a publishing house, a book store, a pharmacy and a Cabinet (or museum) of Artefacts and Curiosities. We visited this amazing school and
museum last year and got a real sense of how the Pietists valued education, science and the arts, and integrated them into the curriculum as evidence of the wonders of creation. Reformers like Luther and Calvin had promoted similar educational ventures in Germany and Switzerland; the printing press and a new egalitarian spirit had made education for all a real possibility after the Reformation. In 1724, a Pedagogium at Berthelsdorf was built and a new era of education began. One of the key initiatives of the Moravian community was to assign leadership responsibilities to young people.

Many streams of Christianity today place a high value on nurturing the young. The Scots Presbyterian pioneers in Dunedin, for example, set up free public schools for girls and boys, and funded the first professor at the University of Otago in 1869. Today many churches have kindergartens or daycare on site, there are faithbased schools, and hundreds of volunteers provide Bible lessons in state schools. Social change means there may not be young families in every church, but congregations can still play an active part in supporting families with parenting toolboxes, school holiday programmes and services like Mainly Music for pre-schoolers.

Like the Moravians, we need to take seriously the Biblical injunctions to teach the young - Deuteronomy 6: 4- 7 says to talk about God's ways "from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night." In raising our own and other children to know the Lord, Paul invites us to avoid exasperating them, but rather to “Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Eph 6: 4). The contemporary emphasis on "kids-friendly" churches is an important expression of this responsibility.

To think about: Here then is a second question for a New Year - Which young folk might I be called to nurture this year?

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy she gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,

Just because He lives!