Welcome in Coventry

27 March 2007

by Margaret Duggan

THERE are only about 2000 Moravians in the UK: it is one of the smaller Protestant Churches, which has long had a friendly relationship with the Church of England. So, when they wanted to celebrate the 550th anniversary of the founding of their Church, and knew that they would have a crowd bigger than any of their own churches could contain, they were welcomed by Coventry Cathedral.

There was a congregation of a thousand, half the Moravians’ total membership, from all over the country. There were two Moravian bishops, the Rt Revd John McOwat and the Rt Revd Beth Torkington. The speaker was the Revd Dr Robert Sawyer, from the United States. The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd David James, who chairs the Anglican-Moravian Contact Group, represented the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The earliest Moravians were followers of the Bohemian John Huss, Wycliffe’s admirer and translator, who was burned at the stake in 1415 for his belief that the Bible took precedence over the Church’s authority. Starting from their original Unity of Brethren, established 60 years before the Reformation began, the Moravians have been keen missionaries, and have spread worldwide.

They first came to Britain in the 1730s, and, by local invitation, set up congregations, together with their own farms, industries, and schools. It was a Moravian who led John and Charles Wesley to their “heart-warming experience” on their way from America. Since the Fetter Lane Agreement in 1998, Moravians and Anglicans have been in a close working relationship.

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