Saturday, 20 July 2024

Christiansfeld 250th Anniversary

Well, it's not every Church that can attract a visit from the Crown Prince and Princess on their Church Anniversary! But this was Christiansfeld, the UNESCO inscribed World Heritage site in Denmark and they were celebrating their 250th anniversary year.

Christiansfeld is the only Moravian settlement in Denmark. Although the plans for the settlement had been made in previous years and building had begun, it was in only in 1773 that the settlement began to be occupied and the first Church Room was in use. The whole of 2023 has been a year of celebration for the settlement with the high point being the services on Sunday 13th August. This date is significant for the whole Moravian Church as it is the anniversary of the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the Herrnhut congregation in 1727, and the outworking of this was an intense devotion to our Lord Jesus and a desire to share this with others. Without that blessing and the things that flowed from that there would be no Moravian Church anywhere!

I arrived in Christiansfeld on the Saturday evening and after a soup supper I attended the Saturday Night Singstunde (singing service) in the Sisters House. This is a large building, much of which is given over as a museum and exhibition centre for the Settlement. But the Sisters Saal (hall) is fabulous with white benches and white walls and a wonderful organ dating from 1776. There the local congregation gathered along with invited guests and a large group of Moravians from Amsterdam-Zuidoost along with their minister Markus Gill. In the Singstunde the congregation sang in Danish, German, English, Dutch and Sranan Tongo and a wonderful chorus of praise was lifted to God. 'What a friend we have in Jesus' was taken to a new level with all the languages and the Surinamese singing.

The morning brought the excitement of the royal visit. Crowds lined the square outside the Ministers House and the Church and Danish flags were flown everywhere. We all had to be seated in the Church before they arrived. The Church was stunning, again with white walls and forms and simple but so elegant flower arrangements by the windows. I was sat with Bishop Theo Clemens and his wife Almut and the chair of the European Continental Province, Rev Raimund Hertzsch. Just as with the British Royal Family, the timing was impeccable. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary arrived in Church led by the minister Br J¿rgen B¿ytler. A dignified formal service in Danish was the order of the day.

Following that there was a royal walk about on cobbled streets in Christiansfeld. The rest of us mingled in the Church Square. The folk from Amsterdam-Zuidoost Utrecht had all attended the service in traditional best Surinamese outfits and easily stole the show in terms of glamour.

A lovely formal lunch in the hotel, run by the Church, rounded off the Royal visit. The Crown Prince and Princess seemed very much at ease and to have enjoyed their visit and certainly the people were very pleased to see them.

The afternoon was free for us to enjoy the sunshine and take in the wonderful exhibition about the history and culture of Chistiansfeld in particular and the Moravian Church in general. After that coffee was taken in one of the local cafes before a gentle stroll up to see the very impressive God's Acre. I then wandered round the two main streets of the settlement taking in the traditional buildings and atmosphere.

Moravian settlements are united in the theology and social planning that underpins them, but the buildings are always made using the local materials available. This means that they are very 'of their place' and Christiansfeld is Danish and looks very different to the UK settlements. It is also significantly bigger and includes a number of commercial enterprises.

The highlight of the evening was the Lovefeast in the Church at 7pm. The benches were arranged so there was a walkway between the seating areas and the congregation settled down comfortably. Water was boiled up in the historic kitchen off the Sisters' side of the Church and then very concentrated tea was made. This concentrated tea was brought into Church and where it was diluted with boiling water that was boiling on a little gas burner at the back of the Church. The sweetened tea was then served to us in historic cups and saucers by Sisters wearing traditional caps and shawls.

During the Lovefeast greetings were brought from various people and places including from two Brothers from Korea. I had the opportunity to give greetings from the British Province and present the Church with a wooden chalice turned by Br David Ewart from an Irish Yew Tree that had been felled at Gracehill. It was such a privilege to be able to celebrate with our Danish Brothers and Sisters in Christ and learn more about their history and the path to World Heritage status, but most importantly our shared understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Sr Sarah Groves
Minister at Gracehill Moravian Settlement

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


020 8883 3409

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