Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Moravian Church Oral History Project

In the March issue of the Moravian Messenger, Br Livingstone Thompson wrote about a 'History taskforce' which was to be established in order to revisit aspects of Moravian Church history, that could also provide inspiration and stimulus towards the Decade of Evangelism announced at Synod that is planned for 2022 to 2032.

The Co-ordinating Committee for the Moravian Church History Project meet online, and include Ian Foster, a specialist on Hans Sloane and a descendant of those enslaved on Foster-Barham estate in Bogue Elizabeth Jamaica, Professor Pedro Welch, a historian based in Barbados and Livingstone Thompson, a Jamaican who is a member of the British Provincial Board, and myself, the Provincial Archivist. One of the ideas that emerged from these meetings was to document the experiences of the Moravian Church members in the British Province who arrived in the UK from overseas after the Second World War, through an oral history project that would capture their voices and recollections. Material has already been collected sometime ago by Br Robelto Bruce, but this project is aimed to give a voice to those who may have not been heard, and to collect and preserve people's memories of that time in their own vernacular, which can help to explain and enrich our understanding of that era.

On 22nd June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at a port in Tilbury with Commonwealth citizens from the Caribbean on board. They were invited by the British Government to help rebuild a broken Britain after the Second World War. People continued to arrive in the UK from Commonwealth countries to help fill post-war UK labour shortages, and they become known as the 'Windrush generation'. Some members of the Moravian Church overseas who arrived in the UK at that time wanted to find a Moravian Church to worship that was local to their residence, whilst others joined the Church after their arrival. It was not until 1958 when Br Kirby Spencer came to Hornsey Moravian Church that, with the support of others, the missionary work amongst Moravians from overseas began, by actively seeking out those who had arrived rather than wait for them to find a church.

We are looking to speak with Moravians of Caribbean and African descent who immigrated here and/or their children (i.e., first generation born in the United Kingdom) to capture their stories. After receiving interest from some members in London, Br Ian Foster from the Fetter Lane congregation has already conducted a few interviews and we hope to continue interviewing through 2021-2022. Interviews are usually audio and/or video-recorded at a convenient location that is arranged with the participant according to strict guidelines of research ethics. A small grant from the Pollock Missionary Memorial Trust was received to contribute to some of the cost for the use of equipment required and further funding is being sought.

A key part of the project is the creation of a digital archive that will preserve and make accessible the contributions made by participants for future generations to research which can help to educate and promote awareness of our rich cultural heritage. We would like to create a more diverse and inclusive history of the members of the Moravian Church than currently exists. With their consent, we hope to use the biographies collected in this project to show how the British-Caribbean/African community in the British Province contributed to the Province's development and growth.

If you would like to participate or learn more about the project, please contact me at Church House (Tel: 020 8883 3409) or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sr Lorraine Parsons
Provincial Archivist

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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, 
London 
N10 3TJ

Tel:

020 8883 3409

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