National Geographic : 1970 Dec
Lord for the Brethren.... It has countless springs, and numerous fine creeks; as many mills as may be desired can be built. There is much beautiful meadowland...." "Women's Liberation" 300 Years Ago Except when Moravians put on colonial homespuns for a pageant, they don't look dif ferent from anybody else, but I knew that they were different. I went to talk about that difference with Dr. J. C. Hughes, for 16 years Pastor of Home Church, and Chairman of the Central Elders, a body representing 14 of Winston-Salem's Moravian churches. "Moravians have always been contempo rary in most respects," Dr. Hughes told me. "Two of their outstanding differences, in education and music, arose originally from the teachings of John Hus." Hus never contemplated forming a new church, but wished to reform the old one, chiefly by putting Christian duty before dog ma and by returning to the people the prac tices of worship-the singing, and the reading and explanation of the Scriptures. The latter two points required literacy and musician ship; Moravians became leaders in both. Dr. Dale H. Gramley, President of Salem College, helped me understand why women were included in the Moravian educational system, contrary to the custom of the times. He referred me to a quotation from John Amos Comenius, a Moravian bishop and ed ucator (1592-1670). Legend has it that Come nius turned down the presidency of Harvard to remain close to his Moravian people, then under severe persecution in central Europe. More than 300 years ago he wrote: "No reason can be shown why the female sex... should be kept from a knowledge of language and wisdom. For they are also hu man beings, an image of God, as we are.... Why then should we merely dismiss them with the A B C and drive them away from books? Are we afraid of their meddling? The more we introduce them to mental occupa tions, the less time they find for meddling, which comes from emptiness of mind." "In 1772," Dr. Gramley said, "the Salem community opened a school for its two little girls, although they were only 31/2and 5 years old. That was a year before they began a school for the boys." The girls' school soon became Salem Acad emy-a still-vigorous institution with 155 students-from which Salem College evolved in the 1880's. The college now enrolls some 828 570 girls and a few boys from 27 states and three foreign countries. There will be a 200th anniversary celebration in 1972. As for music, it is as much a part of Mora vian life as food and drink. Moravians joke that they give their babies horns in place of rattles. Pioneer Moravians in America were performing Bach and Handel when other settlers were happy to hear a jew's-harp or some raspy fiddlin'. The Brethren greeted each festival day with trombone fanfares, sounded horns from rooftops in thanks for the completion of new buildings, announced births, marriages, and deaths with special hymns, and in between times sang or played just for the fun of it. Colonists of more puritanical persuasion doubted that the Creator could look with favor upon so much music-making. Mora vians delight in the story of an exchange "Nein," says the lot, used by early Moravians to seek di vine guidance on major de cisions, including marriage. The lot bowl held three reeds: "Ja," "Nein," and a blank that meant the ques tion was premature or poor ly phrased. The practice finally died about 1836. Bowed heads ask blessing on a candlelit meal in the Single Brothers House. Stu dents in a seminar on his toric restoration wear 18th century dress for a Mora vian cook-in: stew, slaw, hoecake, molasses, cider.