by Rob Fuquay

In the early 1700s, a group of Moravians were fleeing from threats. They went to Germany where they heard of a wealthy Moravian named Count Zinzendorf, and they asked if he would donate land to them where they could live in safety. He did, and they formed this little commune, and pretty soon other Christian groups were hearing about it, and they came and asked if they could live with them. The Moravians welcomed them – people of different kinds of faith from different countries speaking different languages, and they called the place Herrnhut.

For a while, it was this beautiful model of ecumenism – people getting along, helping each other out – but pretty soon differences started to occur. They couldn’t always understand one another and they would mis-judge the intentions of each other. They had differences over theology and over the right interpretation of the Bible and over other practices of their faith.

Pretty soon they were fighting all the time. Have you ever been into a church where people were fighting? Nobody needs to tell you, do they? You can feel it when you walk in the door. You can walk in and know that people don’t like each other here. That’s what was going on in Herrnhut.

Count Zinzendorf began to meet with the people house-to-house, reading Scripture with them and asking them to pray together. He started bringing more and more households together, and over time something supernatural occurred. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and in this prayer gathering they all started confessing their sins to each other, forgiving each other, crying and hugging each other. They said, “Let’s have a prayer vigil – a 24 hour prayer vigil to recognize that what we all need is unity, and God is the only one who can give it to us.”

So they did. A 24 hour prayer vigil. But it lasted longer than 24 hours. How long did it last? It didn’t just last 2 days; it didn’t just last a week; it didn’t just last a month; it didn’t just last a year; it did not just last a decade. It lasted for one century. A non-stop prayer vigil in Herrnhut for one century. Over that time, they became the first Protestant group to send out missionaries beyond Europe and North America. They sent missionaries to over 80 different countries in that century.

Count Zinzendorf began to organize them into societies and classes and bands. One day, he mentored an Anglican priest named John Wesley from London. John Wesley had a spiritual renewing experience in his life – he started the group of Methodists – and he went to visit Herrnhut. He came back and said, “Alright, we’re going to organize into societies and classes and bands.” You know what that means? You and I are the spiritual offspring of a prayer vigil. We are the offspring of a group of people who said, “I’m going to lay everything down and say that God, we need your help.” That’s our ancestry. That’s our inheritance.

Uniting Methodists is a movement rather than an organization. As a movement we are striving for greater inclusion and genuine representation in pursuit of shared goals. The statements found on this website represent our current consensus about important questions before the church. We invite suggestions, critique, and engaging conversations from persons across the UMC. The Uniting Methodists Leadership Team views this work as iterative and certain to be added to and enhanced over time.

* Uniting Methodists is a not-for-profit movement made up of members of The United Methodist Church and is not associated in any way with Room for All, Inc., an LGBTQ advocacy organization in the Reformed Church in America.

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