The Moravian church has it’s roots in the Hussite movement in 15th century Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic), when Jan Hus objected to some of the practices of the Catholic church. Since this was a century before the Reformation, some historians claim that the Moravian church was the very first Protestant church.The movement gained a lot of support in the Bohemia crown lands, and despite 20 years of fighting the Hussite Wars, between various catholic rulers and the Hussites, by the 16th century 90 percent of its inhabitants were Protestant. The majority of nobility were Protestant, the schools and the printing-shops established by the Moravian Church were flourishing as Protestantism had a strong impact on the education of the population, with at least one school in every town in the Bohemia crown lands.
In 1617, Emperor Matthias had his fiercely Catholic brother Ferdinand of Styria elected King of Bohemia, which in turn led to the Protestant Bohemian noblemen starting the Bohemian Revolt in fear of losing their religious freedom. The Revolt was defeated with the result of Protestant noblemen were executed or expelled from the country. Operating underground and spread across northern Europe, Bishop John Amos Comenius attempted to resurrect the movement, and prayed that these isolated pockets around Europe would preserve the evangelical faith and grow like “hidden seeds”.
One of these “hidden seeds” was a small group of Bohemian Brethren who had been living in northern Moravia, an illegal underground movement surviving in Catholic territory. In 1722 they arrived at the Berthelsdorf estate, belonging to Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Out of a burning commitment to help the poor and the needy, he let the group settle on the estate, and the village of Herrnhut was established. Even as it grew, the community was divided into fractions with different opinions on religious matters, something von Zinzendorf tried to fix by adopting the Brotherly Agreement. This was the start of a renewal and the community underwent a dramatic transformation where they “learned to love one another”.
It’s from this small community that the 24/7 prayer originates, and they managed to pray continuously for 100 years. The Moravian Church has been called a happy fellowship, where music and singing played a big part. Many wrote songs and psalms, and one of the more known in Sweden is Sv. Ps 58 (Hjärtan, enigt sammanslutna / Hearts, tied together in unity). To encourage the community, count von Zinzendorf put up a bible verse each day for everyone to read, and this became the Daily Watchword, a devotional that is still being printed to this day.
The Moravian church was the first Protestant church to send out missionaries, and it started with a love for people in need. The first missionaries were young German men who let themselves be sold as slave to rich estate owners from Denmark, just so they could reach the suffering slaves on St Thomas in the Caribbean, a Danish colony. They went to Greenland and Suriname, among other places. The Moravian church reached Sweden relatively early and it affected the Swedish state church in several ways, where a longing for a deeper spiritual life had grown. When the Moravian church was at it’s peak, it had over a thousand followers over the country, though they often were persecuted and hunted, due to a law that said no christian gatherings were allowed without a priest. Despite the pressure and suffering they remained loyal to the state church and showed no ambition to start their own, since the faith was the same!
Today there are two Moravian congregations in Sweden, us here in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg. Today the Moravian church is spread all over the world, and the largest congregation can be found in Tanzania, and has close to 800 000 members. The Moravian church still leaves traces in other denomination, inspiring others with the love and passion.
Our history in Stockholm
The first seed of our congregation in Stockholm started growing in the early 1720’s with prayer meetings, and it was chiefly around Erik Tolstadius, the vicar in Holmskyrkan (previously called Amiralitetsförsamlingen on Skeppsholmen), people gathered on sunday nights, as he was the most influential revival preacher at the time. People gathered in their homes, singing, praying and listening to living teachings. Often explaining the preaching from the service earlier that day, Erik Tolstadius gave the gathered people a deeper understanding of the bible verses they heard in church. During the 1740’s two preachers from Herrnhut came to join the group and in the 60’s they got permission to erect their own church building in Stockholm. It was built on what is now Kungsträdgården in the center of the city, on property belonging to the Hjälte family, and it was the first church built with private money since the reformation.
Today you can find us at sibyllegatan 13, not far from the original church, and you are most welcome to visit us! You can find out more about us here on the website.