Meet the Moravians

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This article was printed in the Winston-Salem Journal on Friday Sept. 11th. It features a special story about a class being offered here at Clemmons Moravian Church. You can read it below or check out this link for the article online:

9/12/2015 Class combines history, religious beliefs of Moravians ­

 By Jenny Drabble SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (Winston-Salem Journal)

Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015 9:00 pm

They say old dogs can’t be taught new tricks, but at age 77, Paul Justus is still chomping at the bit to learn. The Clemmons Moravian Church’s “Meet the Moravians” class, which gives an overview of the church, was right up his alley. “It’s a great class because the information is presented in a meaningful and understanding way, so it doesn’t go over your head,” said Justus, who has taken the class twice. “I learned so much about the history of the church both times around.” Justus, who lives in Advance, is one of about 100 people to participate in the church’s class over the years.

The class, which is offered biannually, is not limited to Moravians and is open to anyone interested in learning about the church. There is no obligation to join the church after taking the class. The next session will begin Sunday and will be held at the church Sundays at 9:30 a.m. through Oct. 11, with the exception of Sept. 20. “It’s not just a class for prospective members but also for people who like to learn and current members who need a refresher,” said Pastor Ray Burke, who teaches the class. “We cover a bit of everything, so there’s something for everyone.” This class features four sessions that focus on the history, beliefs, customs, organization and government of the Moravian Church, which was founded more than 600 years ago. Each hourlong class includes lectures and discussions, Burke said. “Many people don’t know one of the largest groups of the Moravian Church is in Africa,” said Burke, who has been teaching classes on the Moravian Church for about 40 years. “Why do our gravestones all look the same? Because of our belief that rich or poor, king or pauper, in death we’re all equal.” While some of the concepts give a broader look at the Moravian faith, others focus on the Moravian Church’s presence locally, such as the history of the Clemmons church, which celebrated its 115th anniversary in August.

The church, at 3560 Spangenberg Ave., was founded in memory of Edwin Clemmons — the grandson of Peter Clemmons, after whom the town was named. Edwin Clemmons left money in his will to build a Moravian church and school, although the school was later integrated into the emerging Forsyth County public school system, Burke said. North Carolina also has strong roots in the Moravian Church after settlers traveled from Pennsylvania in the 1700s to settle a 100,000­acre tract of land in the state, known as the Wachovia land tract. The tract, with Salem as its focal point, became the center of growth for the region and the Moravian Church. The largest concentration of Moravians in the country is in the greater Winston­Salem area, Burke said, which is another reason why it’s important for people to learn about the Moravian Church. Barb Martin of Advance said she took the class shortly after joining the church to learn more. “I would encourage everyone to take the class because it’s so informative and interesting, whether you’re in the church or not,” Martin said. “There were so many things I didn’t know. The class is wonderful.”

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