Free Shipping. Entire Store. Always.

The Moravians: Settling All Over the Place

Moravian Gravestone

Moravian Gravestone - Identical in Style Regardless of Gender or Social Class.

The Moravian Brethren in Pennsylvania

German immigrants were far from home. United States was their new land, and after many settled in New York and Pennsylvania, the Moravian Church came to minister them. The Moravian Brethren is also referred to as the Moravian Church, and they are often used interchangeably. They originated from Bohemia and Moravia, and after fleeing religious persecution they started a renewal. While the origins date back to the 1400s, the renewal in Germany didn’t come until the 18th century.

One of their strong philosophies is about combining with other Christian sects and working together to do good. Today, they continue their work around the globe. But, what about in our corner of the world? How does the Moravian Brethren fit into the northeastern United States? 

Their large Protestant based movement focused on sending groups to help others, but rather than clergymen like most religious based organizations, they were laypeople. One of the places they founded came out of working with Native Americans in the New York region. In the late 1700s, due to issues, they were expelled from the area. They then settled in Pennsylvania. 

You may have heard of their missionary that had been created, called Bethlehem. Yes, that Bethlehem, none other than the large city which sits just outside of Allentown. Again, they focused on helping Native Americans, and the Algonquian Lenape. Today, the northern portion of the United States welcomes over 20,000 members. 

In Bethlehem, you’ll find the Moravian Theological Seminary where they focus on the importance of what they deem to be crucial aspects of their sects. They are listed as simplicity, happiness, unobtrusiveness, fellowship, and service.

These messengers of good and God are ever present in Pennsylvania today. You’ll find larger segments in Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill counties. 

The Moravian Church in the Lehigh Valley

United States has more than 140 congregations, with two-thirds of them being in the northern portion of the country. Pennsylvania has a stronghold and history with the Moravian Brethren. Prosperity was an important aspect especially in the 1700s, as it allowed them to do their missionary work, yet it was important it aligned with their moral values and didn’t send the wrong message.

They created a store which helped move their goods and became a place to purchase items needed. This opportunity helped them grow their presence further in Pennsylvania and was put in place as of 1753.  

Schooling via the Moravian Academy which is a K through 12 school is established in Bethlehem as well as the Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary.

Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA

Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA

At the Moravian Archives in Northampton County, you can dive into historical information and records. 

As for counties such as Lehigh, Northampton, and Schuylkill you’ll find congregations in multiple towns and cities such as: Emmaus, Coopersburg, Hellertown, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Allentown, Easton, and Hanover.

Did you know that the Central Moravian Church is one of the oldest churches still standing in Pennsylvania? While they started in other places as of the mid 1700’s, their final home was built from 1803 to 1806 and stands today at W. Church Street in Bethlehem, after spending 55 years previously at another establishment just a bit farther down on Church Street. The Lehigh Valley is also home to another of the oldest churches, another Moravian Church in Nazareth, which was established 1840, but prior to that, they’d been holding worship in a nearby location as of 1743 which today houses the historical society.

The Emmaus Moravian Church also has a long history as one of the oldest churches in the Lehigh Valley. While their current location was built in 1834, their original location started as of 1742. (source

Speaking of Emmaus, it all started with the Shelter House. This historic location and dwelling is one of the oldest lived in buildings in the Lehigh Valley, according to the The Shelter House Society.  They go on to state, that the site “became a Moravian Church when the Moravian congregation was established in Emmaus in 1747.” They continue to explain that, “in 1758 the Moravians planned a village here wherein the first house was built in 1759.”

Shelter House in Emmaus

Shelter House in Emmaus

Another area of the United States which has become a central point of the Moravian Church is located in North Carolina. This is the headquartered location of the southern portion of the country. While they are both, Bethlehem and Salem, pieces of the same church and both considered headquarters, they tend to run independently from one another. 

Bethlehem, however, “was created in conjunction with the larger Moravian congregation in Herrnhut, Germany,” as per UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). It only later expanded to southern regions. Further settlements branched out as time progressed.

To learn more about their history, the Moravian Archives is a great place to start. You’ll find a listing of their digital holdings here. In person visits are currently restricted to appointment only, due to COVID, but can be found on Locust Street in Bethlehem. To see a calendar of their events such as lectures, you can go here. 

Lastly, did you know that Christiansbrunn in Schuylkill County was renamed in 1749 for the community members of the Single Brothers, which branched off from the Moravian Unity? They thought the German born Christian Renatus von Zinzendorf would be coming to live there. The interesting part is that this was an embarrassment to the church, because it was an all-male community. Zinzendorf never made it to the community as he died in 1752 before coming to America. While the community was later disbanded, the name remains today. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published