By John Ellis
I was privileged to offer the Right Hand of Fellowship on behalf of the United Reformed Church when Brother Joachim Kreusel was consecrated a Bishop of the Moravian Church and leader of their British Province.
The Moravians are a very small Church in this country. They have fewer than 30 congregations, including united ones with the URC in Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford and London. Their total British membership is much smaller than that of any of the URC Synods. Nonetheless they are a key part of the story of Christianity in these islands: it was watching Moravian devotion to Christ that provided the stimulus the Wesleys needed to move from dry religion to a living Faith. The Moravians can reasonably claim to be midwives of Methodism.
Internationally the Moravians are a reminder of how world Christianity is changing. They have around three-quarters of a million members worldwide but with the large majority in Africa. In that continent they continue to grow. The migration to Britain of African and Afro-Caribbean Moravians has been a key influence on their congregations in London, which now enjoy a mix of cultural influences. The consecration service was held in one of these churches in Hornsey, and the singing was accompanied jointly by a large Edwardian tracker action organ and a drum kit. The refreshment queue in the hall afterwards was enlivened by the exuberance of a steel band.
Although the Moravians have bishops, they share many of the principles held dear by the United Reformed Church. Knowing all to be equal before God, they call each other Brother and Sister. Brother Joachim, the new Bishop, grew up in East Germany before the end of Communism and would well understand the URC conviction that Christ has given the Church a government distinct from that of the state. His conviction that ministers are to serve as the Church calls meant he was willing to uproot his young family in 1998 and come from Germany to help offset a shortage of ministers in the British Province. His “loan” has now become permanent.
As a small Church itself, the United Reformed Church is enriched by its friendships with other small Churches witnessing alongside us.