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Moravian Theological Seminary Celebrates its 200th Anniversary

Moravian Theological Seminary Celebrates its 200th Anniversary

Seminary to commemorate founding with series of events from October 2nd to the 6th

Bethlehem, Pa., October 1, 2007—Moravian Theological Seminary will turn 200 years old on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. At a special worship service to commemorate this milestone, the Seminary will be presented with a framed copy of its founding documents by Dr. Christopher M. Thomforde, president of Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary.

Found in the vault of the Archives of the Moravian Church (41 W. Locust Street), the document establishing the theological seminary is an “unassuming, a four-panel letter written in German script dated 1807.”  Penned by the Elders of the Moravian Church headquartered in Herrnhut Germany, the document authorized Moravians in North America to establish a theological seminary in conjunction with Nazareth Hall, a Moravian school for young boys located in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  According to the document the purpose of this new institution would be “to train teachers for the boy’s school, who in due time would be used in the service of the Lord in the American congregations.”  It further stipulated that students who attend the theological seminary should be between the ages of 14 and 18 years old and have a heart and mind which promises future service to the church.

The theological seminary of the Moravian Church in America was established on October 2, 1807 with a humble chapel service that commissioned its two faculty members and three students. Two hundred years later, Moravian Theological Seminary will be recommissioned at the special Chapel Service that recognizes the current 7 faculty members, 100 students and the 1,400 alumni that have graduated from the institution over the past 200 years.  The Service of Recommissioning, written by Rev. David Bennett, Chaplain of the College and Seminary, will be led by the chaplain, President Thomforde, and the dean of the Seminary, Dr. Frank Crouch.  The service will be held in Saal of the Bahnson Center located at 60 W. Locust Street.

On Friday October 5, Moravian Theological Seminary will continue its bicentennial celebration with 2 events.  Best-selling author and expert on religion in America, Dianna Butler Bass, will present the Couillard Lectures entitled “Christianity for the Rest of Us: A Transformative Pilgrimage.” The lectures will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Prosser Auditorium in the Haupert Union Building on the Moravian College Main Street Campus.  Registration is required (610-861-1519) for the lectures that are free and open to the public.

An invitation-only banquet that honors the students, alumni, trustees, faculty, and staff of Moravian Theological Seminary will be held later that evening.  Over 200 individuals are registered for the event which has a theme of “200 Years at the Table: Education, Community, Ministry.”  The keynote address will be given by Kay Ward, bishop of the Moravian Church and former MTS faculty and administrator from 1990-2005.  Presentations will also be made by the former Seminary Dean David Schattshattschneider, the current Dean Frank Crouch and President Christopher Thomforde. The program will conclude with a multimedia retrospective of the Seminary’s 200 year history.

The final bicentennial event will be held on Saturday, October 6 and it will trace the Seminary’s historical roots from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Participants will travel from the Seminary campus (60 W. Locust Street) by bus to Nazareth where they will walk the first 40 years of the Seminary. Beginning at its original site, in what was once the Nazareth Hall boys’ school in the historical Manor House on W. Center Street, the participants will walk to the Whitefield House, which housed the Seminary from 1851-58. During a picnic lunch on the grounds of the Whitefield House, Otto Dreydoppel, Jr., Moravian Seminary professor of Church History will make a presentation on the history and development of the Seminary. Buses will return to Bethlehem where the participants will tour the Moravian College campus tracing the Seminary’s history as it moved from various buildings on the college campus to its present location in Bahnson Center on Locust Street.  The festivities will conclude at Bahnson Center with a Service of Lovefeast, a tradition of the Moravian Church that includes the sharing of simple meal of bun and coffee during a worship service.

For more information about Moravian Theological Seminary’s bicentennial events and a pictorial retrospective please visit the Seminary’s website at www.moravianseminary.edu and click on the Bicentennial link.