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Moravian Theological Seminary Celebrates 200th Year Anniversary
Service of Recommissioning to be held today at noon
Bethlehem, Pa., October 2, 2007—Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania will celebrate its 200th year anniversary on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. In commemoration of the milestone, the Seminary will be presented with a framed copy of its founding documents at a special worship service presided over by Dr. Christopher M. Thomforde, president of Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary. The Service of Recommissioning will be held today at noon in the Bahnson Center at the Seminary.
An historical document found in the vault of the Moravian Church Archives, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, described the establishment of the theological seminary as “an unassuming, 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 re-commissioned 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 the Saal at the Bahnson Center located at 60 W. Locust Street.
Founded in 1807, the Theological Seminary became a program of the Nazareth Hall School for Boys in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Young men would receive training to serve the Church in its new setting, and in 1858 the Moravian Church Synod authorized the establishment of a collegiate program to be held in conjunction with the Seminary. Because many Moravian clergy were needed to fill pastorates and stations in the mission field, and to teach in the Church’s schools, the institution developed the character of a teacher’s college as well as a theological seminary.
Prior to the 1800s, the Moravian settlements received direction and leadership from ministers trained in Europe, many of whom were unaccustomed to the rugged and independent environment in the new environment. As the Napoleonic wars raged across Europe in the late 1700s, travel became increasingly difficult, thereby reducing the number of Moravian ministers in America to a critical level. By the dawn of a new century, the Moravian settlements were developing into communities and growing with a spirit of American individualism. Influenced by the culture of an independent America, the Moravian leaders voted to establish a seminary in this country.
Known for the first half century of its existence as Moravian Theological Seminary, the school was incorporated as Moravian College and Theological Seminary in 1863. The curriculum soon expanded to a four year college and a two year seminary program, with its first Bachelor of Divinity degrees awarded in 1877, and in 1892 the College and Seminary moved to its present location in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Comenius Hall was built to accommodate a student body of 50-75 young men with dormitory rooms, classrooms, offices, a chapel, library, and dining room. By 1930 the Seminary had its own Dean and a distinctive three year graduate program. The College and Seminary merged with the Moravian College for Women in 1954, and established MORAVIAN COLLEGE as the corporate entity.
Currently Moravian Seminary has an active, dedicated alumni of over 700 men and women. The majority of graduates serve as congregational pastors or in specialized ministries. Many serve as pastoral counselors in private practice, agencies, or in denominational settings.
The Moravian Theological Seminary offers graduate degrees and continuing education programs to prepare men and women for effective leadership and service in congregational, counseling, teaching, and other ministries. The Seminary is rooted in the Moravian faith tradition — centered in Jesus Christ, grounded in Scripture, ecumenical in spirit, committed to community, and focused on mission leadership.
Moravian Theological Seminary is the seminary of the Moravian Church in the United States. The seminary awards three degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling, and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. The institution also awards certificates in theological studies. For more information visit the Seminary on the Web at: http://www.moravianseminary.edu.
For additional information about the Moravian Theological Seminary’s bicentennial events and a pictorial retrospective please visit the Seminary’s website at http://www.moravianseminary.edu and click on the Bicentennial link.