October 18, 2009
It is said that singing is a part of the Moravian psyche. The Church flourishes as it sings the songs of Zion. It is probably one of the few Churches that can organize an entire service on singing only. It is said that Zinzendorf was a prolific hymn writer/composer. Legend has it that Zinzendorf composer a hymn of (67) sixty seven verses one evening. As the congregation was singing verse (1) one, he was composing verse (2) two and at the same time writing so that they were able to see to sing until he stopped at verse (67) sixty seven. This was a tremendous feat. It is easy to conclude that Zinzendorf impacted the community in such a way that they all grew to love worship and more so singing.
J.T Hamilton and K.G Hamilton, reflecting upon the community at Herrnhut says: “ample provision was made for the cultivation of the religious life in early Herrnhut. Daily services brought the adults together soon after dawn; brief devotions followed for the aged and infirm at 8.30 o’clock and for the children at 10. Each day closed with common worship.” This suggests that Moravians had public/community worship daily.
It is said that when one sings, he/she prays twice. It is clear to see then, why the Moravians placed so much emphasis on singing. Singing of hymns offered many opportunities for the active participation by the congregation in worship. Zinzendorf actively cultivated within the Herrnhut congregation an appreciation of the spiritual power of hymnody and gradually developed this unique kind of service called the Singstunde. This became the favorite form of public worship for Zinzendorf and the community at Herrnhut.
How does it work? The person in charge selected with care entire hymns or verses of particular hymns in such a manner as to tell a story based on the theme at hand. It is important to note that every story has a beginning and an end. Every Singstunde was arranged in such a way that at the conclusion, everyone rejoiced and gave God the glory for moving mightily amongst them. There was no Sermon. The message was powerfully proclaimed through the Singstunde.
The Singstunde is still a very powerful witness in some areas of the Moravian world especially the Dutch territories. What is referred to as Singstunde in the Dutch and German speaking Moravians, is called a “Song Service” amongst English Moravians. Has this custom died in the Moravian Church, if so why?
Today we have some powerful hymns of the faith written on the pages of our hymnals. In addition, many of our members have been inspired by God to write hymns for worship and different occasions. We thank God that he is still using men/women pen these messages, so that generations to come will know that God not only spoke in the past, but he is speaking to us every day. Let us recapture that passion and dynamism for the songs of Zion and our Song Services.