Wednesday, 24 July 2024

World Heritage Moves One Step Closer

Gracehill, as many of you know has been invited to be part of the World Heritage process by Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to extend the inscription of Christiansfeld, in Denmark into a transnational, serial nomination.

So, the parties to this process, Historic Bethlehem along with Herrnhut with Berthelsdorf and Gracehill and our consultants meet monthly by Zoom. These meetings measure how each constituent part of the nomination is getting along and aim to iron out any issues that arise along the way. As you can imagine getting three very different places to the same point is not without its difficulties. Historic Bethlehem including Central Church and other stakeholders is set in the middle of a large city; Herrnhut is a significant town with its own mayor and part of its world heritage area includes the Zinzendorf Manor in Berthelsdorf. Gracehill, in contrast, is a small village on the outskirts of the much larger town of Ballymena.

So, our Churches and communities are in very different contexts. However, the Moravian Church is an international Church and many of the people involved in the World Heritage process already know each other through travel and training. Our common theology and Church polity also help greatly in binding us together as a group. So, when we meet we are already colleagues not strangers.

Br David Johnston was able to travel to Bethlehem in September for a face-to-face meeting where the agreement of International Co-Operation was signed. In addition, there were site visits so everyone could better understand the issues in Historic Bethlehem. In November Br David and Sr Sally Ann Johnston along with my husband Chris and I travelled to Herrnhut. The main object of this meeting was to discuss the Nomination Dossier. This involved the very detailed identification and description of the various properties. As part of this discussion a new architectural phrase was coined - Moravian Civic Baroque to describe the style of the Moravian Churches and associated buildings. Of course, this is locally expressed by the fact that local building materials are used in each place but there is something unique that unites many Moravian buildings around the world.

Another part of our discussion was around the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value of the values of the Moravian Church, i.e. how our theology is expressed in the way that the settlements are laid out, the traditions like our archives that link us to the past and our insistence on the equality of all in the Church and the importance of education. It is the Outstanding Universal Value that is for me the most important section for the worldwide Moravian Church because these values are lived and expressed in all our Churches whether in historic settlements or in smaller inner city mission Churches in the UK or across the world.

A wonderful future prospect that is already being researched is the development of a new World Heritage proposal to take in Moravian Mission Stations in places as far apart as South Africa, the Caribbean and Canada. We often underestimate the special nature of the Moravian Unity because we are so small. This whole World Heritage process has helped me see the treasure that is the Moravian Church as our consultants have outlined what we have and share in our Christian faith.
So, discussions around these points took up most of our meeting time. But thankfully we also had time for a tour of the Herrnhut World Heritage Site that includes the Church and Burial Ground, Church Headquarters and the physical centre of Herrnhut. The site then extends along the road, going past the Burial ground to the outskirts of Berthelsdorf to include the newly restored Zinzendorf Manor House.

We now look forward to welcoming the World Heritage team to Gracehill in March 2022 and to showcasing our part of this transnational bid and showing some real Northern Ireland hospitality.

Sr Sarah Groves
Minister of Gracehill Moravian Church

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


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