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Every Easter early in the morning, hundreds of visitors gather in Old Salem to participate in the sunrise service. Since 1772, Moravians living in Salem have continued this tradition that started in Herrnhut in 1732. However, visitors or “foreigners” as the Moravians referred to them, did not always attend the early morning procession to God’s Acre. Outsider participation started slowly, but grew quickly until eventually in 1804, “thousands” are said to have participated. Additionally, white Europeans were not the only attendees. Enslaved as well as free African Americans often attended the services in great number.

This essay analyzes the peculiar development of this iconic Moravian ritual that initially started internally within the community, but which quickly expanded outward, accommodating outsiders through structural and linguistic changes, including the racial segregation of visitors and participants. The result of these gradual changes was the rise of a uniquely American ritual that reflected the preferences, needs, and customs of not only Moravians, but also the various ethnic and linguistic groups and cultures residing in Wachovia between 1772 and 1822.

In: Moravian Americans and their Neighbors, 1772-1822
American Moravians and their Neighbors, 1772-1822, edited by Ulrike Wiethaus and Grant McAllister, offers an interdisciplinary examination of Moravian Americanization in the Early Republic. With an eye toward the communities that surrounded Moravian settlements in the Southeast, the contributors examine cultural, social, religious, and artistic practices of exchange and imposition framed by emergent political structures that encased social privilege and marginalization.
Through their multidisciplinary approach, the authors convincingly argue that Moravians encouraged assimilation, converged with core values and political forces of the Early Republic, but also contributed uniquely Moravian innovations. Residual, newly dominant, and increasingly subjugated discourses among Moravians, other European settlers, Indigenous nations and free and enslaved communities of color established the foundations of a new Moravian American identity.

Contributors include: Craig D. Atwood, David Bergstone, David Blum, Stewart Carter, Martha B. Hartley, Geoffrey R. Hughes, Winelle Kirton-Roberts, Grant P. McAllister, Thomas J. McCullough, Paul Peucker, Charles D. Rodenbough, John Ruddiman, Jon F. Sensbach, Larry E. Tise, Riddick Weber, and Ulrike Wiethaus.
In: Moravian Americans and their Neighbors, 1772-1822