The Story of the Nazareth Moravian Church Building
The present building housing the Nazareth Moravian Congregation, begun in 1861, is the congregation’s fourth house of worship in Nazareth. The first consecrated worship space was the Saal of the Whitefield House, and the second was the Saal of the Manor House, built as a home for the Moravians’ benefactor Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf and his family. Our third house of worship was also the first free-standing church building, known as the 1840 Church, along West Center Street. After 22 years, the congregation outgrew the building and our present church on the Circle was begun in1861.
Our church continues the Moravian custom of buildings with two gender-specific front doors - one for the men’s and boys’ choirs and the other for the women’s and girls’ choirs. Moravians in the 18th and early 19th centuries lived, worked and worshipped in what was known as the Choir System, grouping members according to their gender, marital status, and age - i.e. Single Sisters’ Choir, Older Boys’ Choir, Widows’ Choir, etc. Male and female members entered the church through separate doors and sat in pews on oppoite sides of the sanctuary. This was especially true in an Ortsgemeine such as Nazareth where only members of the church could live. Nazareth was a Moravian-only restrictive community from 1740, opening to non-Moravian residents in 1856. Originally, the church building did not have the ornate stained-glass windows you see today. As in many past and some present Moravian churches, such as in Herrnhut, Germany, the windows were clear glass.
In 1916, a Sunday School wing was added, to the left of the original building, and a newer parsonage was built next door in 1875. In 1958, George Hahn, a Nazareth contractor and church member, and his men began interior renovations of all three floors of the church. Inside, we have a Fellowship Hall, kitchen, and Sunday School classrooms on the lowest level; a Chapel, Tower Room, meeting and Sunday School rooms, a Music Room, Nursery and Offices on the second floor of three levels (the floor you enter from the street). On the third and top level is our main Sanctuary with a choir loft containing the organ. This organ contains parts made by David Tannenberg, a famous 18th C Moravian organ builder. The belfry of the church has the 600 lb. bell, made in Philadelphia, and first used in the 1840 Church and still used today.
Fully air-conditioned and equipped with an elevator to all three floors, Nazareth Moravian Church welcomes all ages and abilities to worship and enjoy our many activities.
For information on the Moravian Church – its history, principles, the Daily Texts and other resources, please visit the website of the Moravian Church - https://www.moravian.org.
For more information on Moravian history, including the 1740-1743 Whitefield House here in Nazareth, please visit the website of the Moravian Historical Society - https://www.moravianhistory.org.
A new 2020 book – Images of America: Nazareth is available for purchase on the site.