The week before Easter is known as Holy Week, reflecting its significance for our church. Each night of the week, beginning with Palm Sunday, a reading service is held in the Home Church Sanctuary. The readings cover Christ’s activities, humiliation and suffering during this week of the Crucifixion.
The Crucifixion service begins at 2:15 p.m. Friday and concludes quietly as the clock in the church tower strikes 3, which is thought to be the hour of the Lord’s death. The Good Friday Lovefeast, at 7:30 p.m., is a high point of worship in the Home Church year.
On the Saturday morning before Easter, members from around the Salem Congregation join to decorate God's Acre. This is a joyous preparation for the Sunrise Service. All are welcome to bring flowers, blooming shrubs, greenery, etc., along with gloves, clippers and watering containers, and join in this memorable time of flowering the graves.
Saturday before Easter is known as Great Sabbath, and is observed with a special service of music at 7 p.m. in the Sanctuary. The Great Sabbath service is a joint effort of singers and musicians from throughout the region.
The Easter Sunrise Service of the Salem Congregation* begins in front of Home Moravian Church and concludes in nearby God’s Acre, as all Moravian graveyards are called. This service typically draws thousands of Christians from near and far.
Easter Sunrise Service of the Moravian Church dates back to 1732, when the first service was held in Herrnhut, Germany, on the estate of Count Nicholas Von Zinzendorf, one of the 18th century founders of the Renewed Moravian Church. Those early Moravians gathered at the first light of dawn among the graves of their departed brothers and sisters, to hail the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to sing hymns of praise.
The Sunrise Service has been repeated each year since then at Moravian churches around the world, and is now in practice in many other Christian denominations.
Beginning several hours earlier on Easter morning, Moravian Band members from throughout the region divide into small units and begin playing Easter hymns across the city. The small units gradually come together and form larger groups, until, during the hour before the Sunrise Service begins, four large groups can be heard playing antiphonally in the streets around Old Salem.
The Sunrise Service begins in front of Home Moravian Church, as the presiding minister proclaims, “The Lord is Risen!” then leads the gathered faithful in the Moravian Easter Morning Liturgy, which is essentially a summary of Moravian beliefs and teaching and a confession of faith in the power of the risen Christ.
Midway through the liturgy, the congregation quietly processes two blocks to God’s Acre. There the full band finally joins together for the remainder of the service. The sky brightens, and the service concludes as the sun rises.
Regular Sunday Worship is also held on Easter, as usual at 10 a.m.
We invite all to join with us for any and all of the services and activities of his important time in our church year, when we are reminded, “Christ the Lord is risen today. Christ the Son of God still lives.”
Some of the above was borrowed, with gratitude, from the “Easter Morning Radio Broadcast Commentary” by Brother Gil Frank, a Home Church member.
Parking for the Easter Sunrise service is on streets and lots in and around Old Salem. The Salem College Fine Arts Center lot behind Home Church is CLOSED except to band members and other participants holding passes, although early-morning parking is allowed along Salem Avenue. Directions to Home Moravian Church.
*The Salem Congregation is a group of churches that each began with members associated with Moravians in Salem (now called Old Salem).