Episode 356: Paul Peucker, The Moravian Church in North America

In 1682, the first Assembly of Pennsylvania and the Delaware counties met in Chester, Pennsylvania, and adopted “the Great Law,” a humanitarian code that guaranteed the people of Pennsylvania liberty of conscience.

“The Great Law” created an environment that not only welcomed William Penn’s fellow Quakers to Pennsylvania, but also created space for the migration of other unestablished religions such as the Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, and Moravians.

Paul Peucker, an archivist and the Director of the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, joins us to investigate the establishment of the Moravian Church in North America. Paul is the author of many articles, essays, and books about the Moravians and their history, including Herrnhut: The Formation of a Moravian Community, 1722-1732.

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Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

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Episode Summary

Paul Peucker is an archivist and the Director of the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He’s authored numerous articles, essays, and books about Moravians and their history, including A Time of Sifting: Mystical Marriage and the Crisis of Moravian Piety in the Eighteenth Century, and, most recently, Herrnhut: The Formation of a Moravian Community, 1722-1732.

During our investigation, Paul reveals the origins of the Moravian Church in Europe and the creation of the first Moravian community in Herrnhut, Germany; Information about the Moravians’ belief in Philadelphianism and why they adopted an international outlook; and, details about the Moravians’ migration and settlement in North America during the 1740s.

What You’ll Discover

  • The origins and early history of the Moravian Church in Europe
  • The first Moravian community established in Herrnhut, Germany
  • Why Moravianism appealed to many different groups of people
  • Why some European Moravians decided to immigrate to North America
  • The Moravians first American settlement in Savannah, Georgia
  • George Whitfield’s involvement with the Georgia Moravians
  • The creation of early American Moravian settlements in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Philadelphianism and its influence on Moravian communities
  • Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s early Moravian community
  • How Moravians structured their communities
  • How Moravians reformed their church after Count von Zinzendorf’s death
  • Moravians pacifism during the American Revolution
  • Conflicts with younger generations of Moravians in the early 19th century
  • The Moravian Church Archives
  • Why the Moravians have so many detailed archival records
  • The Moravian destruction of church records between 1760 and 1810
  • The “Sifting Time” in Moravian history
  • Moravian missionary work amongst Indigenous and enslaved peoples
  • How to visit the Moravian Archives
  • How the Moravians help us better understand religion in the early modern era

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In your opinion, how might our understanding of early American Moravians be different had they not been so stringent about keeping a curated archive of their church?

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