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Bethel Moravian and Lutheran cemetery, South Australia near Kapunda and Tarlee.
Image by denisbin
The Czech Moravian Brethren of Bethel (and German Lutherans). Moravia is a province of the Czech Republic (around Prague) which was formerly part of Bohemia. The origins of the Brethren go back to John Huss a Catholic heretic, who in 1415 was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. Heretic followers of Huss formed a breakaway group from the Catholic Church in 1467 including some forerunners of the Moravian Brethren. Luther created the big break from the Catholic Church in Germany in 1517. Eventually during the Counter Reformation and the Thirty Years War (1618-48), a new group of Moravian Brethren moved to Saxony in 1722 to the town of Herrnhut. A new spiritual awakening and the founding of a Moravian Church occurred in 1727 led by Count Zinzendorf (1700-1760). In 1735 many Moravians went to America and founded the church there in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. About 825,000 people worldwide are members of the Moravian Brethren (Unitas Fratrum). They base everything on the Bible and bishops are elected from the most spiritual members. They pursue missionary work, especially in Africa, and the largest concentration of Moravians today is in Tanzania! They allow members lots of freedom and members can be members of other churches, such as the Lutheran or Presbyterian Churches with which they maintain close links. The Moravian Church is part of the Lutheran World Federation. In Australia Moravians settled in the Wimmera as well as at Bethel near Tarlee. Bethel is a German word meaning “place of God.” The Moravians formed “utopian like” communities with communal lands etc.
Moravian Brethren are perhaps best known for their system of houses or “choirs” whereby they maintained separate seating in church for women, men, and single sisters and widows who were separated from the rest of the community. Virgins and single women were usually required to live in one large house together so that their spiritual needs could be dealt with separately. When a girl turned sixteen she was obliged to always wear some pink, usually a scarf or shawl but for church she might wear a pink blouse. Married women would always wear a rich red scarf or shawl. This practice of separating men and women carried over to the cemetery as well, with women being buried on one side and men on the other. You can see this today in the old part of the Bethel cemetery.
In 1854 a pastor by the name of Schondorf was sent out by the parent church at Herrnhut in Bohemia to establish a traditional Moravian Christian commune. Schondorf bought up 1,912 acres near Tarlee. A church and school were built and families allocated land which they thought they were buying. There was a Band Hall, for music performances. All went well for the first twenty years until families discovered they were not buying land, they were only renting it. The community wrote to the mother church in Herrnhut asking for a new priest. A few of the community stayed loyal to Schondorf and they moved with him and built another church and community nearby in 1876. A legal battle began over land ownership. The community committee took Schondorf to court but they lost the case. The community rift was then permanent. A new Moravian Brethren pastor Jacobi, also arrived in 1876. Pastor Jacobi continued until 1891, when he died. (Schondorf had died in 1877 a broken man after the legal battles.) Herrnhut then sent out another man, Pastor Buch, but just a few years (1895) later the Lutherans had built a large church at Bethel in the middle of the community. Most of the remaining Moravian Brethren began to attend the Lutheran Church. Pastor Buch was recalled to Bohemia in 1906 so the community severed their connection with Herrnhut and joined the Lutheran Synod. Many of the Moravians were not happy with the new arrangement as the Lutheran pastor (Benman) progressively brought in the practices of the Lutherans including robes, fees for weddings and funerals etc. Not far away from Bethel other Lutherans and Wends ( now called Sorbs) built another Lutheran Church only a kilometre or so away at Steinthal. The Moravians continued in SA with an offshoot community at South Kilkerran on Yorke Peninsula. The ruins of Schondorf’s second house, church and graveyard can be seen from the Bethel Lutheran Church. The Moravian church and large school has now been demolished. The Lutheran manse was built in 1908. The Moravian burials are numbered chronologically, with men and women separated. Below is Schondorf’s second house at Bethel.
Image by Tafkabecky (Becky Bokern)
mens scarf (or a woman could wear it too) for sale (+shipping if needed)
Image by Brian Cathcart
Women all covered in scarves. They look worn.