The Sharon Moravian Church is a member congregation of the Moravian Church Eastern West Indies Province.
The Sharon congregation was founded in 1768 at Bunker’s Hill, St. Thomas — an area now also known as Old Sharon. In 1795 the mission was removed to its present location and named “Sharon.” No doubt, to the missionaries of the time, moving from Bunker’s Hill where they had more than their share of setbacks, the new location on the plains below, nearby the gully and watercourse, promised the fruitfulness of the biblical Sharon (Isaiah 65:9-10; 35:1-7) — the verdant, coastal plain of Northern Palestine.
On February 10, 1799, the foundation stone of Sharon was laid, and the structure was built with the willing assistance of the slave congregation.
It is by God’s grace and dedicated and humble service that the congregation at Sharon grew. Over the years Sharon has served as a place for spiritual edification and growth, and the overall advancement of the people.
The current membership seeks to be faithful to the call of God in Christ, and to maintain the legacy of over 250 years of service to God and all persons. Thus the Sharon congregation eagerly pursues the vision of the Moravian Church Eastern West Indies Province which is, A church, transformed, united, and victorious in Christ.
In pursuit of the vision the congregation endeavours to fulfill the mission of the Province expressed in the statement, By the grace of God, we seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ; without distinction, we use all that we possess to call all peoples to the truth of the Gospel through worship, evangelism, discipleship and service.
About the Moravian Church
ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE UNITAS FRATRUM
The Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church, is that branch of the Christian Church which began its distinct life at Kunvald in Bohemia in the year 1457. It was born of the great revival of faith at the close of the Middle ages, arising from the national revival of religion in Bohemia, in which the writings of Wyclif had great influence, and of which John Hus was the greatest leader. Within the movement, Peter of Chelcic represented the traditions of eastern puritanism and freedom from official control in matters of religion.
Amidst these influences, the Unitas Fratrum was founded, under the leadership of Gregory the Patriarch, with a three-fold ideal of faith, fellowship and freedom, and a strong emphasis on practical Christian life rather than on doctrinal thought or Church tradition. The Statutes of Reichenau, 1464, contain the earliest statement of this common mind.
The numbers of the Unitas Fratrum grew rapidly. This extension drew attention of the church authorities to the Brethren, who were denounced as heretical and treasonable. They sought to maintain a living contact with the early Church, having obtained from the Waldenses the traditional orders of the ministry, including the episcopacy, and thus became an independent ecclesiastical body. The power of the state was then called in to suppress them; but persecution furthered their growth, until they came to include as their adherents about one- third of the population of Bohemia and Moravia.
The Brethren were enabled to maintain a living fellowship in Christ with the help of the Bible and hymns in their own tongue, a careful system of discipline, and schools for the young. The Brethren met Luther and other Reformers on equal terms, taught them the value of an effective church discipline, and gained from them new insights into the nature of a saving faith.
In the trouble of the reaction against the Reformation, times of persecution alternated with times of comparative calm, until at last in 1620 the Roman Church was placed in power by foreign armies, and the Unitas Fratrum, with other Protestant bodies, was utterly suppressed. The influence of Bishop John Amos Comenius, who had preserved the discipline of the church, and who had pioneered educational method, was a great source of strength after the disruption of the church. He never ceased to pray and to plead publicly for the restoration of his beloved church. Strengthened by this faith, a “Hidden Seed” survived in Bohemia and Moravia, to emerge a hundred years later in the Renewed Church.
Between the 1722 and 1727, some families from Moravia, who kept the traditions of the old Unitas Fratrum, found a place of refuge in Saxony, on the estate of Nicolaus Ludwig, Count Zinzendorf and built a village which they called Herrnhut. Other men of widely differing views also found there a place of religious freedom, but their differences threatened to make it a place of strife. Zinzendorf gave up his position in state service to devote himself to uniting these various elements into real Christian fellowship. He became their spiritual leader, as well as their patron and protector against interference from without. [See the Brotherly Agreement which was drawn up to promote the peace of the community]
By his examples and pastoral care Zinzendorf quickened their Christian fellowship and united them for communal life under the Statutes of Herrnhut (May 12, 1727) which were founded to follow the pattern of the old Unitas Fratrum. Through earnest and continued prayer they realized more and more the power of the Cross of Christ in reconciling them one to another. A profound and decisive experience of this unity was given them in an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at a celebration of the Holy Communion on August 13, 1727.
From this experience of conscious unity came zeal and strength to share this fellowship in Christ with other branches of the Church Universal, and joy to serve wherever they found an open door.
In following out this impulse, relations were established with earnest Christians in many lands of Western Europe, in England from 1728, and in North America from 1735, while in 1732 their first mission began among the slaves of St. Thomas in the West Indies.
In order to secure official recognition for their workers, and to set a seal upon the links with the old Unitas Fratrum, they decided to continue its episcopal orders, which had been handed down through Bishop Comenius and a line of bishops in the Polish provinces of the ancient Unity. In 1735, Bishop Daniel Jablonsky consecrated David Nitschmann as the first bishop of the Renewed Church. The branches of the church thus established on the continent and in Great Britain and America continued to develop in accordance with the differing opportunities presented to them, maintaining their association and uniting especially in the work of the spread of the Gospel in other lands.
Thus, today, the Unitas Fratrum, which has asserted throughout its history that Christian fellowship recognizes no barrier of nation or race, is still an international Unity with congregations in many parts of the world.
The Unitas Fratrum cherishes its unity as a valuable treasure entrusted to it by the Lord. It stands for the oneness of all humankind given by the reconciliation through Jesus Christ. Therefore, the ecumenical movement is of its very lifeblood. For five centuries, it has pointed towards the unity of the scattered children of God that they may become one in their Lord.
THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN THE EASTERN WEST INDIES
From its first mission in St. Thomas in 1732, the Moravian Church spread into many other islands of the Caribbean. The Church came to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, in 1734. From these initial efforts in the Virgin Islands, in St. John, Virgin Islands, in 1741, the Moravian Church spread out to Antigua in 1756; to Barbados in 1765; to St. Kitts in 1777; to Tobago in 1790. The close of the eighteenth century found the Moravians firmly established in all these islands. In the nineteenth century, work was started in British Guiana (Now Guyana) in 1878 but subsequently became a separate province. Also in the nineteenth century, work was started in Trinidad in 1890. In 1907, work was started in Santo Domingo and the congregations there merged with the Dominican Evangelical Church. (Methodist, Presbyterian, United Brethren) in 1960. In 1994, Moravian work in Tortola was officially recognized as a part of the province.
The impetus for the expansion of the Moravian Church in the Caribbean was a burning desire to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all oppressed peoples. Genuine Christian concern motivated these missions.
In addition to preaching the gospel, the Moravian Church was active in providing an education for the slaves. It was one of the first organized religious bodies to establish primary and secondary schools for slaves in the West Indies.
The Eastern West Indies Province of the Moravian Church can be justly proud of its contributions to the religious, social and cultural heritage in the many islands of the Caribbean where it is located today.
The Sharon Church Building
Credits: Miss. Joy Best, Rev. Dorothea Rohde
The Sharon Moravian Church has earned a reputable place in the history of Barbados, not only because of its historical importance, but also because of its unique architectural value. The church is among the list of the oldest standing churches in Barbados and is one of the most interesting eighteenth century buildings, which has not been impaired or altered by attractions or additions. The Barbados National Trust has placed Sharon on its list of historical treasures of Barbados and its plaque of recognition now stands proudly at the main entrance of the church.
The church is located on Highway 2, about three-quarters of a mile northeast of the Warrens Roundabout, St. Michael. The route from the Warrens Roundabout to Sharon is itself scenic, as about 200 yards north of the roundabout on the left, is one of the two Baobab trees still standing in the island. The Sharon Moravian Church sits snugly in the corner on the left at the bottom of Edgehill, St. Thomas. Many a traveller will pass it as they seek to visit other attractions such as Welchman Hall Gully.
At a Glance
The shape and style of the Sharon Moravian Church is of a very simple Baroque style.
The main body of the church is rectangular with well-rounded corners. It is believed that the corners of the church were rounded because of the heavy destruction of buildings in the early years by hurricanes, especially hurricane of 1831. It is felt that the rounded corners assist in the building’s resistance to the strong force of the winds. This feature of the rounded corner is very unusual, and it has been seen only in a few older town houses in Bridgetown, and the Jewish Synagogue, all of which appear to be very early 19th century.
The walls of the church were constructed of cut blocks of coral stone which was abundant in Barbados at the time. They are very thick — approximately two (2) feet thick. They were constructed to that thickness to withstand hurricane force winds such as those that destroyed the original building.
The church has arched windows at ground and first floor levels. There are eight (8) each on the eastern and western sides, evenly balanced with four (4) to the upper and lower levels. On the northern side are seven (7) windows: five (5) on the upper level and two (2) on the lower. On the southern side are eight (8) windows within the walls of the main building: four (4) upper and four (4) lower.
An interesting feature of this structure is a two-storied tower, which adjoins the main building from the south. The tower rises no higher than the eaves of the main building, supporting an elegant bellcote or steeple that is perforated on all sides by windows. The roof of this tower is separate from that of the main building. There are arched windows within this tower as well: one each on the eastern, western, and southern side on the upper level, and one each on the eastern and western side on the lower level. In all there are thirty-six (36) push-out arched windows within the building.
The building’s main entrance to the south is approached by a massive double stairway leading to the main door of the church. This contrasts with the northwestern entrance, which has no steps at all, indicating the steep slope on which the Church is constructed. There is one other entrance on the western side of the building, with a stairway designed similarly to that at the south.
The windows in the Sharon Moravian Church are from the early 18th century Baroque period. This style of windows became universal in the Georgian period, and remained the standard domestic window until the end of the 19th century. The semi-circular style of the arch shape of these same windows dates back to Roman times. This type of arch requires two supports called piers, and a series of wedge shaped, trimmed stone or bricks, called voussoirs. Although the actual voussoirs are not visible in the windows of Sharon, the keystone is very present and visible, taking on an almost ornamental role.
The windows are still made of wood today as in the original construction, and are very suited to let in light and good ventilation. The present windows all carry 61 panes of glass. It should be noted that while other structures with similar styles in windows have changed their frames from wood to metal (in the name of economics and durability), Sharon has maintained the complete wooden frame, despite the risk of damage from the severe weathering to which the church is exposed.
Rising from the top of the tower, from the position of the eaves of the main building, is an elegant bellcote or steeple. This bellcote resembles a lantern, as it is perforated on all sides by round arched windows. These windows differ from others in the building as they have slats rather than paned glass.
A tall, needle-like spire rises from the top of the bellcote. This spire acts as a lightning rod. This function as a lightning rod is uncommon for buildings in Barbados. The bell is housed within this structure. As far as research has shown, no other building on the island bears this feature. Several churches, especially Anglican churches have moved their bells outdoors for easy access. The bell at Sharon continues to be rung from the pull rope inside the building. For funerals, the bell-ringer must climb the ladder leading into the steeple itself, and beat the huge tong against the bell in order to toll the bell.
The steeple of Sharon Moravian Church is not only recognised for its architectural uniqueness, but it has become an almost physical feature of its location. Standing tall and serene, it dominates the landscape for miles around, and many persons are known to have used it as a directional point. It has been seen as a "central lighthouse" in St. Thomas. The view from the steeple stretches as far as St. George.
The pulpit of the Sharon Moravian Church is the place where the message is delivered during worship. The pulpit is in the original position where it was placed at the original construction, facing the road.
This feature is very symbolic, as, while the preacher faces the highways and byways, those passing on the road will be able to hear the message. It was discovered that in Germany, the Moravians never really wanted a church in which to worship. They wanted a circular meeting hail. This request followed the belief that in the centre of everything was God. The pulpit assumes a central position on the altar, therefore God is in the pulpit. This feature is not common in most established churches, e.g. the Anglican Churches.
One fascinating feature of the pulpit is the fact that it is similar to the shape of the steeple turned upside down with the windows inverted! The steeple, which dominates the exterior, is now reversed on the interior with the pulpit, which dominates the altar. One can notice the rounded sides of the pulpit, similar to that of the walls of the building. The steeple itself at one time had rounded sides, but these were lost during the first restoration of this feature. Older members of the congregation recall having a round base at the altar, but gradually saw it change over the years of repair and restoration.
Absent from the walls are any carvings, statues and other ornate decorations. This reflects the Moravian tradition of simplicity, as well as the social and economic background of its members. The walls serve to house memorials — not to rich upper class benefactors, but to industrious servants of the church.
On the interior walls of the church, there are memorials to some of the earliest Moravian missionaries: Adam Herman and David Lichtenhaeler (whose tombs are located to the north of the church), Reverend James Young Edgehill (the first native Minister of the Moravian Church), and his daughter Jane Francise.
To these have been added more recent memorials: Reverend Duncan C. Moore (the longest serving Minister at Sharon), Ena King-Stevenson (dedicated member and educator), Owen Alexander ‘Graffie Pilgrim (Church Organist), and Livingstone Alleyne (Church worker and Sunday School Superintendent).
Those Who Served
Joachim Adam Haman, 1799
Nicholas Hoffman, 1799
James Waller, 1799 - 1805
John Nicholas Gansan, 1802 - 1819
John Samuel Grunder, 1805 - l811
Christian Frederick Kaltofen, 1811 - 1819
Christain Frederick Berg, 1819 - 1825
Sanderson, 1823 - 1824
Samuel Brunner, 1825 - 1829
John David Seiz, 1826 - 1829
John Taylor, 1829
John Gottlieb Klose, 1830 - 1843
John Morrish, 1831 - 1832
Lawrence Frederick Oerter, 1835
John Ellis, Ep. Fr., 1837
William Humberslone, 1838
Hansjuergen Keirgaard, 1839 - 1841
Lars Keildsen, 1841 - 1844
Charles William Roentgen, 1844 - 1847
Arthur Lawrence van Vleck, 1849
Thomas Leopold Badham, 1849 - 1856
James Young Edghill, 1852
Edward Siedel, 1853 - 1856
Augustus Clemens, 1856
Adolph Reichstein, 1856 - 1857
John Henry Buckner, 1858 - 1864
Benjamin Romig, 1858
Frederick Theodore Nieberg, 1860
Christian Ludwig Dehm, 1861 - 1866
Jacob Howard, 1866 - 1887
Thomas Shields, 1887 - 1890
Simon Sylvanus Southwell, 1890 - 1915
Joseph Carrington, 1915 - 1916
Clement T. Oehler, 1917 - 1931
Cecil H. Trowell, 1929 - 1931
Charles Schouten, 1931 - 1938
Peter M. Gubi, 1938 - 1945
Duncan C. Moore, 1945 - 1963
Lloyd Kitson, 1964 - 1967
John Knight, 1967 - 1971
Alvin Barker, 1971 - 1975
Frank Barker, 1975 - 1983
Dufferin Culpepper, 1984
Marlon James, 1985
Romeo Challenger, 1986 - 1993
Errol Connor, 1993 - 1998, 1999 - 2002
Vera Waithe, 1998 - 1999
Dorothea Rohde, 1998 - 1999
Movelle Kellman, 2000 - 2022
Ezra Parris, 2002 . . .
David Ince, 2023 . . .