I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
Friday, September 9, 2016
God's Acre: A Look at a Moravian Graveyard
my son-in-spirit Charles Kivlehen, went to a conference this summer, he took
time out to visit a unique cemetery – one I hadn’t heard about. After he sent
me photos and told me the story, I had to share it here.
Acre is located near Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The Moravians founded the town of Old Salem in 1766. The cemetery and Salem Congregation Church (also known as Home
Moravian Church) are affiliated with the Moravian Church, which dates back to 1771 in the town and represents 13 Moravian churches in the region.
Church is one of the oldest Protestant religions in the world.
Moravian values included hard work, education, music and a simple
lifestyle. Today the Moravian church has around 750,000 members
Moravian Choir Loft
children were cared for by their parents until they reached 18 months when they
were placed in nurseries and raised together until they reached the age of
four. At that time they became members of the “Little Girls’ Choir” or “Little Boys’
Choir.” When children became teenagers, they joined the “Older Girls’ Choir” or “Older Boy’ Choir.” From the age of 19 until marriage, women belonged to the
“Single Sisters' Choir” and men belonged to the “Single Brethren Choir.”
Married adults lived in the “Married Peoples' Choir.”
Alter in Old Salem Moravian Church
who belonged to the same choir lived, attended school, worked and worshiped
together. The Moravian’s saw this communal living as a way to strengthen their
society since members relied on choir mates for assistance and support instead of a
traditional family. (Housework and childcare are shared women’s activities.)
God's Acre in Old Salem
Acre is the traditional name that each Moravian cemetery is given. Cemeteries
are laid out in a simple grid and all of the headstones are recumbent white
marble consisting of the same dimensions. This Moravian
graveyard is associated with Bethabara Moravians and is the largest in North
America with almost 7,000 interments that date back to the 18thcentury.
Choir System of Graves
Burials occur in the order that
members die but they are segregated according to gender with men on one
side of the middle pathway and women located on the other. This is known as the
“choir system” - separating the congregation according to age, gender, and
marital status. Therefore, families are not buried together as a way to reflect
the Moravian belief that all members are equal in God’s eyes.