From the onset, Salem was special. It would be the administrative center of Wachovia, the 100,000 acres of land the Moravian Church purchased in 1753. The Lord chose the site through the Lot. Zinzendorf gave it its name, Salem, Shalom — Peace. Still today the very streets of the community that grew up there seem special. And the church in the heart of Salem is now known as Home Moravian.
The site for Salem was selected on February 14, 1765, and the first tree was felled on January 6, 1766. In five short years a veritable town had arisen out of the surrounding wilderness, including six dwelling houses, several industries, the Brothers House on the Square, and a tavern for strangers at a suitable distance down Main Street. Last to be completed in that first burst of building was the Gemein House, the congregation meeting house, which was consecrated on the day the Salem congregation was formally organized, on November 13, 1771, the festal day of the Chief Elder of the Moravian Church. The following spring the Provincial administration was transferred from Bethabara to Salem, completing the plan for a central administrative community for Wachovia.
Hardly had the congregation been organized than schools were started for the children of the community, first the boys in December 1771 and then the little girls in April 1772. The Boys School no longer functions; it last closed its doors in 1909. But the girls school was later combined with the Female Boarding Academy, begun in 1803, and grew to become the Salem Academy and College of today.
The Salem congregation flourished and quickly outgrew its 1771 Gemein House. A new house of worship, one large enough to serve far into the future, was erected and first used on November 9, 1800. Since then it has undergone numerous renovations, the one of 1912 and 1913 being the most extensive, leaving the church pretty much as it is today with its stained glass windows, curved pews and balcony, and chancel for the organ and choir loft.
The work of the Salem congregation members has led to the formation of a number of other Moravian churches. The Sisters of the congregation in 1822 formed the Female Missionary Society, which was instrumental in the start and early work of what became St. Philips Moravian Church. Outreach by members into the mountains of Virginia led to the formation of the Home Mission Society in 1835 and the organizing of Mount Bethel Moravian Church in 1852. Sunday schools organized and conducted by Salem members in the late 1800’s led to the formation of Fries Memorial, Calvary, Christ, Fairview, and Trinity Moravian Churches. In fact, it was in the Sunday school that the Salem church was first called “Home” in 1878. In less than 10 years the congregation itself was being called the “Home Church.”
Today Home Moravian Church remains a highly active congregation, working through outreach and growth for the cause of Christ.