Moravia Moravian Church

It was the desire and determination of one woman that led to the founding of Moravia Moravian Church. Jennie Donnell was born and grew up in Oak Ridge and was a member of the Methodist Church there, but when she married Robah Kerner in 1884, she adopted her husband’s faith, the Moravian Church. He died only nine years later, in 1893, but she did not forget something he once told her while out buggy riding: “There ought to be a Sunday school between Oak Ridge and Summerfield.”

It so happened that also in 1893 a Sunday school was indeed started between Oak Ridge and Summerfield by Mrs. F. M. (Francis) Lee. Called Massey or Sandy Plains, it was a small, unheated log building. Jennie Donnell Kerner, minding her late husband’s words, joined the fledgling Sunday school effort with such enthusiasm that by the next year, she was its director, even bringing her parlor organ from home to lead the singing.

Though the Sunday school was non-denominational, Jennie Donnell Kerner was quick to call on her adopted church for assistance, and at her “pressing invitation,” A. David Thaeler paid the first visit by a Moravian pastor on November 12, 1894. Sr. Kerner’s “pluck and perseverance” led to the beginning of a new church building, and while work proceeded, the story goes, a neighbor asked, “But have you any Moravians here?” The reply came: “Not yet, but we are going to make some!” Before the church was completed the Moravia congregation was formally organized by Bishop Edward Rondthaler on October 3, 1896. Now we had Moravians there.

As one lay person led to the beginning of Moravia, another lay person led to its renewal in the 1920’s. John Harden Reid, a member of Mayodan Moravian Church, was asked to tend to Moravia for only six months. He served nine years, from 1924 to 1933. Pastorates by George Higgins (1934-39) and Walser Allen (1939-48) followed, and the work at Moravia flourished with junior and adult choirs organized in 1935, the church refurbished and three Sunday school rooms built in 1936, the annual chicken and brunswick stew instituted in 1939, and electric lights introduced in 1941.

Moravia got its first full-time pastor in 1952 in J. Taylor Loflin, and for his use the congregation built a parsonage, easily the largest construction project since the building of the church in 1896. By the late 1950’s the old wooden church had served its purpose. A brick building, Moravia’s current church, was constructed in 1964, and the first service in the new church was held that Christmas Eve.