Willow Hill Moravian Church
There is something about Willow Hill Moravian Church that brings out the poet in people.
“At the foot of the Blue Ridge, in Virginia,” the June 1895 Wachovia Moravian rhapsodized, “by the side of the Volunteer Gap road, under the waving branches of great mountain chestnut trees, Bro. John McCuiston has been preaching, now and then, to an audience gathered in from the slopes around. And now a Sunday School is to be opened there, and a chapel to be built.”
Br. McCuiston’s first service at Willow Hill was on August 6, 1893, when he preached outdoors at Anderson Hiatt’s “at the foot of the mountain.” You know it was a glorious setting.
Work on the chapel began in the autumn of 1895, and was renewed as farm chores, finances, and the weather permitted. The first Christmas celebration was on December 19, 1896. The windows were installed in November 1897. Following on the heels of the first revival in May 1898, Br. McCuiston on June 5, 1898, organized Willow Hill with 14 members. Finally, with construction completed and all debts paid, the little chapel was consecrated on October 14, 1900, by Bishop Edward Rondthaler, who declared it was “perhaps the most sublime location of any Moravian church in the world.”
Two decades later, in September 1918, Bishop Rondthaler again visited Willow Hill. This time the Bethania band was there too, “filling the whole circuit of orchard-country with their accurate and beautiful church music,” Br. Rondthaler wrote.
Yet another two decades later, with help from throughout the Southern Province, Willow Hill built a handsome brick church to replace the old 1890’s wooden one. The new church was in use by January 1939.
About this time Willow Hill began a custom that each spring draws Moravians Province-wide — the annual Apple Blossom Festival. With the mountains decked in blankets of white blossoms, it is a sight to behold. Just ask Br. John Kapp, who still holds services at Willow Hill when able.
Or as Edward Rondthaler put it more than 80 years ago: “This is like Paradise!”