The Lititz Moravian Congregation was organized on February 19, 1749. It was then known as the “Warwick Country Congregation” and included local farmers “awakened” by the preaching of itinerant Moravian ministers. The Moravian motto “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, freedom; and in all things, love” was appealing to these early settlers in Lancaster County.
Inspired by the Moravian settlements at Bethlehem and Nazareth, George Klein offered the Church his 491-acre farm in 1753 for a settlement in Warwick Township. In August 1754 the legal transfer of the property was completed and in 1756, the village was laid out with streets and lots. The name “Litiz” was given to the new community to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the year (1456) when the followers of John Hus, the reformer, were invited to make the Lititz castle (Lidice nad Citadelow) near Kunwald, Czech Republic, their safe-haven.
Until 1855 members built their homes on land leased from the Church. The religious, cultural, social, and economic life was under the direction of the church fathers. The goal was to provide a religious environment free from “worldly influences.”
The present Church building was built in 1787 and is the fifth place of worship for the Moravians of Lititz. Much of the sanctuary was destroyed in a fire in 1957 and carefully restored the following year. The sanctuary is of the “prophetic style” with a high pulpit on which is the open Holy Bible. High above the pulpit is a stained-glass window of the Moravian Seal and Motto: the Seal is the picture of a lamb representing Jesus Christ or Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) carrying a flag with a cross. The Latin Words “Vicit Agnus NosterM Eum Sequamur” (Our Lamb has Conquered; Let Us Follow Him) encircle the image." Tours of the church include a visit to the old preparation room where sweetened buns and coffee were prepared for lovefeasts.
In 1758-59 the Single Sisters’ House and the Single Brothers’ House were constructed of limestone on either side of the church. Residence in the buildings was not required, but usually chosen for the camaraderie within the age group and for training in the trades. During the Revolutionary War the Brothers’ House was commandeered by General Washington as a military hospital for hundreds of wounded soldiers. Today the Brothers’ House provides a chapel, a lounge, a fellowship hall, offices, kitchen and dining room, and connects to the Christian education facility. The Single Sisters’ House is now a part of the campus of Linden Hall School for girls.
One of the architectural gems of Lancaster County is the Leichen Kappelchen (Corpse House), which was constructed by the congregation in 1786 as a place to keep bodies of deceased members until burial. The limestone building is to the side and rear of the church along the way to the cemetery. It was last used in 1935.
Music has always been very important for Moravians. In colonial America the best place to hear Bach, Mozart and Haydn was not New York or Philadelphia, but a Moravian church. The Lititz congregation keeps that tradition with several vocal choirs, a brass ensemble called the Trombone Choir, a hand-bell choir, and a contemporary Praise Band. With a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Moravian Music Foundation recently published “Catalog of the Lititz Congregation Collection” of some 1300 pieces of manuscript, the work of local writers and composers. Lititz was also the home of the famous colonial piped-organ builder, David Tannenberg. The church has restored two of his instruments for the chapel and the fellowship hall in the Brothers’ House. Many musical instruments from the colonial era are also on display at the Church’s Museum.
Visitors are always welcome and group tours can be arranged by calling the Church office: 717-626-8515