Jan Comenius, Pastor and Educator

During the European religious wars of the early 1600s, Jan Amos Comenius, a Czech Protestant pastor, forced to flee his homeland, gained international reknown as one of the founders of modern education.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Unity of the Brethren was one of the communities that grew from the teachings of early Czech reformer Jan Hus. After Hus’ execution for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church in 1415 at the Council of Constance, small groups of the faithful, such as the Brethren, kept alive Hus’ teachings until they found wider acceptance in the Lutheran reformation a century later. After initial gains by Protestants in northern Germany, by the 1570s a re-invigorated Roman Church was determined to reverse the course of reform by any means, spiritual or violent. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics came to climax in the horrendous violence of the Thirty Years War that consumed central Europe from 1618-1648. One of the hot spots of fighting was the Bohemian province of Moravia and it was from that sad, beset land, that Bishop Jan Amos Comenius led a small band of Brethren into Poland and what would be for him a life of exile.

Copernicus and the Church II

Lead: The year was 1540. Nicolaus Copernicus’s controversial theory that the planets revolved around the sun instead of the Earth was about to become public.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In 1540, a student and supporter of Copernicus, Rheticus, published Naratio Prima, otherwise known as A First Account. This encouraged the aging astronomer to print his own theory. A devout Catholic, Copernicus had struggled for many years between his loyalty to the Church and his scientific theory that asserted heliocentrism, that the sun was the center of the solar system. He decided it was finally time for the world to hear his opinion of the truth. Three years later, just prior to his death, Copernicus published his treatise De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.

 

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Copernicus and the Church I

Lead: Often requiring discipline, compassion, and self-denial, religion can be a powerful force for good, but religious institutions can also be short-sighted, conservative, willing to throw themselves across the path of progress.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Nikolaj Kopernik was born on February 19, 1473 in Thorn, Poland. He was raised by his maternal uncle following the death of Nicolaj’s wealthy father. His uncle convinced the young student to attend the University of Krakow. Caught by the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, with a name now latinized to Nicolas Copernicus, he continued a continental education, excelling in medicine, law and the liberal arts. While not abandoning his church calling, he actively practiced medicine, studied economics, and surrendered to a life-long fascination with astronomy.

 

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Oneida Community II

Lead: Accused of immorality, followers of radical perfectionist John Humphrey Noyes fled to sanctuary near the Canadian border on the banks of Oneida Creek.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Noyes believed in perfectionism, the idea that by Christ’s grace, Christians have no sin. He rejected monogamous marriage and accusations of free love forced the group to leave their home in Putney, Vermont to settle in remote Madison County, New York. Eventually, 31 adults and 14 children moved to Oneida. By 1849, there were 100 members of the community. That number had grown to approximately 300 in 1880.

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Oneida Community I

Lead: The 1800s were a time of intellectual and religious ferment. As a part of this excitement, Perfectionists established a community on Oneida Creek in New York.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Emerging from the American revivalist movement of the early 1800s, a group of Christian thinkers began to adopt an extreme form of perfectionism. They believed that the grace of Christ conveyed to them true perfection and a few very radical thinkers believed that perfection was permanent and irrevocable. One of these radicals was John Humphrey Noyes, a seminary student at Yale. In 1834 he asserted to his fellow students that he was without sin and was freed from the restraints of biblical law. His position led to bitter controversy on the Yale campus and he was forced by the faculty to give up his license to preach. He left.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer II

Lead: Faced with agonizing alternatives between his instinctive pacifism and participation in the violent overthrow of Adolf Hitler, German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer made his choice.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In June 1939 Dietrich Bonhoeffer returned to Union Theological Seminary in New York. There in the relative safety of Morningside Heights, he would teach where he had previously studied, but by the end of the month he was on the way back to Germany. His conscience had claimed him. “Christians in Germany face the terrible alternative of willing the defeat of their nation in order that civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose. But I cannot make that choice in security.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer I

Lead: The life of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer demonstrated the practical, as well as the dangerous, consequences of moral leadership.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In his formative years, few would have considered Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a candidate for martyrdom. His upbringing and training, however, were of a somewhat more academic bent than most who aspired to service as German Lutheran pastors in the early twentieth century. His father was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Berlin and Bonhoeffer followed the academic path to Tübingen, Berlin, and New York’s Union Theological Seminary. Along the way, in addition to his scholarly pursuits, he served churches in Harlem, New York, Barcelona, Spain, and London. By 1931, as the political storm gathered in Germany, he was home lecturing and doing church work in Berlin.

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David Livingstone II

Lead: On October 23, 1871, two men greeted each other on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Africa. It was during this brief encounter there was uttered one of history’s most famous phrases. “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1866, missionary David Livingston embarked from there on what would be his last journey to Africa. His goal—to find the source of the Nile River. Livingston began with a party of 30 porters, several Indian soldiers, freed slaves and local recruits. But most of party dropped out—leaving only Livingston and a handful to continue.

 

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