“We went over the Water A Visiting…”[1]

Repeatedly in the Moravian mission diaries we find entries that read, “We went visiting …” or, “We spent the morning visiting….”  What might on the surface appear to be a casual reference to an extreme sociability of the Moravian missionaries is however a reference to the pastoral practice of the “Besuch” or visit.  An important part of Moravian pastoral care in the towns and in the mission field was to visit both those who were already members of the Gemeine, and also those who were not.  And, as Moravian pastoral care in the colonial period also required that men speak to men and women speak to women, as much as was possible, then both members of couples such as Martin and Anna Mack, missionaries at Shamokin, or Anna Margarethe and Johann Jungmann, missionaries at Shekomeko, NY were active in this practice.   The Moravian sisters were also not just present to speak to the Native American women in German or English.  They were present because they were frequently the ones who possessed the linguistic skills to interpret and translate from German or English into Mohican, Delaware, Oneida, Seneca.   For example, both Anna Mack and Anna  Jungmann spoke the languages of the Native Americans living around the mission settlements.  Anna Mack had learned to speak Mohican from the neighbors to her father’s farm in upstate New York.  Anna Margarethe Jungmann had learned to speak Mohican (and later Delaware/Lenni Lenape) when she had first been sent out into the mission field.

The practice of the “visit” could be seen as laying a foundation for the discursive practice of the “Speaking” that was the subject my my last post (and the lectures at Moravian seminary).  The repeated “bringing into words” of the personal experiences of loss and redemption, despair and hope were linked to the physical or somatic manifestations of spiritual states; and this self-expression (a hallmark of both Pietist and many Native American world-views) was encouraged and practiced in all senses of the word in the Moravian world of the eighteenth century, whether the subject was English, German, Mohican, Delaware, Igbo, or Inuit.

One could ask the question, if this “Speaking” was so practiced, then could it also be authentic?  In what ways can a formulaic genre also be a personal expression of selfhood?  This is kind of question we will be tackling next semester.[2]


[1] From “Brother Martin Mack’s Journal from the 13th September 1745 N.S. of his Journey and Visit to Shamoko.” Papers of Martin Mack, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA.

[2] It is also one that I have grappled with in my essay on the use of “parrhesia” in the Moravian discursive world, “Speaking and Truth-Telling: Parrhesia in the eighteenth century Moravian Church” in Self, Community, World:  Moravian Education in the Transatlantic World, eds. Heikki Lempa and Paul Peucker (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2010), 147-167.

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