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Moravian memoirs – Pillars of an invisible church

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For millennia in the West, autobiography has served the purpose of providing a public model of the exemplary life. Whether in the form of saints’ vitae, the chronicles of kings and queens, the political autobiography, or conversion narratives like that of St. Augustine, autobiographies have been published and retold to serve the purpose of shaping others’ lives. In this book the “lebensaluf ” or the memoirs of members of the worldwide Moravian Church, known in Germany as the Brüdergemeine are examined. From the mid-eighteenth century on, each member of Church has been asked to write a memoir, intended to articulate and preserve each individual’s path from a state of ignorance of grace to his or her rebirth. These “Lebensläufe” constitutes an extensive, unique and valuable asset of knowledge to historical scholarship. Over the last 25 years the genre of the Moravian “Lebenslauf ” or memoir has become the focus of increased academic interest in many different scholarly elds. This interest has been fueled by the more general recognition of autobiography as a genre worthy of scrutiny and by the increased accessibility of the main repository of the manuscript sources in the Unity Archives in Herrnhut, Germany. Concurrent with this are changes in conceptual models in social and religious history, and gender/race theory that see such “ego-documents” as valuable primary sources for a historical perspective from “below.”

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