Lititz Moravian Church celebrates its 275th anniversary this year.

The church, centered downtown in what was once named “The Coolest Small Town in America,” is a stone’s throw from busy shops and restaurants — quite a different scene than what the church’s founders saw.

Lititz Moravian Church was founded by a small group of Moravians in Warwick Township who wanted to start their own Moravian congregation with their own Gemeinhaus, or community house.

On Feb. 9, 1749, the Gemeinhaus’ construction was complete, and the building and was consecrated to worship on that special Sunday. The Gemeinhaus served as a parsonage, school and meeting house and was built on a 3 3/4-acre portion of farmland that had been donated by John George Klein, who settled in the township around 1740.

In many ways, the history of the Lititz Moravian Church is intertwined with the history of Lititz. For many years, they were one in the same; the town was a closed Moravian community that eventually opened to others.

That’s why the church invites the community to celebrate in its anniversary, including a family-friendly Spring Fest on May 11. It’s just one of several special events planned to mark the occasion.

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The sanctuary of the Moravian Church is in what is called the “prophetic style,” with a high pulpit.

The history

The origins of the Lititz Moravian Church and the Lititz community date back to 1742, with a visit of Count Nicholas Louis von Zinzendorf, patron of the renewed Moravian Church. Count von Zinzendorf visited the home of Jacob Huber, about a mile north of Lititz Borough, to deliver an address to some of the neighboring farmers. The house still stands on Newport Road and is commemorated by a plaque from the Lancaster County Historical Society.

Klein was Huber’s nearest neighbor, who later heard Count von Zinzendorf preach at a Lancaster courthouse. As the story goes, Klein was so moved that he felt called to donate a portion of his farm to provide the earliest roots of the Lititz Moravian Church.

Through the years, the Lititz Moravian Church has had several homes. In 1787, the present-day Lititz Moravian Church was built on East Main Street, with a cluster of buildings that surround the graceful church.

It was the fifth place of worship for the Moravians of Lititz and stood just east of downtown Lititz for 170 years. In 1957, much of the sanctuary was destroyed in a fire. It was restored the following year.

The sanctuary of the Moravian Church is in what is called the “prophetic style,” with a high pulpit, says Tom Wentzel, Lititz Moravian Archive Committee member, tour guide and choir member. He has been a member of the Lititz Moravian Church for more than 30 years, and gives tours that acquaint visitors with Moravian traditions, such as love feasts and the Christmas putz, or nativity scene.

High above the pulpit is a stained-glass window showing the Moravian Seal and motto. The Seal is the image of a lamb representing Jesus Christ or Agnus Dei — the Lamb of God — carrying a flag with a cross. The Latin words of “Vicit Agnus NosterM Eum Sequamur” translate to “Our Lamb has Conquered; Let Us Follow Him,” and encircle the image of the lamb.

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From left: Tom Wentzel, Marian Shatto, the Rev. Mark Breland and the Rev. Sayward Lippincott inside Lititz Moravian Church.

The church today

Today, the Rev. Mark V. Breland and the Rev. Sayward E.G. Lippincott serve as co-pastors to Lititz Moravian Church. The church has a communicant membership of 760 and a total membership of 906. Children become communicant members after having completed confirmation classes, which usually occurs when they are about 14 or 15 years old.

“We are the second-largest congregation in the Northern Province, exceeded only by Bethlehem Central,” said Marian Shatto, a 48-year member of the church.

Lititz Moravian Church remains integral to the Lititz community. The church owns the Lititz Springs Park, where events like the Lititz Fourth of July, Lititz Outdoor Fine Art Show and Lancaster Symphony in the Park are held each year. The church also owns the tiny piece of land at Lititz Square, where the Nativity creche is displayed at Christmas time.

The church also hosts community events like the Lititz Moravian Church Carol Sing at the church square, an Advent Tea, the Moravian Putz, and other holiday celebrations. On Memorial Day, the American Legion holds a ceremony in the Moravian Church Cemetery.

In addition to being a longtime church member, Shatto serves as editor of the Church Square Journal, the Archive Committee, the Mission Gift Shop, and tour guide, and sings soprano in the church choir.

The Moravian Church has long been known for its music. Moravians are credited with bringing Bach’s music to America, and were known to adapt Mozart’s works, as well.

The Lititz congregation keeps that musical tradition alive with several vocal choirs, a brass ensemble called the Trombone Choir and a hand-bell choir. With a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Moravian Music Foundation published “Catalog of the Lititz Congregation Collection,” which includes some 1,300 pieces of manuscript, the work of local writers and composers.

Lititz was also the home of the famous Colonial pipe-organ builder, David Tannenberg. As Wetzel noted, 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.

On Easter morning, starting before the sun even rises, the Moravian Trombone Choir greets the holy day with the music of Easter throughout town.

Much has changed in the Moravian Church, yet the church still holds to its early Moravian motto: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, freedom; and in all things, love.”

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