Moravian Church, Eastern West Indies Province
In 1731, Nicholas von Zinzendorf attended the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark, where he met a slave of African descent from St Thomas, Danish West Indies. Zinzendorf invited him to Herrnhut, to give Moravians an eye-witness account of the terrible conditions of the slaves on the plantations. The result was that two Moravian missionaries went to St Thomas in 1732. Through their work, the Moravian Church in the Eastern West Indies was established. During the first century of its life, the church was administered by a mission board of Herrnhut. In 1879 a synodal province of the Moravian Church, Eastern West Indies, was constituted. The church was nevertheless greatly dependent on the continental provinces until 1967, when it was granted full autonomy. The church is made up of six conferences (districts) on four Virgin Island territories in the north - St Thomas USVI, St John USVI, St Croix USVI, and Tortola BVI; the independent nations of St Kitts and Antigua in the Leeward Islands; the independent nation of Barbados, and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the south.
The mission statement of the Moravian Church EWIP is: By the grace of God, we seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ; without distinction, we use all that we possess to call all peoples to the truth of the gospel through worship, evangelism, discipleship and service. The church is open to and draws its membership from all strata of society. It began as a church with a particular interest in the slave population of the region, but has become a church for all people. Worship in the Moravian Church EWIP includes ancient and modern hymns, written litanies, canticles, extemporaneous prayers, and contemporary songs and choruses. Organ music still features prominently, but in some congregations extensive use is made of the drum, steel pan, and tambourine. Having brought education to the slaves in the early mission years of its life, the church continues to pursue a social ministry in which pre-school education features prominently. It also seeks to equip its membership through lay leadership training programmes for the varied leadership roles which the laity play in the life of the church.