A World Heritage Site, in Moravian Village’s Backyard

Do you know that less than a ½ mile away from Moravian Village, is potentially the 26th World Heritage site in the United States?

Do you also know the parent company of Moravian Village, the Bethlehem Area Moravians is the owner of many of these historical sites?

After a 20-year application process and over 283 years of caretaking of the site, this summer, we will find out from the World Heritage Committee whether or not the site will be inscribed to the World Heritage list.

If the inscription is approved, Historic Moravian Bethlehem will take its place on the list as such culturally significant sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and the Eiffel Tower.

The inscription will bring international recognition to Historic Bethlehem as an important cultural center and will be a boon for scholars and tourists alike.

But for the purpose of this blog, I thought I would give a different perspective of what that site means to us at the Bethlehem Area Moravians and the Moravian Village of Bethlehem.

The site is more than historical buildings, rather they are the tangible embodiment of the ideals we strive for here.

I personally take every new manager and director for a walking tour of the site.

I show them the single sister’s house, the longest continuous housing for women in the United States.  The mission 280 years ago was a place for single women who had no place to go; that is the same mission today.

I show them God’s Acre, the 1st cemetery in Bethlehem, and point out that individuals were not buried based on social standing, or with their families, rather they were buried in their choirs in the order of their death as in death, all individuals were equal.   I call attention to a section where buried right next to each other was a European settler, a Native American, and an African American.  All equal.

In the same cemetery I point out the grave of Julianna Nitschmann and the fact that the Moravians broke their own rule on burials because Anna was such a loved and respected leader of that first community, they needed to acknowledge her separately.

Women in the 1700s did not hold positions of respect and power. Yet, here in Historic Bethlehem, the early Moravians relied on Anna’s leadership in those early years and felt it was important to honor her at her death.

I show them the Old Chapel, where George Washington, Ben Franklin, and the Marquise de Lafayette once worshiped.  The Old Chapel still operates as a site of worship.

Finally, I take them to the Brethren’s House, currently owned by Moravian University, which operated as a field hospital during the Revolutionary War.  The City of Bethlehem was neutral during the Revolutionary War and the Moravians provided care to soldiers who were loyal to England and those who were pushing for independence.

Equality, leadership, health care, and service, are qualities we hope every Manager and Director here at Moravian Village embraces as an employee in a Moravian Organization.

An expression we use a lot here at Moravian Village is that we are caretakers first.  A World Heritage Designation does not happen overnight, or even decades, rather it took generations of individuals who toiled in anonymity to preserve the site for the future citizens of Bethlehem.

It is our obligation as caretakers to protect, preserve, and mentor the next generation of leaders who will take the reigns of the Organization and our mission.

Where other Communities may be owned by shareholders, investors, or Boards with a much shorter time horizon and goals that impact their residents…we have something different….we have time.

We have been here for 283 years and will be here AT LEAST 283 more.

Dan Soos, CPA

Chief Executive Officer

Bethlehem Area Moravians/

Moravian Village of Bethehem.