Speaking to Body and Soul

Instructions for the Moravian Choir Helpers, 17851786

Edited and translated by Katherine M. Faull

Hardback - £67.95

Publication date:

20 March 2017

Length of book:

200 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271077673

Dating back to 1785, the Moravian “Instructions for the Choir Helpers” contain detailed advice for the spiritual counselors of the men, women, and children in Moravian congregations on how to address concerns about one’s body and soul. In this volume, Katherine Faull presents an annotated, translated edition of the original German manuscript.

In monthly “speakings”—regularly scheduled dialogues between the choir helper and individual church members to determine whether the congregant could be admitted to communion—men and women received spiritual guidance on topics as varied as the physical manifestations of puberty, sexual attraction, frequency of intercourse, infant care, and bereavement. From their founding in 1722, the Moravians were remarkable for their positive evaluation of the body; they held that the natural manifestations of masculinity and femininity were integral elements of spiritual consciousness. The “Instructions for the Choir Helpers”—which were highly confidential at the time and passed on only by permission of the church administration—reflect that philosophy, providing insights into an interpretation of the body as a holistic system that should be cared for as a vessel for the spirit.

A unique resource for scholars of religious history, gender studies, and colonial American church history, Faull’s translation of this fascinating set of documents provides an unprecedented glimpse into a period of foundational change in Moravian history.

Speaking to Body and Soul may be [Faull’s] most important work yet in terms of practical usefulness to clergy and average church members alike, because it shows how each member was spoken to and effectively cared for in the past.”

—Lanie Yaswinski, Moravian Magazine