ABSTRACT

This article explores the popular spirituality of laymen and laywomen in England’s early Moravian movement. Specifically, the article proposes that British Moravians participated in a deeply “body-centered religion.” Many scholars have portrayed English Moravian piety in far different terms, especially when discussing the “stillness controversy” that fractured the Methodist-Moravian revivalist coalition in 1740. Unlike “noisy” Wesleyans and Whitefieldians, the thinking goes, English Moravians nurtured an interior form of awakened Protestantism that was “quiet,” “still,” “meditative,” “self-abasing,” and “reflective.” By contrast, this article joins the efforts of other emerging scholarship to retrieve the corporeality of Anglo-Moravianism. The author argues that adopting stillness and avoiding the Methodists’ “noise and shew of outward holiness” did not disembody Moravian piety—it necessarily fashioned believers’ bodies into critical sites of Moravian religious formation and subjective spiritual knowledge. The men and women following Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s call to “do nothing but quietly attend the Voice of the Lord” did not suddenly transcend the material world. With stilled flesh and quieted tongues, the physical bodies of Anglo-Brethren recognized, received, and related “a feeling of Grace in my hart.”

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