With the opening of each New Year many Moravian families begin reading the new edition of the Moravian Daily Texts, or Daily Watchwords as it is familiarly called. The Moravian Church was a pioneer in the publication of a book for use in public and private daily devotions. Even today in many countries in Europe the Daily Watchwords is the only such devotional book available.
This custom can be traced to Herrnhut and to Count Zinzendorf. He usually held the evening devotionals, and during the service on May 3, 1728, he read a “watchword” from Scripture for the people to remember and think about during the following day. As the congregation grew and not all members were able to attend the evening service, someone was appointed to go to each home in the morning and announce the text for the day;— So long as he lived Count Zinzendorf arranged the texts, drawing them from a large collection which he gradually assembled from the Bible. In 1730 he chose in advance the texts for 1731, and they were printed in the first Text Book. This method of advance preparation has been followed ever since, except that after the death of Zinzendorf the texts were arranged by a committee instead of an individual. From the age-old collection of texts certain leading ministers of the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Germany, draw a watchword for each day of the approaching year, prayer being offered that each may be a message from God to His people. An appropriate doctrinal text from the New Testament is then selected to accompany each watchword. These texts are then sent to each province of the Unity and are translated into the language of the people. In many places a few lines from hymns are added to each text to emphasize or explain the thought.
Each province is at liberty to include in its Daily Texts/Watchwords additional material as it considers desirable. The British edition includes two hymn verses and a scripture reading for each day. On Sundays it also includes the appropriate Scripture texts from the ecumenical three-year lectionary – Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel – for each Sunday. Also included is a set of prayers for the days of the week and for the memorial days of the Church. At the back of the British edition is full details of every Moravian congregation in the British Province. Worldwide the Daily Texts is printed in 51 languages and dialects, from Czech to Tibetan, Zulu to Inuktut (Labrador). The number of readers cannot be stated even approximately, but it is widely used by members of other denominations as well as by Moravians. The popularity of this publication continues to grow each year with more and more people across ecumenical lines sharing in the tradition of the Daily Texts. By bringing the Daily Texts into your home or sharing with others, you are carrying on a tradition of prayer and devotional reading that has continued for 278 years.
The Daily Watchwords for the British Province can be purchased at Fulneck or from Moravian Church House (see the Moravian Church website).