A Hero Comes Home

This month, we have the unique honor of welcoming home a member who has been absent for 64 years.  George LeTell Rights, the son of Rev. & Mrs. Douglas Rights, was an active member of Trinity when he went off to serve in the Army during the Korean War.  In September 1950, he was assigned to the 15th Field Artillery Battalion of the Second Division. In mid-February 1951, near Hoengsong, South Korea, his unit was involved in a battle later called “Massacre Valley.” He was among those taken prisoner and marched into North Korea to a prisoner of war camp, referred to as the Suan Bean Camp. He died there in May 1951, the cause of death being listed as malnutrition.

George’s death was a blow to the Rights family; his brother, the Rt. Rev Graham Rights, says that Trinity members ministered to their pastor during this time, comforting and supporting parents Douglas and Cecil.  The family had come to believe that George’s remains would never be retrieved.  However, on July 8, his family was notified that remains of George had been positively identified via DNA among those turned over to the United States Government by the Government of North Korea in 1992.

A Moravian service will be held in God’s Acre on Sunday, August 9, at 3:00 p.m. in the Cremains Section. The graveside service will feature a memoir written by sister Eleanor Rights Roller.

Winston-Salem Journal article about the funeral

George Rights grew up in the parsonage of Trinity Moravian Church, where his father served as pastor for 37 years; he remained a member there until his death. He loved classical music, listening daily to WQXR in New York. He was the first of the four Rights children to be taught by their father to play a band instrument, learning to play the cornet and participating in the Trinity Church Band and the Easter Band. He was the first of the four to take piano lessons from Helen Savage (later Mrs. Aaron Cornwall, Jr.), beginning as her “practice pupil” during her study at Salem College. He had particular fondness for the music of Frederic Chopin. He enjoyed caring for pet ducks and, during his teen years, was the family wood chopper, producing kindling for the wood stove and fireplaces. He spent several summers working with those who cared for God’s Acre in Salem. George’s favorite pastime was taking long walks really long walks. It wasn’t unusual for him to leave Winston-Salem and walk to High Point, Mocksville, Pilot Mountain, Elkin, or North Wilkesboro.

We celebrate with the Rights family in the recovery of George’s remains and the closure of holding this meaningful service.

– Pastor John

An Easter People

Easter, 2011 – “The Lord is Risen!”


Moravians in particular are known as the “Easter people.” We celebrate the Resurrection in our unique and meaningful gathering at dawn in the sacred silence of God’s Acre, the silence broken by the music of birds and gathering brass.  But if you are feeling more empty than full this year, if you are feeling used up and beaten down, perhaps that is because the resurrection needs to happen in you as well.  Christian Rossetti (1830-1894) writes in her profound poem “A Better Resurrection:”


I have no wit, no words, no tears;

My heart within me like a stone

Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;

Look right, look left, I dwell alone;

I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief

No everlasting hills I see;

My life is in the falling leaf:

O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,

My harvest dwindled to a husk:

Truly my life is void and brief

And tedious in the barren dusk;

My life is like a frozen thing,

No bud nor greenness can I see:

Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;

O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,

A broken bowl that cannot hold

One drop of water for my soul

Or cordial in the searching cold;

Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;

Melt and remould it, till it be

A royal cup for Him, my King:

O Jesus, drink of me.


The resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus at a specific point in history, and that we now remember.  It is something that happens in us now, today, this moment.   How does this resurrected Jesus change your life today?


- Pastor John

Slow – Advent Happening!

The day after Halloween, the Christmas decorations went up in many stores and the Christmas carols started.  Many eye rolls and groans about Thanksgiving being forgotten.  But our commercialized society has lost more than that – the juggernaut that is Christmas marketing has steamrollered over Advent, as well.  Liturgical churches like ours still observe Advent, and we’re going to keep lighting those Advent candles no matter what the marketers outside do!

Advent is not Christmas – it is a four-Sunday time of preparation for Christmas, just as Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  But our culture is not one of preparation, it is one of sales and marketing.  Let’s move those flat-screen TVs and Chinese toys!  We live in a world of instant everything, we want to be able to move right to the punch line, cut to the chase!  But there is great spiritual value in slowing down, in preparing, in getting ready.

In days of yore, a young craftsperson had to be apprenticed to a master for a number of years to learn a trade.  During that time of preparation, the apprentice could make beginner’s mistakes, learn from the experience of the master, and gradually gain expertise – until he or she became a “journeyman” and eventually a new master!  Our fables and stories seem to value this kind of learning, but when we look at the actions of our culture it is denigrated.  We want fast-track success, short-cut learning, speed dating, and instant everything.  We live in a schizophrenic culture that honors Dicken’s Christmas Carol while at the same time iconizing our own cultural Scrooges!

I urge you to set aside the time this year to slow down, to prepare, to observe Advent even if everyone else has fast-forwarded to Christmas.  Seasons are good, honor and grow by celebrating this one!


-              Pastor John

The Science of Happiness

A few weeks ago, we viewed a brief video as part of a sermon called “The Science of Happiness.”  If you missed it, you can view the video HERE.  It showed in practical examples how those who expressed gratitude to others had measurable improvements in their mood and feelings.  The mental “attitude of gratitude” is something that affects those around us – and affects us internally.  It’s not just a psychological fact, it is a spiritual reality.

Scripture is clear on calling us to express our gratitude to God, and to those around us who have positively impacted our lives.  Practicing acts of thanksgiving changes our outlook, makes us more hopeful and optimistic, and gives us the spiritual endurance to get over the inevitable potholes and speed bumps of life.  Of course, the reverse is also true: those who constantly complain, who focus on the rottenness of life and other people, will feel more depressed and have less ability to weather life’s storms.

Some people dismiss this as a “Pollyanna” attitude.  But over my years as a pastor, I’ve seen time and time again people who discovered the gift of gratitude, began to apply it, and had their lives affected for the better.  Every day we have choices; we can choose to be grateful and focus on our blessings, or be resentful and ruminate on the rottenness of life.

The fact that the medical impact of thankfulness can be corroborated scientifically is fascinating.  The scientists have all kinds of explanations for what happens:  our endorphin levels rise, stress hormones subside, and so on.  But I have a more fundamental explanation:  this is how God made us!  He intends us to be grateful, to express our gratitude, and to life psalms and songs of thanksgiving to Him!  When we do that, we are “in tune” with our Creator, consonant with His will, resonating with His purpose.  We feel better because we are better!

This month, as we gather together with neighbors and friends at our neighborhood Thanksgiving Eve Lovefeast, I hope you will take the opportunity to reach out and express your gratitude to someone else – and especially to our Savior!

-          Pastor John

Centennial Celebration!

Well, the date has finally arrived! This month marks the Centennial anniversary of Trinity Moravian Church. Though the construction of the building was begun in late 1911 (that’s why the cornerstone has the earlier date) and the first worship services were held in May, the official Charter was not closed and accepted by the Provincial Elders Conference until July 14, 1912 – that’s when Trinity became an active, full-fledged congregation.

We will hold our great Centennial Celebration on Sunday, July 15th at our 11 am service. The Right Rev. Graham Rights, who grew up in our parsonage during the years his father, the Rev Douglas Rights, was pastor, and the Right Rev. Wayne Burkette will be our special guest speakers. We anticipate many friends and children of the church to be visiting back with us for this wonderful day, which will also feature the first performance of an original anthem composed for the occasion.

While this day marks the “high spot” of our anniversary, we will continue to have special moments of recognition through the rest of the year, including several other guest speakers who have connections to the history of the congregation. We’ll release a special color pictorial directory complete with both historic photos and pictures of our celebration events; we’ll have a special dedication of the brick memorial garden; and there will be several other recognitions of important moments from our history.

I want to extend my personal thanks to the Centennial Committee for their hard work in planning these events, and especially to Joyce Carter and John Foltz for the many hours of extra “behind the scenes” work; to Donna Rothrock for organizing the Centennial Concerts; to Jonathan Sidden for supervising the composition of the commemorative anthem; to Elaine Cockerham and Betty Jo SLuder for their work on the pictorial directory; and to the many other people who put in hours of work in the archives and other places to make this event possible. Finally, I want to extend a special “thank you” to Kim Noftle, our office administrator, through whose capable hands and work many of the ideas of the Committee became reality – either in the form of newsletters, special bulletins, or simply making sure that specially ordered items were here on time! Thanks to all of you!

- Pastor John

Centennial Year

This month marks the start of Trinity’s 100th year of ministry, and we have many exciting events to look forward to as we approach the official anniversary date of July 14. We’ve already begun to enjoy seeing the old photographs, hearing names of forebears, and sharing stories of bygone days. But as we look back on our history and enjoy stories of our heritage, it is very important that we be looking forward as well.

The visionary Moravians who started Trinity saw great opportunity for ministry in the Sunnyside and surrounding neighborhoods. Then, this area was a relatively new suburban area, serviced by the relatively new trolley car system. Many people could afford the new Ford Model T, and these transportation options opened the way for neighborhoods further out from the center of town. Jobs at local mills were expanding. But it was not long before World War I would hit, and not too many years later the Great Depression. Yet in the midst of the Depression, the members of Trinity rallied to build the four-story Christian Education building that serves us so well today.

That building is now full of activity every Wednesday night with our LOGOS program, and recently has been bubbling with nearly 80 grade school children from the neighborhood each Saturday morning who come for structured tutoring and academic assistance. In a time of financial challenge when many traditional churches are stepping back and shrinking, Trinity continues to find new avenues for ministry.

God has placed us here for a purpose; we have a unique message to share and a unique ministry to accomplish today, in 2012 – and forward in future years – among the people of Sunnyside, Waughtown and surrounding communities. Today our society is fabulously mobile, we have members who commute in regularly from every corner of the county, and we are able to stay in touch with young members away at college and friends who live in distant communities through technology. But ultimately, it is the personal contact and relationships that are the building blocks of ministry at Trinity.

Today, tomorrow, next year, God has a mission for us. This year as we look back upon our past, we must at the same time be rooted in the moment, sensitive to the things which are going on around us, the people who we encounter who are in need of the words of grace. We need to be looking forward to the future, planning wisely and seeking God’s guidance for our future ministry here on the corner of Sunnyside and Sprague.

- Pastor John

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