Material History of American Religion Project

Moravian Sunday School certificates

Attendance card from a Moravian Sunday school Honor role certificate from Moravian Sunday school

The first Sunday schools predate the public school system. Christian groups founded the schools to teach young workers to read; the school was held on their only day off. By the late nineteenth century, however, public schools had taken over the teaching of basic literacy. Moreover, they began to define education in America. Soon Sunday schools began to copy the age-based class structure, work requirements, and rewards of the public school.

These objects came from a Moravian Sunday school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dating from the 1920s. They show how closely the school mimicked the public schools. Note that class members received credit for bringing their offering and Bible, being on time, and preparing their lesson. If they received a top grade, they were added to the honor roll; if they failed to attend, however, the teacher lowered their grade. As the record card shows, regular attendance was very important.

Ron Cram, professor of Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary, lent these certificates from his collection of Sunday school memorabilia.

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