Reflections on the Legacy of Jan Hus

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He challenged authority. He broke the rules. He spoke up against corruption. And, he paid the price.

Jan Hus could have played it safe, as most priests in his day did. All it would have taken was for him to hold his tongue and turn a blind eye to the wrongs he saw around him. It’s important to note that when he was charged at the Council of Constance, he had the opportunity to recant. If he had done so, he might have escaped death. But he just couldn’t do it. He had to speak up and be defiant – because he believed God was calling him to action. He was burned at the stake for heresy on July 6, 1415.

Our Moravian Church traces its unique history to this outspoken and defiant priest. Our congregations remember his martyrdom still, in liturgy, music, communion, and lovefeasts. But, just what was this heresy that cooked his goose? Many sources will cite specific practices and actions, such as offering both the wine and cup to laity. At the time, only priests partook of the wine. Others will say that he dared conduct mass in the native language of the people instead of Latin. No doubt his assertions that the sale of indulgences was wrong and that the Pope is not the ultimate authority on matters of faith did not go over well in Rome.

What a trouble-maker he was!

I wonder what he would be doing if he were alive today. Perhaps we would see him on TV and Facebook speaking against this injustice or that. Perhaps he would be found to be in defiance of rules and authority.

I know one thing for sure: Nobody would be remembering Jan Hus today if he had been inclined to just go along with the status quo. We remember him specifically because he was a disruptor, non-complicit, defiant, and persistent. And Christian practices changed forever because of it.

Vince Holbrook

About the Author:

Vince Holbrook began as Director of Communication and Marketing in November 2017. He's a career communications professional who teaches public speaking and interpersonal communication at Forsyth Technical Community College and Guilford Technical Community College. He also spent significant time with Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Texas Instruments and Trone Advertising. A graduate of Morehead State University in Morehead, KY, Vince holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism as well as a Master’s degree in Applied Communication from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is a member of First Moravian Church in Greensboro, NC and also attends Come & Worship emerging ministry at the Liberty Arts Coffee Shop in Winston-Salem.
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