[Transcriber's note: A very few German names appeared in the original with umlauts. These have been transcribed as an "e". A few spelling errors in the original are indicated with a "[sic]". The original uses italics to indicate most of the German and Latin in the text, and all of the authors' names in the bibliography. Italics are transcribed with the underscore character at the beginning and end. Footnotes in the original are transcribed here in a paragraph immediately below the paragraph to which the footnote is connected. The appendix contains a table that is 102 characters wide.]
The Lutherans of New York
Their Story and Their Problems
BY GEORGE U. WENNER, D.D., L.H.D. Pastor of Christ Church
New York THE PETERSFIELD PRESS 819 East Nineteenth Street 1918
Copyright, 1918 By GEORGE U. WENNER
TO THE LUTHERANS OF NEW YORK IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY May you bring forth fruit and may your fruit remain
Contents Apology Introduction Their Story In the Seventeenth Century—1648-1700 In the Eighteenth Century—1701-1750 In the Eighteenth Century—1751-1800 In the Nineteenth Century—1801-1838 In the Nineteenth Century—1839-1865 In the Nineteenth Century—1866-1900 In the Twentieth Century—1900-1918 Their Problems The Problem of Synods The Problem of Language The Problem of Membership The Problem of Religious Education The Problem of Lapsed Lutherans The Problem of Statistics Epilogue Appendix—The Churches; Deaconesses; Former Pastors; Sons of the Churches; Institutions and Societies; Other Associations; Periodicals; Book-stores; Bibliography; Index.
Illustrations Frontispiece [Transcriber's note: a portrait of the author] When New York Was Young A Corner of Broad Street New Amsterdam in 1640 In the Eighteenth Century Trinity Church Henry Melchior Muehlenberg The Old Swamp Church Frederick Muehlenberg John Christopher Kunze Kunze's Gravestone Carl F. E. Stohlmann, D.D. Pastor Wilhelm Heinrich Berkemeier The Wartburg G. F. Krotel, D.D., LL.D. Augustus Charles Wedekind, D.D. Pastor J. H. Sieker Charles E. Weltner, D.D.
Lutherans are not foreigners in New York. Most of us it is true are new comers. But with a single exception, that of the Dutch Reformed Church, Lutherans were the first to plant the standard of the cross on Manhattan Island.
The story of our church runs parallel with that of the city. Our problems are bound up with those of New York. Our neighbors ought to be better acquainted with us. We ought to be better acquainted with them. We have common tasks, and it would be well if we knew more of each other's ways and aims.
New York is a cosmopolitan city. It is the gateway through which the nations are sending their children into the new world.
Lutherans are a cosmopolitan church. Our pastors minister to their flocks in fifteen languages. No church has a greater obligation to "seek the peace of the city" than the Lutherans of New York. No church has a deeper interest in the problems that come to us with the growth and ever changing conditions of the metropolis.
In their earlier history our churches had a checkered career. In recent years they have made remarkable progress. In Greater New York we enroll this year 160 churches. The Metropolitan District numbers 260 congregations holding the Lutheran confession. But the extraordinary conditions of a rapidly expanding metropolis, with its nomadic population, together with our special drawback of congregations divided among various races and languages as well as conflicting schools of theological definition, make our tasks heavy and confront us with problems of grave difficulty.
On the background of a historical sketch a study of some of these problems is attempted by the author. After spending what seemed but a span of years in the pastorate on the East Side, he awoke one day to find that half a century had been charged to his account. While it is a distinction, there is no special merit in being the senior pastor of New York. As Edward Judson once said to him: "All that you have had to do was to outlive your contemporaries."
These fifty years have been eventful ones in the history of our church in New York. All of this period the author "has seen and part of it he was." But having also known, with four exceptions all the Lutheran pastors of the preceding fifty years, he has come into an almost personal touch with the events of a century of Lutheran history on this island. He has breathed its spirit and sympathized with its aspirations.
This unique experience served as a pretext for putting into print some reflections that seemed fitting at a time when our churches were celebrating the quadricentennial of the Reformation and were inquiring as to the place which they might take in the new century upon which they were entering. The manuscript was begun during the celebration, but parochial duties intervened and frequent interruptions delayed the completion of the book.
Lutherans have their place in Church History. Our doctrinal principles differ in certain respects from those of other churches. We believe that these principles are an expression of historical, evangelical Christianity, worthy of being promulgated, not in a spirit of arrogant denominationalism, but in a spirit of toleration and catholicity. Yet few in this city, outside of our own kith and kin, understand the meaning of our system. We have made but little progress in commending it to others or in extending our denominational lines.
We do not even hold the ground that belongs to us. The descendants of the Lutherans of the first two centuries are not enrolled in our church books. Although of late years we have increased a hundredfold (literally a hundredfold within the memory of men still living), we are far from caring effectively for our flocks. The number of lapsed Lutherans is larger than that of the enrolled members of our churches. In the language of our Palatine forefathers: Doh is ebbes letz.
While therefore recent progress affords ground for encouragement, it is not a time for boastfulness. It is rather a time for self-examination, for an inquiry into our preparedness for new tasks and impending opportunities.
We are living in an imperial city. What we plan and what we do here in New York projects itself far beyond the walls of our city. Nowhere are the questions of the community more complicated and the needs of the time more urgent than here. We should therefore ask ourselves whether the disjointed sections of our church, arrayed during the Quadricentennial as one, for the purposes of a spectacular celebration, but each exalting some particularism of secondary value, adequately represent the religious ideas which four centuries ago gave a new impulse to the life of the world. If not, where does the trouble lie? Is it a question of doctrine, of language, of organization or of spirit?
The emphasis we place upon doctrine has given us a reputation for exclusiveness. The author believes that the spirit of Lutheranism is that of catholicity. He holds that, in our relations with the people of this city and with other churches we ought to emphasize the essential and outstanding features of the Lutheran Church rather than the minute distinctions which only the trained dogmatician can comprehend. He is in sympathy with the well known plea of Rupertus Meldenius, an otherwise unknown Lutheran theologian of the seventeenth century (about 1623), to observe "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."
For the sake of non-Lutheran readers it may be well, in a sketch of the story and problems of our churches, to present a short statement of their principles and to indicate in what respect these differ from the general attitude and beliefs of other churches. In doing so however the author does not presume to encroach upon the field belonging to the scholars of the church. He is not an expert theologian. What he has to say upon this subject can only be taken as the opinion of a workaday pastor who, in practical experience, has obtained an acquaintance with the teachings of the church which it is his privilege to serve. For a clearer understanding of disputed points the reader is referred to the books of reference named in the Bibliography.
Many otherwise well-read people, while admitting that Lutherans are Protestants, suspect that their system is still imbued with the leaven of Romanism. In their classification of churches they are disposed to place us among Ritualists, Sacerdotalists and Crypto-Romanists.
We do not expect to reverse at once the preference of most American Protestants in favor of the Reformed system. But since we have had no inconsiderable share in the shaping of modern history, we are confident that our principles will in due time receive the consideration to which any historical development is entitled. We would like to be understood, or at least not to be misunderstood, by our fellow Christians.
But our chief desire is to inspire our own young people with an intelligent devotion to the faith of their fathers and to persuade them of its conformity with historical, believing Christianity.
What is Lutheranism? How does it differ from Catholicism? How does it differ from other forms of Protestantism?
The origin of Lutheranism we are accustomed to assign to the sixteenth century. We associate it with the nailing of the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg, or with Luther's defence at the Diet of Worms, or with the Confession of the Evangelicals at Augsburg in 1530.
These events were indeed dramatic indications of a great change, but they were only the culmination of a process that had been going on for ages. It was a re-formation of the ancient Catholic Church and a return to the original principles of the Gospel.
"The Church had become an enormous labyrinthine structure which included all sorts of heterogeneous matters, the Gospel and holy water, the universal priesthood and the pope on his throne, the Redeemer and Saint Anna, and called it religion. Over against this vast accumulation of the ages, against which many times ineffective protest had been made, the Lutheran Reformation insisted on reducing religion to its simplest terms, faith and the word of God."* *Harnack, Wesen des Christenthums.
The traditional conception of the Church with all its apparatus and claims of authority it repudiated, and in the few and simple statements of the seventh article of the Augustana, it set forth its doctrine of the Church:
"Also they teach, that One holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered. And to the true unity of the Church, it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments."
This was the Lutheran position as against Rome.
But properly to understand our history we must also take account of another movement with which our churches had to contend at the same time that they were making their protest against Rome. This was a more radical form of Protestantism which found its expression among what are known as the Reformed Churches. It had its home in Switzerland, and made its way along the Rhine to Germany, France and Holland. Through John Knox it came to Scotland, and subsequently superseded Lutheranism in Holland and in England. It was from these countries that the earliest colonists came to America, and thus American Christianity early received the impress of the Reformed system. The few and scattered Lutheran churches which were established here in the early history of our country were brought into contact with a form of Protestantism at variance with their own theological principles. The history of our Church in America must be studied with this fact in mind, otherwise many of its developments will not be understood.
It would lead too far to explain the historical and philosophical differences between these two forms of Protestantism. A phrase first used by Julius Stahl aptly describes the difference. The Lutheran Reformation was the "Conservative Reformation." Its general principle was to maintain the historical continuity of the Church, rejecting only that which was contrary to the word of God. The irenic character of the Augsburg Confession was owing to this principle. The Reformed Churches, on the other hand, made a tabula rasa of history, and, ignoring even the legitimate contributions of the Christian centuries, professed to return to apostolical simplicity, and to accept for their church-life only that which was explicitly prescribed by the Holy Scriptures.
Thus the Lutherans retained the churches as they were, with their altars and their pictures, the Liturgy and other products of art and of history, provided they were not contrary to the word of God. The Reformed, on the other hand, would have none of these things because they were not prescribed in the Bible. They worshipped in churches with bare walls, and dispensed with organs and music, in the interest of a return to Scriptural simplicity.
There were other differences, but these indicate the general character of the two movements.
History thus placed our Church between two fires, and the training she received explains in part the polemical character for which she has been distinguished. Sharp theological distinctions had to be made. The emphasis which she was compelled to place upon distinctive doctrine as a bond of fellowship accounts for the maintenance of standards which were not required in the early history of our Church when the seventh article of the Augustana was presented.
Those were famous battles which were fought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in defence of the Lutheran position. Our Church had to contend with two vigorous foes in the statement of her doctrines, Rome and Reform. The antinomian and synergistic controversies, Osiander, Major and Flacius, the Philippists and the Crypto-Calvinists are names that still remind us of the theological carnage of the sixteenth century.
In the seventeenth century came the reign of the dogmaticians. The eighteenth century was the age of Pietism and this was followed by Rationalism. The scope of this Introduction does not require us to explain the significance of these movements. Students of Church History are familiar with them.
The revival of spiritual life at the beginning of the nineteenth century brought with it also a revival of church consciousness and a restoration of the confession of the church. Both in Europe and in America the attempt has been made to secure the unity of the church on the basis of subscription to the various Symbols included in the Book of Concord. These Symbols, besides the Ecumenical Creeds and the Augsburg Confession, are Melanchthon's Apology, that is Defence of the Augsburg Confession, Luther's two Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles and the Formula of Concord. The later Confessions supplement and explain the statements of the Augsburg Confession. As such they are valuable exponents of Lutheran teaching. Many of our churches in Europe as well as in America require of their ministers subscription to these Confessions. At the same time it is also true that many churches, whose Lutheranism cannot be impugned, find in the Augsburg Confession an adequate expression of their doctrinal position.
According to the Confessors of Augsburg: "For the true unity of the church it is sufficient to agree concerning the doctrines of the Gospel."
It would seem, therefore, to be in harmony with the spirit of Lutheranism to make "the confession of the churches" rather than "the Confessions of the Church" the bond of union. Underneath the Confessions there are distinctive principles differentiating us from the sacerdotal churches on the one hand and from the Reformed churches on the other hand.
The soul of the Confessions is the confession, and this soul we may recognize amid all the changes that take place in the course of time and the progress of thought. It reveals itself in innumerable forms, in sermons and in sacred song, and above all in the sanctified lives of those who confess the faith.
In conversation with an eminent teacher in one of our most conservative schools, the author not long ago requested a definition of Lutheranism from the standpoint of the school which the Professor represented. Of course, it was suggested, the acceptance of the Symbolical books must be presumed, sine qua non.
The reply was: "The Symbolical Books are valuable, but their obligatory acceptance is not essential: The same is true even of the Augsburg Confession. Any one who accepts the teachings of Luther's Small Catechism is a Lutheran. The heart of the Lutheran faith may be expressed in the following words: "Man is a sinner who can be saved by grace alone."
In view of this statement it would seem to be a legitimate inference that even in the straitest sect of Lutherans in America the ultimate doctrine of Lutheranism, reduced to a single word, is GRACE.
Churches, however, have their distinguishing marks. In the Lutheran Church these are more difficult to find because of her catholic origin and spirit. While forms and ceremonies are retained, they play only a minor part in the expression of her churchliness. Bishops and presbyters, robes and chasubles, liturgies and orders, "helps, governments and divers kinds of tongues," in the providence of God all of these things have been "set in the church." Lutherans in many lands make use of them. An inexperienced observer, taking note only of crucifixes and candles sometimes fails to distinguish between Lutherans and Catholics. Yet none of these heirlooms of our ancient family belong to the essential marks of the church. Their observance or non-observance has nothing to do with the substance of Lutheranism.
Lutheranism aimed at reformation and not at revolution. Its initial purpose was to bring back the Church to the common faith of Christendom. Hence the Lutheran Confession is in its large outlines that of universal Christendom. Nevertheless, it received a distinctive trend from the problems of soteriology. The ancient Church had developed the doctrines of God and of Christ. A beginning, too, had been made in the doctrines of sin and grace and the way of salvation. But the development had been hindered by hierarchical traditionalism and by the spirit of legalism. These were the obstacles that stood in the way. The cry that went up to God from the hearts of the people in the days of the Reformation was "What must I do to be saved?" This cry found a voice in the experience of Luther himself. This is what drove him into the monastery, and this was the underlying quest of his life as a monk and as a teacher in the university, through monasticism to get to heaven. It was only when he had found Christ, and realized that his sins had been taken away through the atoning work of the Son of God, that he found peace. It is His person and work upon which the doctrine of our Church primarily rests.* *"Luther, when he said that justification by faith was the article of a standing or falling Church, stated the exact truth. He meant to say, in the terms of the New Testament, especially of Paul, that God in Christ is the sole and sufficient Saviour. He affirmed what was in him no abstract doctrine, but the most concrete of all realities, Incarnated in the person and passion of Jesus Christ, drawing from Him its eternal and universal significance."—Fairbairn, "The Place of Christ in Modern Theology," page 159.
In the words of the Small Catechism, Luther still teaches our children this foundation doctrine of our Church:
"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, secured and delivered me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with silver and gold, but with His holy and precious blood, and with His innocent sufferings and death, in order that I might be His, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness."
But while we thus find in the Son of God and in His atoning work the foundation of the faith of our Church, many obstacles had been placed in the way of securing this redemption. Legalistic conditions made it impossible for the sinner to know that his sins had been taken away. It was here that the Lutheran Reformation pointed the way to a return to the simplicity of the Gospel by its Scriptural definition of justification. Sola fide, by faith alone, was the keynote of the Reformation. Be sure that you bring back sola was Luther's admonition to his friends, who went to Augsburg while he himself remained at Coburg.
Thus justification by faith became the material principle of Protestantism and a second foundation stone of Lutheranism. It is true that Calvin and the Reformed churches also accepted this principle, but they did not begin with it. Their system was based on the idea of the absoluteness of God. The Lutheran system emphasizes the love of God to all men; the Reformed system emphasizes predestination; which, by selecting some, excludes the others. As the theologians describe it, Lutheranism is Christocentric, Reform is theocentric.* *Calvin, like Luther, read theology through Augustine and without his ecclesiology, but from an altogether opposite point of view. Luther started with the anthropology and advanced from below upwards; Calvin started with the theology and moved from above downwards. Hence his determinative idea was not justification by faith, but God and His sovereignty, or the sole and all-efficiency of His gracious will.-Ibid., page 162.
A third principle relates to the means of grace. Here we have less difficulty in discerning the line of cleavage which separates us from Rome on the one hand and from the rest of Protestantism on the other hand.
The Lutheran Confession regards the word of God as the means of grace. The Sacraments also are means of grace, not ex opere operato, but because of the word. They are the visible word, or the individualized Gospel. Hence, it is correct to say that the word, in the Lutheran system, is the means of grace. This is doubtless news to many of our brethren of other faiths, who think of us only as extreme sacramentarians, and have looked upon us for centuries as Crypto-Romanists. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was only by an accident that the emphasis of polemical discussion in the sixteenth century was laid upon the sacramental question, where it never belonged.
In her doctrine of the means of grace, the Lutheran Church differs toto coelo from Rome. It is not the Church which, through its authority and its institutions, makes the means of grace effective; but it is through the means of grace that the Church is created and made both a product and an instrument of the Holy Ghost.
On this doctrine our church differs not only in theory but also in practice from many of our Protestant brethren. In some of their original confessional statements the Reformed churches declared that the Spirit of God required no means of grace, since He worked immediately and directly. They claimed that the corporeal could not carry the spiritual, and that the finite could not be made the bearer of the infinite. Over against these hyperspiritual views our Church believes that through the word and the sacraments the Holy Ghost effectively offers to the sinner the gifts of salvation.
There are other marks of our Church, but these are its main characteristics, and they suffice to indicate our general position in relation to Christian thought.
If, now, we should be called upon to define in a single sentence the distinctive features of Lutheranism, it might be done in these words of an unknown writer:
"Lutheranism is that form of Protestant Christianity which makes Christ the only foundation, faith the only condition, and the word of God the only means of salvation."
In the Seventeenth Century 1648-1700
Under the administration of the Dutch West India Company the Reformed Church was established in New Amsterdam in 1628. The policy of the Company was to maintain the Reformed religion to the exclusion of all other churches. But the cosmopolitan character of the future metropolis was evident even in its earliest history. In 1643 the Jesuit missionary Jogues reports that besides the Calvinists, Lutherans and Anabaptists were to be found in the colony. In 1644 eighteen languages were spoken by its inhabitants.
In 1648 the Lutheran community in the New Netherlands appealed to the Consistory of Amsterdam for a minister, but nothing was done for them. In 1653 the request was renewed. When the Reformed ministers heard of it, they strenuously objected to the admission of a Lutheran minister; they said this would open the door for all manner of sects and would disturb the province in the enjoyment of its religion. Their attitude was supported by Governor Stuyvesant, who indeed went to great lengths in the enforcement of these views? [sic] Even the reading services, which the Lutherans held among themselves in anticipation of the coming of a minister, were forbidden, and fines and imprisonment were inflicted upon those who disobeyed.
Candor compels us to admit that this was the spirit of the age. The Thirty Years' War was going on at this time, and in a time of war ruthless methods are the vogue.
In 1657, to the joy of the Lutherans and the consternation of the Reformed, Joannes Ernestus Gutwasser (or Goetwater, as his name is often printed) arrived from Amsterdam to minister to the waiting congregation. But Governor Stuyvesant had no use for a Lutheran minister and Gutwasser was ordered to return forthwith to the place from which he had come. However, he succeeded in delaying his departure for nearly two years.
The congregation, unmindful of Stuyvesant's fulminations against all who taught contrary to the Acts of the Synod of Dort, secured as their minister in 1662 a student by the name of Abelius Zetskoorn, whom the authorities soon transported to a charge on the Delaware, without the violence, however, shown in the case of Gutwasser.
In 1664 the island was captured by the English and the Lutherans succeeded in obtaining a charter with permission to call a minister and conduct services in accordance with the teachings of the Augsburg Confession. But prior to 1664 or even 1648 there were individual Lutherans here, "their charter of salvation one Lord, one faith, one birth." In spite of persecution, even to imprisonment, they sang "The Lord's song in a strange land," and in simplicity of faith sowed the seed from which future harvests were to spring.
The little trading station at the mouth of the North River now numbered about 1,500 people. The church of "The Augustane Confession" was still without a pastor. For a generation they had striven under great difficulties to maintain their Lutheran faith. They were plain, simple people, but they had refused to be cajoled or driven to a denial of their convictions. Over against Stuyvesant, the most dominant personality of the new world, they waited patiently for the time when they might have their own pastor and might worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
At last, in 1669, they obtained a minister in the person of Magister Jacobus Fabritius who served the congregation in New York and also one in Albany. The new pastor sorely tried the patience of a longsuffering people. In church he manifested a dictatorial and irascible temper. At home he was constantly quarreling with his wife. These eccentricities interfered somewhat with his usefulness as a pastor. With increasing difficulty he administered his office until 1671 when he accepted a call to congregations on the Delaware. Here he seems to have repented of his ways, for he left an honorable record as a devoted pastor, and the historian is glad to forget the infelicities of his career on the North River.
His successor was Bernhardus Arensius, who came with a letter of recommendation from the Consistory of Amsterdam. He is described as "a gentle personage and of a very agreeable behavior."
Those were troublous times in which he conducted his ministry. The war between the Dutch and the English caused a repeated change of government, but for twenty years he quietly and successfully carried on his pastoral work in New York and in Albany. He died in 1691 and the Lutheran flock was again without a shepherd. For the rest of the century appeals to Amsterdam for a pastor were all in vain.
In the Eighteenth Century 1701-1750
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the population of Manhattan Island had increased to 5,000 souls, chiefly Dutch and English. These figures include about 800 negro slaves. The slave trade and piracy were at this time perfectly legitimate lines of business.
For ten years the Lutherans had been without a minister. In 1701 they invited Andrew Rudmann to become their pastor. He had been sent by the Archbishop of Upsala as a missionary to the Swedish settlements on the Delaware. Rudmann accepted the call, but after a severe illness, as the climate did not agree with him, he returned to Pennsylvania, where in 1703 he ordained Justus Falckner to be his successor in New York.
Falckner was a graduate of Halle. It was a kind Providence that made him pastor of the Lutherans in New York at this time. Events had happened and were still happening in Europe that were destined to make history in America.
Germany, paralyzed by the results of the Thirty Years' War, and hopelessly divided into a multitude of political fragments, had become the helpless prey of the spoiler. The valley of the Rhine was ravaged from Heidelberg to the Black Forest. To this day, after more than two centuries, the ruins may still be traced. Upon the accession of the Catholic House of Neuburg to the throne of the Palatinate the Protestants were subjected to intolerable persecution. Their churches and schools were taken from them. Frequent raids were made upon the helpless border lands by the armies of Louis the Fourteenth. In a time of peace the Lutheran house of worship in Strassburg was wrested from its owners and transformed into a Catholic cathedral.
This devastation of the Rhine Valley caused an extensive emigration by way of London to New York. In the winter of 1708 Pastor Kocherthal arrived with the first company of Palatine exiles. In succeeding years many others followed, most of them settling on the upper Hudson and in the Mohawk Valley, but some of them remaining in New York.
The inhuman treatment which they received during the voyage, followed by hunger and disease, decimated their ranks. Of the 3,086 persons who set sail from London only 2,227 reached New York. Here they were not permitted to land, but were detained in tents on Governor's Island, where 250 more died soon after their arrival.
One of the men thus detained was destined to take a prominent place in the subsequent history of his countrymen, Johann Conrad Weiser. His descendants down to our own day have been filling high places in the history of their country as ministers, teachers, soldiers and statesmen. His great-grandson was the Speaker of the first House of Representatives of the United States. Another great-grandson, General Peter Muehlenberg, was for a time an assistant minister in Zion Church at New Germantown, N. J. He accepted a call to Woodstock, Virginia, where at the outbreak of the Revolution he startled his congregation one Sunday by declaring that the time to preach was past and the time to fight had come. Throwing off his ministerial robe and standing before them in the uniform of an American officer, he appealed to them to follow him in the defence of the liberties of his country. He became a distinguished officer in the army and subsequently rendered good service in the civil administration of the new republic.
A later descendant was Dr. William A. Muhlenberg, born in Philadelphia, September 16th, 1796, the venerated founder of St. Luke's Hospital in this city.* *Dr. Muhlenberg was the rector of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. He was one of the best beloved ministers in New York. He died in 1877. I visited him during his last illness in St. Luke's Hospital. As I took my leave he threw his arms about me and assured me that he had always been a Lutheran. He evidently conceived of Lutheranism in broader terms than merely denominational distinctions.
Among the Palatine immigrants stranded on Governor's Island, unable to follow their sturdier companions to the upper part of the Hudson Valley, were widows, elderly men and 80 orphans. One of these orphans was Peter Zenger, who was apprenticed to William Bradford, at that time the only printer in the colony. When he grew up, he became the editor of The Weekly Journal, which made its first appearance on November 5th, 1733. Washington at this time was not yet two years old. Zenger was one of the earliest champions of American liberty. His arrest and imprisonment, his heroic defence and final acquittal, are among the milestones of American history and are a contribution to the story of New York of which Americans of German descent may well be proud.
It was a large parish to which Falckner ministered. There were no Home Mission Boards in those days. The New York pastor had therefore to care for many outlying stations. His diocese included Hackensack, Raritan, Ramapo and Constable Hook in the south, and Albany, Loonenburg and West Camp in the north. After the death of Kocherthal he visited regularly, not only the Dutch congregations of Claverack, Coxackie and Kinderhook, but also such German settlements as East Camp, Rhinebeck, and Schoharie.
New York itself was not neglected during these missionary journeys. Readers (Vorleezers) conducted the service while he was away. Such notices as "There will be no church today, the minister is out of town," did not appear on his bulletin board.
The care of a parish 150 miles in length left but little time for literary work, but in order that his people might be informed on the subject of their church's faith as distinguished from that of their Calvinistic neighbors, he wrote a book on the essential doctrines of the Lutheran confession. It was published by William Bradford, New York, 1708.
He also wrote a hymn: "Auf, ihr Christen, Christi Glieder," which after two centuries holds a place in German hymnals, and the translation is to be found in some of the best collections of the English language. To this day, therefore, the churches of London and Berlin alike respond to Falckner's rallying call: "Rise, ye children of salvation."
He must have been a pious man and a winning personality. The entries in the book recording baptisms and other ministerial acts abound in accompanying prayers for the spiritual welfare of those to whom he had ministered.
For twenty years he served the churches of New York and the Hudson Valley. When and where he died we know not. Early in 1723 he was in New York and in Hackensack. In September of the same year there is a record of a baptism at Phillipsburg (near Yonkers). And then no more. "He was not, for God took him."
Falckner's successor, Berkenmeyer, a native of Lueneburg, arrived in 1725. He brought with him books for a church library and also funds for a new building, contributed by friends in Germany, Denmark, and London. The "old cattle shed" on the southwest corner of Broadway and Rector Street was torn down and a stone building erected which was dedicated in 1729 and named Trinity church.
The parish which Berkenmeyer inherited from Falckner, extending from New York to Albany, and including many Dutch and German settlements on both sides of the river, proved to be a larger field than he could cultivate. He therefore sent to Germany for another minister, and resigning at New York, took charge of the northern and more promising part of the field, making his home at Loonenburg (Athens), on the Hudson. For nineteen years he labored in this field. He died in 1751.
Berkenmeyer was a scholarly man, a faithful minister, and an impressive personality. He belonged to a different school from that of his great contemporary, Muehlenberg, and the rest of the Halle missionaries, and his correspondence with them frequently savored of theological controversy.
His successor in New York was Knoll, a native of Holstein, who spent eighteen years of faithful work in Trinity church under trying circumstances. He had to preach in Dutch to a congregation that had become prevailingly German. There was a growing dissatisfaction among the people. During the first half of the century Dutch influence gradually declined and German grew stronger. The ministers were all of them German, although they preached chiefly in Dutch, with occasional ministrations in German. At last the Germans, feeling the need of ampler service in their own language, took advantage in 1750 of the presence of a peripatetic preacher and instituted the first "split" in the Lutheran church of this city by organizing Christ Church. Knoll resigned soon after and removed to Loonenburg, where he again became the successor of Berkenmeyer.
In the Eighteenth Century 1751-1800
The resignation of Knoll and the difficulties of the mother congregation were the occasion of calling to New York the most distinguished minister the American Church has ever had.
Henry Melchior Muehlenberg came to America from Halle in 1742 to minister to the congregations in and near Philadelphia. The disordered condition of the American churches opened a wide field for his administrative ability, and for the rest of his life, in addition to his pastoral activity, he accomplished a great task in the planting and organization of churches. He is rightly called the Patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America.
In response to an urgent appeal, Muehlenberg came over from Pennsylvania in 1751 and assumed the pastorate of Trinity church. Although he spent but a short time in 1751 and again in 1752 on the ground, he was for two years pastor of the mother church. His was a fruitful ministry. He succeeded to a considerable extent in reconciling the warring elements in the congregation, not only by his gifts as a preacher and spiritual leader, but also by his ability to preach in Dutch and in English as well as in German.
The Episcopalians, who worshipped in the Trinity Church on the opposite corner, complained of the stentorian tones in which he delivered his sermons.
Upon Muehlenberg's recommendation, Mr. Weygand of Raritan, was chosen pastor of Trinity Church in 1753. In the furtherance of his ministry, Weygand performed some literary work. He prepared an English translation of the Augsburg Confession, which was printed as a supplement to a quarto volume of 414 pages published by one of the elders of his church, entitled "The Articles of Faith of the Holy Evangelical Church According to the Word of God and the Augsburg Confession. A Translation from the Danish. New York, MDCCLIV."
The congregation continued to be Dutch, although Weygand preached also in German and in English as occasion required. For the use of his English congregations he published in 1756 a translation of German hymns that had appeared in England under the title, "Psalmodia Germanica."
From 1750 to the time of the American Revolution we had two Lutheran churches in New York, the German Christ church, popularly known as "The Old Swamp Church," on Frankfort Street, and the Dutch Trinity church on Broadway and Rector Street.
In the Swamp church the first preacher, Ries, remained for a year. He was followed in quick succession by Rapp, Wiessner, Schaeffer, Kurz, Bager and Gerock. Only the last named served long enough to identify himself with local history. He was followed by Frederick Muehlenberg, a son of Henry Melchior, an ardent patriot, who had expressed himself so freely in regard to English rule that when the British army marched into New York in 1776 he found it expedient to retire as quickly as possible to Pennsylvania. Here he labored in several congregations; as supply or as pastor, until 1779, when the exigencies of the times compelled him to take an active part in the political affairs of the country.
The partial reconciliation that had been brought about by Muehlenberg between the Dutch and the German congregations was occasionally disturbed by a pamphletary warfare conducted by their respective pastors, Weygand and Gerock.
Weygand died in 1770. He was succeeded by Hausihl (or Houseal, as he spelled his name in later years), a native of Heilbronn, who had served congregations in Maryland and in eastern Pennsylvania. Tradition reports that he was a brilliant preacher of distinguished appearance and of courtly manners. He succeeded in maintaining a large congregation.
But a serious change was going on in the church in the matter of language. In spite of the secession in 1750 other Germans kept coming into the Broadway church to such an extent that they outnumbered the Dutch eight to one, and finally the use of the Dutch language in the Lutheran Church of New York came to an end. Houseal had the distinction of conducting the obsequies at the preparatory service on Saturday, November 30, 1771, and at the administration of the Lord's Supper on the following day.
But the death of the Dutch language by no means put an end to the language difficulties of our Lutheran ancestors. In the midst of the original contestants a new set of combatants had sprung up in the persons of the children of both parties. These spoke neither Dutch nor German. They understood English only and demanded larger consideration of their needs.
Events, however, were impending which soon gave the people something else to think about and caused a postponement of actual hostilities for another generation.
The church on Broadway was destroyed by fire in 1776, and was never rebuilt. The congregation worshipped for a time in the Scotch Presbyterian Church on Cedar Street.
The American Revolution broke out. On political questions our ancestors differed almost as widely as do their successors on synodical questions. Some of them were for George the Third, others were for George Washington. In this respect, however, they were not unlike other inhabitants of New York.
Frederick Muehlenberg, the pastor of the Swamp Church, was an ardent patriot. At the beginning of the war, as we have seen, he fled to Pennsylvania.
During the war the services were conducted by the chaplains of the Hessian troops. The Hessians were good church-goers and also generous contributors, so that the financial condition of the congregation at this time was greatly improved.
Houseal, the pastor of Trinity Church, was a tory, and when in 1783 the American troops marched into New York, he with a goodly number of his adherents removed to Nova Scotia and founded a Lutheran church in Halifax.
Both churches were now without pastors. Tribulation must have softened the spirits of the two contending congregations, for when Dr. Johann Christoph Kunze came to this city from Philadelphia in 1784, he became pastor of the reunited congregations, worshipping in the Swamp Church.
Before closing this chapter and taking up the account of Kunze's pastorate, let us follow the steps of Frederick Muehlenberg, the former pastor of the Swamp Church. We recall his unceremonious flight from New York. We cannot blame him. The British had threatened to hang him if they caught him.
We remember too that in Pennsylvania he was called upon to take an active part in political affairs. He was a member of the Continental Congress, also a member of the legislature of Pennsylvania and Speaker of the Assembly. He was President of the Convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States.
Thirteen years have passed since he left New York. It is A. D. 1789. New York was just beginning to recover from the disastrous years of the Revolution during which the British troops occupied the city. The population had sunk from 20,000 to 10,000 in 1783, but by this time had risen again to 30,000. The people were getting ready to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the city, the inauguration of the first President of the American Republic. Preparations were made to honor the occasion with all possible ceremony. Great men had gathered from all parts of the country. But to the older members of the Swamp Church there was doubtless no one, not even Washington himself, who stood higher in their esteem and affection than the representative from Pennsylvania, the Reverend Frederick Muehlenberg. And when a few days later the erstwhile German pastor of the Swamp Church was elected Speaker of the first House of Representatives of the United States of America, none knew better than they that it was only a fitting tribute to the character and abilities of their former pastor.
Kunze's is one of the great names on the roll of our ministers. He was a scholar, a teacher, a writer, and an administrator of distinction. Trained in the best schools of Germany, when he arrived in America in 1770, he at once took high rank among his colleagues in Philadelphia. Besides his work as a minister he filled the chair of Oriental and German languages in the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1784 he accepted a call to New York. He did this partly in the hope of establishing a Lutheran professorship in Columbia College. He accepted a call to the chair of Oriental languages in Columbia. He was also a regent of the university.
Kunze was not only an able man, he was also a man of deep piety, a qualification not altogether undesirable in a shepherd of souls. His writings indicate that in his preaching and catechization he strove not to beat the air but to win souls to a personal experience of salvation.
While it is doubtful whether he would find admission to some of the most orthodox synods of our own day; he was comparatively free from the latitudinarian tendencies which had been brought over from Germany during the last quarter of the century.
Along with General Steuben and other influential citizens he founded, the German Society, an association which is still an important agency in the charitable work of this city.
He was instrumental in 1785 in reorganizing the New York Ministerium. This work was begun in 1775 by Frederick Muehlenberg, but had been given up for a while, probably on account of the war.
As a writer he is credited in Dr. Morris' Bibliotheca Lutherana with eight books of which he was the author or editor, from Hymns and Poems to A History of the Lutheran Church and A New Method of Calculating the Great Eclipse of 1806.
These and many other things must be set to his credit. For what he accomplished he deserves a large place in the history of our Church in this city. But with all his gifts he was unable to cope with the chief problem which confronted our Church at the close of the eighteenth century, that of the English language.
There had been a demand for English services ever since the middle of the century. The descendants of the Dutch families had all become English. The need of English had been met in part by the elder Muehlenberg and his successors, Weygand and Hauseal, in Trinity Church, doubtless also by Frederick Muehlenberg in the Swamp Church.
After the, Revolution (1784) the United Congregations certainly made some provision for English although it was inadequate. In 1794 the younger people petitioned for occasional services in a language which they could understand. Dr. Kunze himself made some attempts to handle the English, but his faulty pronunciation so amused the young people that he gave it up. He appointed a young man by the name of Strebeck to assist him in ministering to the English members of the congregation. Strebeck at this time was a Methodist, although he had been confirmed in a Lutheran Church in Baltimore. Under Kunze's influence he again joined the Lutherans.
"A Hymn and Prayer Book for the use of such Lutheran Churches as use the English language," published by Kunze in 1795, and another by Streback [sic] in 1797, show that serious efforts were made to meet the wants of the English-speaking members.
Finally, on June 25th, 1797, a separate congregation was organized entitled The English Lutheran Church in the City of New York. (This was the corporate name, although it was subsequently known as Zion Church.) Strebeck was chosen pastor. Land was rented on Pearl Street opposite City Hall Place and a frame church was built.
The incorporation of the church was reported to the Ministerium which met at Rhinebeck. The following reply was given under date of September 1st, 1797:
"Upon reading a letter from New York signed by Henry Heiser, Lucas Van Buskirk and L. Hartman, representing that they have erected an English Lutheran Church, on account of the inability of their children to understand the German language:
RESOLVED, That it is never the practice in an Evangelical Consistory to sanction any kind of schism; that if the persons who signed the letter wish to continue their children in the Lutheran Church connection in New York, they earnestly recommend them the use of the German School, and in case there is no probability of any success in this particular, they herewith declare that they do not look upon persons who are not yet communicants of a Lutheran Church as apostates in case they join an English Episcopal Church.
RESOLVED, 2d, That on account of an intimate connection subsisting between the English Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church and the identity of their doctrine and near alliance of their Church discipline, this Consistory will never acknowledge a new erected Lutheran Church merely English, in places where the members may partake of the Services of the said Episcopal Church."
From the viewpoint of the ministers in 1797, Lutheranism seems to have been a matter of language rather than of religion. It was something to be retained among German-speaking people, but could not be effectively transmitted except through the medium of the German language.
We have come to the last decade of the 18th century. In the political world great men were finding themselves and mighty principles were finding expression in the organization of what was destined to become one of the great states of the world. Some of our own men were taking a large part in the making of American history. In the church they were content with a more restricted outlook. Our people, it is true, were of humble origin, yet some of them had attained wealth and social standing. The Van Buskirks, the Grims, the Beekmans, the Wilmerdings and the Lorillards were men of affairs and influence in the growing town of 30,000 that had begun to extend northward as far as Canal Street and even beyond. But we look in vain for any positive contribution to the life of the embryo metropolis of the world.
Our church had lost its roots. The Rhinebeck Resolution indicates the feeble appreciation of the distinctive confession to which she owed her existence. The English hymn books and liturgies of this period are equally destitute of any positive confessional character.
But after all, the church in New York only reflected in a small way the conditions that existed on the other side of the Atlantic. In the Fatherland the national life had been declining ever since the Thirty Years' War. In 1806 Germany reached the nadir of her political life at the battle of Jena. In the church this was the period of her Babylonian Captivity. Alien currents of philosophical and theological thought had devitalized the teaching of the Gospel. The old hymns had been replaced by pious reflections on subjects of religion and morality. The Lutheran Liturgy had disappeared leaf by leaf until little but the cover remained. With such conditions in the homeland what could be expected of an isolated church on Manhattan Island? Take it all in all, it is not surprising that only two congregations survived. It is a wonder that there were two.
In "Old New York" Dr. Francis presents a vivid picture of the social and religious life of this period and from it we learn that the Lutherans were not the only ones whose religion sat rather lightly upon them. French infidelity had taken deep root in the community and Paine's Age of Reason found enthusiastic admirers.
Fifty years ago I was browsing one afternoon over the books in the library of Union Theological Seminary, at that time located in University Place. I was all alone until Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox, the father of Bishop Arthur Cleveland Coxe, came in. He was then in his eighties, but vigorous in mind and body. We easily became acquainted and I was an eager listener to the story of his early ministry in New York, which fell about the time of which we are speaking. From him I got a picture of life in New York closely corresponding with that which is given in Dr. Francis' interesting story. There were leaders of the church in those days who were not free from the vice of drunkenness. Evangelical religion in all denominations had a severe conflict in doctrine and in morals with the ultra liberal tendencies of the time.
A marked defect of our church life was the inadequate supply of men for the ministry. For 140 years New York Lutherans had been dependent upon Europe for their pastors. For 60 years more this dependence was destined to continue.
Kunze had long been desirous of providing facilities for theological education in this country. Under the bequest of John Christopher Hartwig, he organized in 1797 a Theological Seminary. The theological department was conducted in New York by himself, the collegiate department in Albany and the preparatory department in Otsego County.
One of his students was Strebeck. Another, Van Buskirk, a promising young man, died before he could enter the work. The Mayer brothers, natives of New York, became eminent pastors of English Lutheran churches, Philip in Albany and Frederick in Philadelphia. It was a trying time in which Kunze lived, but he planted seed which still bears fruit.
One event of the eighteenth century seems worthy of spcial [sic] mention, even when seen through the vista of a hundred and fifty years, although at the time it may have attracted little attention. Because of the side light which it throws upon history we permit it to interrupt for a moment the course of our story.
It harks back to the refugees from the Palatinate who emigrated to the west coast of Ireland at the same time that their fellow countrymen under Kocherthal came to New York. Their principal settlements were at Court-Matrix, Ballingran and other places in County Limerick near the banks of the river Shannon. As they had no minister and understood little or no English, in the course of forty years they lost whatever religion they had brought with them from Germany. It came to pass that John Wesley visited these villages. He found the people "eminent for drunkenness, cursing, swearing, and an utter neglect of religion." (Wesley's Journal, II, p. 429.)
Wesley's sermons reminded them of the sermons they used to hear in their far-off German home, and a remarkable revival occurred among them. Subsequently numbers of them followed their countrymen of the preceding generation to New York and some of them joined the Lutheran Church. Among the names to be found on the records of our church are those of Barbara Heck and Philip Embury.
Now some of our ministers, as far back as Falckner in the beginning of the century, belonged to the Halle or Francke school of Lutheranism, and the spirit of our church life at this time, as may be seen from the letters of Muehlenberg in the "Hallesche Nachrichten," was not alien to that which the Palatines had imbibed from John Wesley, himself a product of the Pietistic movement of which Halle was the fountain head. One would suppose that these Palatine immigrants from the west of Ireland might have found a congenial home in the Lutheran Church and contributed to the spiritual life of the congregation. But for some reason they did not. They withdrew from us and helped to organize in 1766 the first Methodist Society in America.
The Methodists of America number seven million communicants. Barbara Heck, Philip Embury and other Palatine immigrants were our contribution to their incipient church life in America.
In the Nineteenth Century 1801-1838
The history of our churches in the nineteenth century may be divided into three periods. The first extends from 1801 to 1838.
At the beginning of the century there were two congregations, the German-English Church on Frankfort Street and the English (Zion) on Pearl Street.
In 1802 two hundred members of the German church who had not united with Zion in 1797 asked for a separate English church. The request was declined, but regular services in English were held in the afternoon with promises of a new church as soon as possible.
In 1804 Strebeck, the pastor of Zion, joined the Episcopalians and subsequently became rector of St. Stephen's Church. Here he was followed in the course of years by a constant procession of his former parishioners. It will be recalled that Zion had not been received into connection with the Ministerium.
In 1805 Ralph Williston was chosen pastor. In 1810 he also became an Episcopalian. Not long after, the entire congregation followed him into the Episcopal fold. The resolution effecting the change read as follows:
"Whereas, many difficulties attend the upholding of the Lutheran religion among us, and whereas, that inasmuch as the doctrine and government of the Episcopal Church is so nearly allied to the Lutheran, and also on account of the present embarrassment of the finances of this church, therefore
"RESOLVED, That the English Lutheran Church with its present form of worship and government be dissolved after Tuesday, the 13th day of March next, and that this Church do from that day forward become a parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the present board of officers of this church take every measure to carry this resolve into effect."* *On West Fifty-seventh Street, a few steps from Carnegie Hall, the visitor interested fn Lutheran antiquities may find the stately Episcopal Church of Zion and St. Timothy. It has a membership of 1,300. Its communion vessels still bear the inscription: ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH.
Kunze died in 1807. His successor, Frederick William Geissenhainer of New Hanover, Pa., took charge in 1808 and remained till 1814 when the state of his health compelled him to return to Pennsylvania.
He was succeeded by Frederick Christian Schaeffer of Harrisburg, a gifted man who preached equally well in German and in English. On the tercentenary of the Reformation in 1817 he preached a Reformation sermon in St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Broadway, which attracted widespread attention. A copy is preserved in the New York Public Library.
After twenty years the promise of a separate English church was fulfilled, when in 1822 a large and beautiful structure was erected in Walker Street, just east of Broadway, and placed at the disposal of the English portion of the congregation. It was called St. Matthew's Church. Schaeffer was assigned to the pastorate and Geissenhainer was recalled from Pennsylvania to take charge of the German part of the congregation. New trouble soon developed. The English congregation demanded representation in the Church Council. This the mother church declined to concede, although it is claimed they had agreed to do so when the English congregation was formed. The new congregation was unable to maintain itself, and in 1826 the church was sold for a debt of $14,000, and Pastor Schaeffer resigned. The Walker Street building was bought by Daniel Birdsall who resold it to the mother church. The legal questions at issue in the transaction were taken into court and decided in favor of the mother church.
A son of the pastor, Frederick William Geissenhainer, Jr., was called from Pennsylvania to minister in St. Matthew's Church in English, so long as this could be done without detriment to the German congregation. This continued for three years, by which time a deficit of $5,000 had accumulated.
In the meantime the congregation of Frankfort Street had grown to such an extent that it decided to sell the Old Swamp Church, and move into the spacious building on Walker Street, where it also acquired the name of the English congregation and was thereafter known as St. Matthew's Church. The younger Geissenhainer continued to hold English services in the afternoon until 1840. The senior Geissenhainer served the German part of the congregation until his death in 1838.
After Pastor Schaeffer resigned in 1826 he collected the salvage of the English enterprises and organized a new English church, St. James, which he served until his death in 1831.
Among the major happenings in this period were the Burr-Hamilton duel, the launching of Fulton's steamboat, the introduction of Croton water, the opening of the Erie Canal, the writings of Washington Irving, and the organization of the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society.
Such things as social service, church extension or confessional questions had not yet begun to disturb the churches. Our people had all the time they wanted therefore for controversy on the undying question of the relative importance of the English and German languages. This, as we have seen, led to a lawsuit, the sale of a church and the permanent rupture of a historic congregation. We lost one English congregation, Zion, disbanded another, St. Matthew's, and sent away enough English members besides to constitute St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on Chrystie Street.
Such, in brief, is the story of the Lutherans of New York during the first third of the nineteenth century. In the Fatherland great events were taking place and history was making rapid strides. The war of liberation was decided by the battle of Leipzig and the defeat of Napoleon. But the hopes for social and political improvement were disappointed by reactionary movements and economic distress. A new emigration to "the land of unbounded possibilities" began. In 1821-22 it amounted to 531, in 1834-35 it was 25,997. Among the immigrants were many who in various capacities became empire builders in America. But in all that related to the Lutheran church New York at this time took a subordinate place. Philadelphia was the first city of the land. The construction of railroads and the opening of the Erie Canal carried the active and ambitious men far into the interior. The church life of New York still flowed in sluggish currents. After 190 years, from 1648, when the first appeal for a minister was sent to Amsterdam, to 1838, our enrollment consisted of two congregations, the German-English church of St. Matthew, and the English church of St. James.
In the Nineteenth Century 1839-1865
Immigration began to assume large proportions. It did not reach its climax until the following period, but it was sufficiently large to awaken attention. In 1839 21,028 immigrants arrived here from Germany; in 1865, at the close of the Civil War, 83,424. Most of these were bound for the interior, but many who had only stopped to rest a while in New York decided to make this their home.
The East Side became a little Germany and even on the West Side Germans began to appear in increasing numbers.
At the beginning of this period an event occurred, unnoticed at the time, which proved to be the beginning of a great movement, "a cloud out of the sea, as small as a man's hand." In 1839 a thousand exiles arrived from Germany under the leadership of Pastor Grabau. Most of them went to the interior, some to Buffalo, others, the wealthier members, to the neighborhood of Milwaukee. Ten or a dozen families remained in New York with a pastor named Maximilian Oertel. Their services were held in a hall at the corner of Houston Street and Avenue A. Doubtless none of their contemporaries ever dreamed that this insignificant congregation was related to one of the larger movements of church history.
Connecting links were two men whose names I have never seen associated with the story of the Lutherans of New York. One of them was Dr. Benjamin Kurtz of Hagerstown, the other was Frederick William III, King of Prussia. The king had imposed the Union upon the churches of Prussia and imprisoned the pastors who refused to conform. This was the king's part in the movement. Dr. Kurtz had visited Berlin in 1826 in the interest of his educational schemes and in one of his addresses he implanted the microbe of America in the mind of a man who subsequently became a leader of one band of these pilgrims to the promised land. This was Dr. Kurtz's share in the work. Both Kurtz and the king were unconscious instruments in the hands of Providence.
Dr. Kurtz was for a large part of the nineteenth century a distinguished leader in the General Synod. He contributed to the establishment of the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and he was the founder of the Missionary Institute, now the Susquehanna University, at Selinsgrove. He died in 1865. His grave is in the campus of the University of which he was the founder.
But who were these immigrants and how did they come to be exiles? This is another story; but it has to be told, because in the providence of God it is connected with the history of the Lutherans in New York.
In the early years of the nineteenth century there occurred a remarkable religious awakening in Germany. This awakening had much to do with a revival of Lutheranism. It had been greatly strengthened at least by the publication of the Ninety-five Theses of Claus Harms in 1817, on the occasion of the tercentenary of the Reformation, and it in turn stimulated the Lutheran consciousness of multitudes who had been carried away by the rationalistic movement of the eighteenth century. The publication of the royal Liturgy in 1822 and the forcible measures of the king in ordering a union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches of the kingdom called forth the staunch opposition of the Lutherans. This ended in a widespread agitation which sent multitudes of families to a land where one of the chief fruits of the Lutheran Reformation, that of religious liberty, could be enjoyed.
The notable thing about the entrance of a few of these people into our New York life was that it injected new ideas into the stagnant mentality of the period. That the men who brought them were brusque and exclusive, was of small account. When Stohlmann, who had recently been called to St. Matthew's Church, visited Pastor Oertel in his attic room, his Lutheranism, with a sly allusion perhaps to the stairs, was promptly challenged by the remark: "You climbed up some other way."
Nor did it matter that on some points the new comers themselves were not agreed? The Prussians, later known as "Buffalonians," led by Grabau, had a hierarchical theory of the ministerial office. The Saxons, later known as "Missourians," led by Walther, had the congregational theory of church government. For a score of years a titanic conflict was waged between these two parties. It ended in a decisive victory for "Missouri." Today "Buffalo" numbers 49 congregations, "Missouri" 3,689.
The Houston Street party in 1839 held hierarchical views. Subsequently they adopted the congregational theory of the church and established in 1843 the first "Missouri" congregation in New York under Pastor Brohm. After several removals the congregation settled at Ninth Street and Avenue B, where it still maintains its place of worship.
The chief field of the "Missourians," as their name indicates, is in the West. And yet in Greater New York they number 51 churches and many more in the suburbs. They maintain numerous missions among special classes. At Bronxville they have a college. They alone of all Lutherans make a serious effort to conduct parochial schools. More than any other variety of Lutherans do they educate their promising young men for the ministry.
But, as has already been intimated, the chief significance of their entrance into New York history is that thenceforth Lutherans had to give an account of their Lutheranism. Whether you agreed with them or not, you had to take sides and give a reason for the hope that was in you. They brought about that "contiguity of conflicting opinions" which is a condition of all progress.
Ten years later a different class of German immigrants came to our city. The Revolution of 1848 had resulted unsuccessfully for the friends of political freedom, and many were compelled to take refuge in America. Some were professional men of ability and high standing, whose contribution to the intellectual life of our city was considerable. Others were only half educated, young men who had not completed their studies in the University, but, intoxicated with the new ideas, had thrown themselves with the enthusiasm of youth into the conflict for freedom. Here they were like men without a country, aliens from the Fatherland, and in America incapable of comprehending a state without a church and a church without a state.
Few of these found their way into the Lutheran churches of New York. They were the intellectuals of the German community and had outgrown the religion of their countrymen who still adhered to the old faith.
Our churches received but little support from this large and influential class. Many of them had long since renounced allegiance to Jesus, and in the free air of America looked upon churches as anachronisms and hearthstones of superstition. Their influence upon the common people and upon the social life of the German community was hostile to that of Christianity. The churches had to get along without them, or rather, in spite of them. There were notable exceptions. But as a rule the "Achtundvierziger" did not go to church.
Still, in spite of their unchurchly views, most of them were unable to shake off wholly the forms of their ancestral religion. There were too many remnants (superstites) of the old faith binding them to ancient customs. Independent ministers with no synodical relations, with or without certificate of ordination, or the endorsement of organized congregations, unmindful of the nisi vocatus clause in the Augsburg Confession, helped to maintain the forms of an inherited Christianity by performing such ministerial acts as were required by the people. At one time these free lances were quite numerous. At present no representatives survive in New York.
But there was another class of immigrants that came to us from the Fatherland. They, too, sought to escape from political and economical conditions that had rested like an incubus upon a divided country for centuries. But they brought with them a spirit of Christian aspiration and the ripe fruit of a traditional Christian culture which became a priceless contribution to our own church life. They were men and women from all corners of Germany, who had come under the inspiration of the religious awakening to which reference has already been made. They became leading workers in our congregations and Christian enterprises. We, whose privilege it was to minister to them, knew well that we were only reaping where others far away and long ago had sown.
The inability of the Lutheran Church to supply an adequate ministry for this vast immigrant population left the way open also for other Protestant churches to do mission work among the lapsed members of our communion.
A number of churches were established where services in the beginning were held in the German or Scandinavian languages. Through Sunday Schools and other agencies many Lutheran children were gathered into their congregations where they and their children are now useful and honored members of the church. A goodly number of eminent ministers in various non-Lutheran Protestant churches of this city are the children or grandchildren of Lutheran parents.
With this general outlook over the period, let us take up the thread of our story.
On the death of the elder Geissenhainer in 1838, Karl Stohlmann, a native of Schaumburg Lippe, was called from Erie, Pennsylvania, to be his successor. For thirty years the pastor of the Walker Street Church was an important figure among the Lutherans of this city. The scope of this book will not permit an adequate account of his labors. He died on Sunday morning, May 3d, 1868, just as his congregation was entering a larger house of worship at the corner of Broome and Elizabeth Streets.
Dr. Geissenhainer, Jr., retired from the English work of St. Matthew's Church in 1840 and organized a German congregation, St. Paul's, on the west side, which he served as pastor until his death in 1879 in the 82d year of his age.
On the East Side, Trinity was organized in 1843, St. Mark's in 1847, St. Peter's in 1862, Immanuel, in Yorkville, in 1863, and St. John's in Harlem in 1864. On the West Side St. Luke's was established in 1850, St. John's in 1855 and St. Paul's in Harlem in 1864. The first Swedish congregation, Gustavus Adolphus, was organized in 1865.
Within the present limits of Brooklyn six German and one English churches were established during this period. On the territory of each of the other boroughs, Bronx, Queens and Richmond, two German churches came into being.
After the Revolution of 1848 in Germany, immigration to America increased by leaps and bounds, and within the time under review New York was referred to as the fourth German city in the world. But the Germans, as we have seen, did not all go to church. The existing churches, it is true, were well filled, but a large proportion of the population, torn from the stable environment of their homeland life, and transplanted into the new conditions of a crowded city, failed to respond to the claims of their ancestral religion.
In our church polity there was no adequate provision for the needs of such an immense and ever expanding population. Now and then a broadminded pastor would encourage the planting of a church in some needy field, but too often the establishment of a new mission was looked upon as an encroachment on the parochial rights of the older congregation. At this point in the congregational polity of our church the absence of a directing mind and a unifying force was sorely felt.
The condition of immigrants at the port of New York was for many years a public scandal. In 1847 the State of New York appointed Commissioners of Immigration. Under the Act of March 3, 1891, the Commissioner was appointed by the Federal Government.
Before this was done, the helpless immigrants were the prey of countless vampires, chiefly in the form of "runners," agents of boarding houses and transportation companies. These pirates of the land exacted a heavy toll from all foreigners who ventured to enter our city by way of the steerage.
In 1864 Robert Neumann, who had been a co-laborer with Gutzlaff, a pioneer missionary in China, established an Immigrant Mission at Castle Garden and succeeded in awakening an interest in this cause.
A few years later, in the subsequent period, the churches took up the question of providing for the needs of the immigrants.
The Deutsches Emigrantenhaus was incorporated in 1871. Pastor Wilhelm Heinrich Berkemeier became the first housefather. His unflagging zeal gave strong support to a much-needed work of love. His venerable personality was a benediction to his contemporaries.
In the course of the years eight Lutheran Immigrant Houses and Seamen's Missions have been established at this port and are doing effective Christian work.
Toward the close of this period, in 1864, a seed was planted on the Wartburg near Mount Vernon which has grown to be a great tree.
Peter Moller, a wealthy layman, had met with a great sorrow in the death of his son. He was planning to expend a large sum for a monument in memory of this son, when Dr. Passavant, an eminent worker in behalf of invalids and orphans, called upon him, perhaps with the hope of obtaining a contribution for some of his numerous charities. To him Mr. Moller confided his purpose. It did not take long to outline the plan of a nobler memorial than the proposed shaft in Greenwood. With $30,000 a hundred acres of land were bought and a house of mercy was established which for fifty years has been a blessing not only to the orphans who have been sheltered and trained there, but also to the churches of New York that have been privileged to contribute to its support.
Its first housefather was George Carl Holls, one of the brethren of Wichern's Rauhe Haus near Hamburg. In 1886 he was succeeded by Pastor Gottlieb Conrad Berkemeier, who with the help of his wife, Susette Kraeling, has brought the institution to a position of great prosperity and usefulness.
In the Nineteenth Century 1866-1900
Three factors combined to make this period eventful in our history: confessionalism, immigration and the transportation facilities that led to a Greater New York.
At the close of the Civil War we had 24 Lutheran churches on the territory now included in Greater New York. Two of these were English and the rest were German. At the close of the century the record stood: Yiddish, 1; English, 17; Scandinavian, 19; German and German-English, 60.
The tide of confessionalism which had been rising in Europe for half a century touched America in the forties and reached a high water mark during the period under review. The question of subscription to the symbols of the Book of Concord became the chief subject of discussion among our theologians.
In 1866 a number of pastors and churches, under the leadership of Pastor Steimle, severed their connection with the Ministerium for confessional reasons. They formed a new synod which adopted all the Confessions and took a firm stand in opposition to membership in secret societies.
The "Steimle" Synod, as it was usually called, disbanded in 1872, its members going, some to the Missouri Synod, others to the Ministerium. Their organ, the Lutherisches Kirchenblatt, was merged with the Lutherischer Herold.
Pastor Steimle died in 1880. He was a devout man, a rugged personality, beloved by his people and esteemed by his colleagues. His congregation in Brooklyn, now served by the pastors Kraeling, father and son, is one of the strong churches of the city.
One of the early members of the congregation, whose support meant much for his pastor, was Jacob Goedel. He subsequently returned to Germany and spent his latter years in the city of Koeln on the Rhine.
In 1888 I spent a memorable week in Koeln. The history of the city antedates the Christian era. Its cathedral is a fane of wonderful beauty. In the Reformation Koeln joined the Lutheran forces and for eighty years two of its archbishops were Lutheran pastors. The "Consultation" of Archbishop Hermann is one of the liturgies of the Lutheran Church. It played a prominent part in the construction of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Owing to political jealousies among the Protestants, the fortunes of war restored the city and the cathedral to the Catholics. Until recent times Protestantism was an almost negligible force in Koeln. At the time of my visit the Protestant Churches were very efficient in all kinds of religious and social work and had an influence in the City Council out of all proportion to their numbers. Inquiring into the reason of this change I was told that it was largely owing to the labors of a man by the name of Jacob Goedel who had come to them from America and had introduced American methods of church work into Koeln.
In 1867 another synodical split took place. The New York Ministerium separated from the General Synod on confessional grounds and took part in the organization of the General Council. Thereupon most of the English-speaking members, occupying a milder confessional basis, left the Ministerium, formed the Synod of New York and united with the General Synod.* *The author's connection with the work in New York began about this time. After graduation at Yale College in 1865, he found employment in a New York library, and soon after matriculated as a student in Union Theological Seminary. The needs of Protestant Germans on the East Side attracted him into mission work which resulted in the formation of a congregation of which he took pastoral charge upon his ordination by the Synod of New York, October 19th, 1868.
The lines of three synodical bodies, General Council. [sic] General Synod and Synodical Conference, that is "Missouri," were now distinctly drawn and for the rest of the century the relations of Lutheran ministers and churches were sharply defined. Ministers were kept busy in explaining the differences, but it is to be feared that some of the laymen did not always understand.
In 1868 members of St. James Church, who sympathized with the attitude of the General Council in favor of a stricter confessional basis, organized a new English congregation, Holy Trinity, of which Dr. Krotel became the first pastor. Dr. Wedekind was called to St. James. Both men, pastors of English congregations, had come from Germany in their early youth, were educated in American schools and were thoroughly acquainted with American institutions. For a generation these two men, each in his own sphere, on opposite sides of a high synodical fence, contributed much to the growth and progress of the churches in this city.
Immigration from Lutheran lands continued to increase and reached its high water mark in this period.
Prior to 1867 there were few Swedes in New York. In 1870 they numbered less than 3,000. The immigrants were chiefly farmers who settled in the West. In 1883 large numbers began to come from the cities of Sweden and these settled in the cities of the East. In 1900 the census credited New York with 29,000 Swedes. In 1910, including the children, there were 57,464, of which 56,766 were Protestants.
The first Swedish Lutheran church was organized in 1865 by Pastor Andreen who had been sent here for this purpose by the Augustana Synod. Among the first trustees was Captain John Ericsson, the inventor of the Monitor. Its first pastor was Axel Waetter, a cultured minister of the Swedish National Church.
At present there are fourteen Swedish Lutheran churches in New York reporting a membership of 8,626 souls.
An Immigrant House in Manhattan, a Home for the Aged and an Orphans' Home in Brooklyn, and Upsala College in Kenilworth, N. J., represent the institutional work of the Swedish Lutherans.