Feast of Oluf Hanson Smeby (July 6)   6 comments

Albert Lea, Minnesota, 1908

Above:  Albert Lea, Minnesota, April 28, 1908

Photographer and Copyright Claimant = Frederick J. Bandholtz, Des Moines, Iowa

H116197–U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress



U.S. Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer

My reading in hymnody has brought the Reverend Oluf Hanson Smeby to my attention.  He translated Norwegian hymns into English.  I have added one text, “Abide with Us, the Day is Waning,” to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  Part of another text, a translation of a hymn by Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816), follows:

Today I was my Savior’s guest,

My soul was there so richly blest,

The Bread of Life receiving.

Oh, may thereby my faith prevail,

So that its fruits shall never fail

Till my account is given

Before the throne in heaven.

Smeby, born in Rock County, Wisconsin, in 1851, was the son of Hans O. Smeby and Helene Fryslie Smeby.  He entered the preparatory department of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, an institution of the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1853-1917), then transferred to the college proper, graduating with his A.B. degree in 1871.  Our saint’s next step was Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, from which he graduated three years later.

The Reverend Smeby, ordained in 1874, served God in that capacity for the rest of his life.  From 1874 to 1876 our saint served as the assistant minister to congregations in Freeborn County, Minnesota.  Then, in 1876, he married Marie Carlson, his partner in life, from that point forward.  From 1876 to 1922 Smeby became the senior pastor in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and ministered in churches in the area with the help of other clergymen.  His main responsibilities were the Albert Lea and Oakwood churches, but he also organized churches at Moscow and London Township in 1890 and 1891 and served them for a time.  Oluf and Marie Smeby traveled on good roads, bad roads, and places where roads should have been to take the Gospel and the sacraments to isolated farmers.  Eventually our saint left the care of the Moscow and London Township congregations to other ministers so that he could focus on his work at Albert Lea and Oakwood.  Some of those responsibilities included teaching Norwegian, German, and religion at Luther Academy, Albert Lea, from 1888 to 1904.

As if that were not enough, Smeby served on the denominational level also.  Our saint was the Secretary of the Iowa District of the Norwegian Synod from 1895 to 1907, Vice President of the same from 1907 to 1913, a member of the Committee for Christian Hymns (1898), and the chairman of the committee for The Lutheran Hymnary (1913).

Smeby retired in 1922, after forty-eight years of active ministry.  He died on July 6, 1929.





Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant Oluf Hanson Smeby,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


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