Feast of Augustus Nelson (June 18)   1 comment

Augustus Nelson

Above:  Augustus Nelson

Image Source = The Escanaba Daily Press, Escanaba, Michigan, June 27, 1924, Page 4

Accessed via newspapers.com

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AUGUSTUS NELSON (SEPTEMBER 20, 1863-JUNE 18, 1949)

Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Hymn Translator

The name of Augustus Nelson came to my attention as I added English-language translations of Swedish hymns to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  I made a note to myself to learn more about him as part of the process of considering him for addition to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  A meme I saw on Facebook recently depicted an iceberg, most of which was underwater.  The portion of the iceberg above water represented canonized saints, and the majority of the iceberg represented all the other saints.  Nelson has come to my Ecumenical Calendar from the portion of the iceberg that is underwater.

Nelson, born in Sweden on September 20, 1863, emigrated to the United States of America in 1883.  Here he made great contributions to communities, congregations, and the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America (1860-1894)/Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America (1894-1948)/Augustana Lutheran Church (1948-1962).  Upon his arrival in the U.S.A. Nelson worked as a farm laborer.  He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota, in 1890.  Next our saint continued his studies at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and at Augustana Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois.  Nelson, ordained in 1898, married his love, Emma, who had studied music at Gustavus Adolphus College, on September 7, 1898.  She was 13 years his junior.  The couple had four children, all of whom became educators:

  1. Anna Regina E. Nelson (Quist) (1899-1981);
  2. Ruth G. E. Nelson (Johnson) (1900-1992), who was also a missionary in Tanganyika (now Tanzania);
  3. Carl E. A. Nelson (1902-1978?); and
  4. Esther E. Nelson (Carlson) (1915-1990).

Emma died at Mankato, Minnesota, on March 25, 1957, aged 77 years.  She had survived her husband by about eight years.  Her four children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren survived her.

Our saint served at various congregations, mostly in the Midwest.  First was Bethany Lutheran Church,  at Escanaba, Michigan, from 1898 to 1902.  During the next several years the Nelsons were in Waukegan, Illinois, then New Haven, Connecticut.  From 1906 to August 1909 Nelson was minister at Trade Lake, Wisconsin.  A 15-year-long tenure at Zion Lutheran Church, Manistique, Michigan, and its mission at Thompson, also on the Upper Peninsula, followed.  Then, from 1924 to 1938, our saint ministered at Clear Lake, Minnesota, and its mission at Gibbon.  He retired to Minneapolis in 1938 and eventually moved to Mankato, where he died, aged 85 years, on June 18, 1949.

Nelson also served beyond the congregational level.  From 1904 to 1906 he sat on the board of the Augustana Synod’s Upsala College, East Orange, New Jersey.  Our saint also served on the denominational Board of Education from 1922 to 1924.  Furthermore, he was the secretary of the Augustana Synod’s Superior Conference for nine years which included 1922-1925.

Nelson translated hymns, mostly from Swedish but also from Latin.  I have added four of these to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  A fifth text was a translation from the writings of St. Venantius Honorius Clementius Fortunatus (circa 530-600/609):

Praise the Saviour

Now and ever!

Praise Him all beneath the skies!

Prostrate lying,

Suffering, dying

On the cross, a Sacrifice;

Victory gaining,

Life obtaining,

Now in glory He doth rise.

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Man’s work faileth,

Christ’s availeth,

He is all our Righteousness.

He our Saviour

Hath forever

Set us free from dire distress

We inherit

Through his merit

Light and peace and happiness.

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Sin’s bonds severed,

We’re delivered,

Christ hath bruised the serpent’s head;

Death no longer

Is the stronger,

Hell itself is captive led.

Christ hath risen

From death’s prison,

O’er the tomb He light hath shed.

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For His favor

Praise forever

Unto God the Father sing;

Praise the Saviour,

Praise Him ever,

Son of God, our Lord and King;

Praise the Spirit,

Through Christ’s merit.

He doth us salvation bring.

Nelson’s legacy of hymnody does survive, albeit less robustly than it did in hymnals published prior to 1990.  My survey of denominational hymnals published since 1990 indicates that each of the following volumes contains one translation by our saint:

  1. Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, 1990),
  2. Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994),
  3. Trinity Hymnal–Baptist Edition (Reformed Baptist, 1995),
  4. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (The Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1996), and
  5. Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2013).

One can, however, find other and more translations by Nelson in older hymnals (especially those of Lutheran denominations in North America) and at hymn websites.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SAINT OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HAYES PLUMPTRE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Augustus Nelson and others, who have translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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One response to “Feast of Augustus Nelson (June 18)

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