Archive for June 2016

Feast of George Henry Trabert (September 15)   1 comment


Above:  George Henry Trabert

Image Source =



U.S. Lutheran Minister, Missionary, and Hymn Translator and Author

How often have you, O reader, read the names of authors and translators of hymns and wondered who those people were?  How often have you wanted to learn their stories?  Such inquisitiveness prompted me to learn and write about George Henry Trabert.

Trabert wrote hymns, translated 40 Swedish hymns into English, served as the first English-language missionary for the Augustana Synod in Minnesota, wrote works of church history, and founded then led a social services agency.  He left a great legacy, to the glory of God.

Our saint’s story began with two German immigrants, Christopher A. Trabert and Fredericka Stappf Trabert.  They settled in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  There our saint entered the world on October 16, 1843.  At the time of the U.S. Census of 1850 the Trabert household consisted of the parents, our saint, John William Trabert (aged four years), and Anna S. Trabert (aged two years).  The family remained intact for the next decade; a new brother, Christian E. Trabert, was present at the time of the U.S. Census of 1860.

Our saint grew up and left the nest.  In 1867 he graduated from Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Three years later he completed his studies at and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  By then he was a married man, having wed Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Minnigh (June 5, 1842-January 15, 1930), of Gettysburg, at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church there on June 23, 1869.  The German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States ordained Trabert in 1870.

The first stage of Trabert’s career occurred in Pennsylvania.  His first pastorate was Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Ephrata, where he served until 1873.  From 1873 to 1877 Trabert was the pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Elizabethtown, and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mount Joy.  Then, from 1877 to the end of 1882, he served as pastor of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lebanon.

Meanwhile, on the home front, our saint’s household was growing in number.  Children born were:

  1. Charles Luther Trabert (1871-1945);
  2. Ernest E. Trabert (born circa 1873);
  3. George Christopher Trabert (1874-1886), who died of diptheria;
  4. Elizabeth F. Trabert (born circa 1876);
  5. Paul Melancthon Trabert (1878-1886), who died of diptheria;
  6. Elsie Amelia Trabert (1879-1886), who died of diptheria; and
  7. Ruth E. Trabert (born circa 1881), who became Ruth E. Smith.

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Effective January 1, 1883, Trabert became a missionary for the Augustana Synod, which was of Swedish immigrant origin.  Both the Ministerium of Pennyslvania and the Augustana Synod belonged to the same umbrella organization, the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918).  The Augustana Synod, which retained the use of the Swedish language into the twentieth century, undertook some missionary work in the English language.  Trabert became their first English-language missionary in Minnesota.  His tenure in the Augustana Synod lasted until 1892.  Trabert, supported also by St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, organized four churches in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul, one in Red Wing, and one in Duluth.  The first two congregations were St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis (organized June 8, 1883), and Memorial English Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul (organized July 24, 1883).  These churches became the cradle of the General Synod’s English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest (1891).  Other congregations Trabert organized included St. Paul English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Redwing (1884); Elim English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Duluth (1890); and Salem English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis (1890).  There were also, of course, other English-language Lutheran missionaries organizing and leading congregations in Minnesota and neighboring territories and states, as well as southern Canada.

The legacy of Memorial English Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul, has survived via a series of mergers.  In 1910 the congregation consolidated with St. James English Evangelical Lutheran Church to form Reformation Lutheran Church.  In 1977 that congregation consolidated with St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded in 1917) to create St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.

On the home front joy and sorrow marked the Traberts’ life together.  Three children died of diptheria in November 1886, but five new members joined the family from 1883 to 1892:

  1. William Henry Trabert (1883-1906),
  2. Allen Trabert (born circa 1884),
  3. Maude Trabert (born circa 1886),
  4. Arthur Trabert (born circa 1889), and
  5. Earl Trabert (born circa 1892).

In 1892 Trabert resigned as the pastor of St. John’s, Minneapolis, and returned to Pennsylvania, where he remained for a few years.  He served at St. Paul’s, Warren, from 1892 to 1896 before transferring to St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilkes-Barre, which he left in 1897.  Minnesota beckoned again.

Salem Lutheran Church

Source = The Minneapolis Journal, Saturday, June 25, 1904, page 10

Accessed via

From 1897 to 1920 Trabert served as the pastor of Salem English Evangelical Lutheran  Church, Minneapolis.  (He had organized that congregation seven years prior.)  While there our saint served beyond the local church.  He was, for example, the President of the Synod of the Northwest from 1901 to 1905.  Furthermore, Trabert became involved in providing social services.

Trabert founded the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of Minneapolis in 1905 and served as its president until 1915.  This organization merged with The Colony of Mercy (founded in 1919) to become the Inner Mission Society in 1922.  Five years later the Inner Mission Society changed its name to The Lutheran Welfare Society, which, in 1963, merged with the Board of Christian Service (late of the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Synod) to create Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.  The Inner Mission Society named the Hospice (more of a hotel) for Young Women, capable of housing 78 residents in the original structure and 92 more in the annex), acquired in 1919, Trabert Hall in honor of our saint.

Trabert retired in 1920, having lived for 76 years and served as an active minister for half a century.  He remained in Minneapolis.  At the time of the U.S. Census of 1920 his household included his beloved Lizzie (77); a daughter, Ruth (38); her husband, Rolland A. Smith (40); and their children, Charles P. Smith (6) and Priscilla E. Smith (newborn).  Lizzie died on January 15, 1930, after 60 years of marriage.  Trabert continued to live with Ruth and her family until he died, aged 87 years, on September 15, 1931.

Trabert left a written legacy also.  He translated 40 Swedish hymns into English and wrote at least two original hymns.  (I have located four of these texts and added them to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.)  He also translated The Life of Luther in Picture and Verse, by J. A. Darmstedter, from German into English in 1879.  Furthermore, Trabert wrote the following published works:

  1. Genuine vs. Spurious Revivals:  A Tract (1876);
  2. The Mode of Baptism as Taught in God’s Word:  A Sermon Preached in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Elizabethtown and Mount Joy, Pa. (1876);
  3. Ebenezer:  An Address Delivered in St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minn. (1890);
  4. Historical Sketch of the Mission of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Among the Telugus of India (1890);
  5. Church History for the People (1897);
  6. Questions and Answers on Luther’s Small Catechism:  For the Use of the Church, School and Family (1911); and
  7. English Lutheranism in the Northwest (1914).

Dorris A. Flesner wrote a biography, George Henry Trabert:  Pioneer English Lutheran Home Missionary in Minnesota (1985).








God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant George Henry Trabert,

who made the good news known in Minnesota.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59


Feast of St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Charles Fuge Lowder (September 27)   3 comments

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan, by Jan Winjants

Image in the Public Domain

But a Samaritan, as he journey, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

–Luke 10:33-34, Revised Standard Version (1946/1952)



Roman Catholic Bishop of Geneva

His feast transferred from January 24



“The Apostle of Charity”

confessor of


Cofounder of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul

Her feast transferred from March 15



Founder of the Society of the Holy Cross

His feast transferred from September 9




This is a post about how people, living or dead, can influence each other positively.  The central figure is St. Francis de Sales, who spent much of his life tending to the spiritual and physical needs of others.

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can his faith save him?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, “Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,” but does nothing to supply his or her bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14-17, The Revised English Bible (1989), corrected to avoid the singular “their,” which offends my sense of making the distinction between singular and plural clear




Nothing makes us so prosperous in this world as giving alms.

–St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales, born to nobility at Chateau de Thorens, Savoy, on August 21, 1567, became a major figure in French literature and the Roman Catholic Church.  He, educated by Jesuits at the College of Clermont in Paris, went on to study law in Padua from 1588 to 1592 then to become a lawyer briefly before entering the priesthood on December 18, 1593.  Father Francis de Sales was active in the Counter-Reformation, restoring entire districts to Holy Mother Church, hence his nickname, the “Apostle of the Chablais.”  The saint became the Bishop Coadjutor of Geneva in 1599.  Three years later he succeeded the Bishop of Geneva.  In 1610 St. Francis and St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641) founded the Congregation of the Visitation, to provide social services to children, the poor, the sick, and the dying.  The Bishop of Geneva supported good works as a spiritual principle.  As he wrote,

There is nothing which edifies others so much as charity and kindness, by which, as by the oil in our lamp, the flame of good example is kept alive.

St. Francis, who was a charming, well-mannered, poised mystic, ascetic, and Christian humanist strong in character, left a written legacy.  His complete works in the original French filled 21 volumes (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, and XXI).  Highlights of his writing included Introduction to the Devout Life (1609; in English translation since 1613), Treatise on the Love of God, Defense of the Standard of the Holy Cross, Controversies, and The Rule of Faith.

English-language compilations of the saint’s wisdom available at include the following:

  1. Practical Piety Set Forth by St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Prince of Geneva (1851) and
  2. The Mystical Flora of St. Francis de Sales:  or, the Christian Life Under the Emblem of Plants (1877).

Toward the end of his life St. Francis provided counseling to St. Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), who was caring for her husband and raising her son while undergoing a spiritual crisis at the time.

St. Francis died at Lyon, France, on December 28, 1622.  Pope Alexander VII beatified him on January 8, 1662, and canonized him on April 19, 1665.

St. Francis is the patron of authors, confessors, the Roman Catholic press, deaf people, educators, writers, journalists, the Diocese of Annecy (in France), the Diocese of Baker (in Oregon), the Diocese of Columbus (in Ohio), the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (in Ohio), the Diocese of Houma-Theibodaux (in Louisiana), the Diocese of Oakland (in California), the Diocese of Wilmington (in Delaware), the Diocese of Keimoes-Upington (in South Africa), and the town of Champdepraz (in Italy).




We must love our neighbor as being made in the image of God and as an object of His love.

–St. Vincent de Paul


Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor. Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: “He sent me to preach the good news to the poor.” We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause. Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also love whose who love the poor. For when on person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to be understanding where they are concerned. We sympathize with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: “I have become all things to all men.” Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbors’ worries and distress. It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

–St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul was the “Apostle of Charity.”  Whereas St. Francis de Sales, his contemporary, was of noble origin, St. Vincent came from the peasant class.  He, born at Pouy (now Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), near Dax, in southwestern France, on April 24, 1581, grew up on a small farm.  St. Vincent received his initial education at Dax.  Then he studied at the University of Toulouse.  The saint, ordained a priest in 1600, earned his Bachelor of Theology degree from the same university four years later.

While traveling from Toulouse to Narbonne St. Vincent became a captive of Barbary pirates, who sold him into slavery at Tunis.  For about two years the saint was a slave.  In June 1607 he escaped to freedom, along with his third master (an Italian), whom he had converted.  That phase of St. Vincent’s life informed his subsequent actions.

By 1611 St. Vincent had arrived in Paris, where he became the Curate of Clichy and associated with members of the royal court.  For a time he served as the chaplain to Queen Margaret of Valois then as tutor to Pierre, the eldest son of Philippe Emmanuel de Gondi, the Count of Joigny and the Admiral of France and the General of the Galleys.  In 1617, during a preaching mission in Picardy, St. Vincent became aware of and alarmed at the unmet spiritual needs of many rural people.  Later that year he began a brief tenure as the Curate of Chatillon-les-Dombes.  With financial support from the Count of Joigny and his wife, Marguerite de Silly, the Countess of Joigny, the saint established the Confraternity of Charity.  The new order, consisting of women, most of them married, ministered to the poor and the sick.  In 1617 St. Vincent also founded the Ladies of Charity, a group of wealthy women who financed charitable work.  (Many of them were, however, unwilling to work directly with the poor.)  He also founded the Sons of Charity for the purpose of supplementing the work of the Confraternity of Charity.

St. Vincent, back in Paris from 1619, became the royal chaplain to the galleys.  He worked on behalf of convicts and founded a hospital for galley slaves at Marseilles.  The saint also recruited St. Louise de Marillac to supervise workers in the Confraternity of Charity.  And, in 1625, with the assistance of the Count and Countess of Joigny, St. Vincent founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (the Lazarites), to fulfill the spiritual side of the mission to the peasants.




Be diligent in serving the poor.  Love the poor, honor them, my children, as you would honor Christ Himself.

–St. Louise de Marillac

St. Louise de Marillac came from nobility and moved in those social circles, but not without certain familial difficulties.  She, born in Meux, France, on August 12, 1591, was a daughter of Louis de Marillac.  Her mother was not his wife.  Louis recognized his daughter yet did not make her his legal heir.  The saint grew up among aristocrats, so she enjoyed certain advantages, but her stepmother rejected her.  St. Louise received an elite education at the convent of Poissy, where an aunt was a nun.  The young saint discerned a vocation to monastic life, but her first attempt to become a nun ended in rejection.

The 23-year-old saint married Antoine Le Gras, secretary to the Queen, in 1613.  The couple had one child, Michel, who, in the polite language of 2016, had special needs.  St. Louise was active in her parish and in the Ladies of Charity.  Due to her family situation she experienced profound doubts and deep depression in the early 1620s.  There was Michel, of course.  Two uncles found themselves on the wrong side of the law during a time of civil unrest; the state imprisoned both and executed one.  Furthermore, Antoine became an invalid.  At this time St. Francis de Sales counseled her.  St. Louise had an epiphany on the Feast of Pentecost, 1623; her doubts subsided.

Antoine died in 1626.  The widow, still her son’s caregiver, found a way to organize her days to focus on spiritual development.  She wrote her “Rule of Life in the World.”  She also met St. Vincent de Paul, who became her confessor.  He convinced her to supervise the work of members of the Confraternity of Charity, financed by the Ladies of Charity.  More hands were necessary, so Sts. Vincent and Louise founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633.  Members of the order worked in orphanages, homes for the elderly, shelters for the homeless and the mentally ill, schools for poor children, and battlefield hospitals.  St. Louise functioned as the leader of the order until she died at Paris on March 15, 1660.

Pope Benedict XV beatified St. Louise on May 9, 1920.  Pope Pius XI canonized her on March 11, 1934.

St. Louise is the patron of disappointing children, people who have lost parents, people rejected by religious orders, those who are sick, the Vincentian Service Corps, widows, and social workers.




The Church teaches us that mercy belongs to God. Let us implore Him to bestow on us the spirit of mercy and compassion, so that we are filled with it and may never lose it. Only consider how much we ourselves are in need of mercy

–St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul performed many charitable deeds.  Aside from those I have written about already he collected alms for civilians devastated by war and purchased the freedom of Christian slaves in northern Africa, among other works of mercy.

Grace was a major theme in St. Vincent’s theology.  He understood grace well, for, by it, he had overcome his natural irascibility and became a kind and humble man.  He also cited grace when arguing against Jansenism, the Roman Catholic counterpart to Calvinism.  (The Roman Catholic Church condemned Jansenism as a heresy.)

St. Vincent died at Paris on September 27, 1660.  Pope Benedict XIII beatified him on August 13, 1729.  Pope Clement XII canonized him on June 16, 1737.

St. Vincent is the patron of the Brothers of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, the Saint Vincent de Paul Societies, the Vincentian Service Corps, charitable societies, charitable workers, volunteers, charities, hospitals, hospital workers, lepers, prisoners, horses, lost articles, Madagascar, and the Diocese of Richmond (in Virginia).




Charles Fuge Lowder derived inspiration from St. Vincent de Paul nearly two centuries after the elder saint’s death.

Lowder’s spiritual journey began in Bath, England, where he entered the world on June 22, 1820.  His mother was the former Susan Fuge.  His father was Charles Lowder, a banker.  The saint studied at Kings College School, London, before matriculating at Exeter College, Oxford (B.A., 1843; M.A., 1845).  At Oxford Lowder came under the influence of John Henry Newman (1801-1890), who was still an Anglican at the time.  Lowder became an Anglo-Catholic and set his course for ordination.  He became a deacon in The Church of England on August 29, 1843, a.k.a. Michaelmas.  The date of his ordination to the priesthood was December 22, 1844.

As a deacon Lowder contemplated becoming a missionary to New Zealand.  That was, of course, a godly goal, but it was not where the saint’s destiny lay.  No, Lowder’s destiny was to be a slum priest.  His first assignment as a priest was chaplain to the workhouse at Axbridge.  From 1845 to 1851 he served as the Curate of Tetbury, Gloucestershire.  Starting in 1851 the saint found himself where he wanted to be–in a hub of ritualism.  He became one of two Assistant Curates at St. Barnabas, Pimlico.  There he continued to work among slum dwellers.

At the time ritualism was quite controversial in Anglicanism.  The Church had two opposite wings–the Anglo-Catholics (or Tractarians), who favored smells and bells, candles, eucharistic vestments, et cetera, in the style of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelicals.  Some Evangelical Anglicans were adamant to the point of accusing Anglo-Catholics of being in league with Satan.  The controversy raged for a long time.  In some ways it has never ended, for, among Continuing Anglican denominations in 2016, for example, one can identify both Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical bodies that cannot stand each other yet agree that those of us in the Anglican Communion are heretics.

At. St. Barnabas, Pimlico, support for ritualism was not universal.  One Mr. Westerton, a candidate for church warden in 1854, opposed that style of worship.  He went so far as to hire a man to wear a sandwich board and campaign for him on sidewalks.  This was too much for Lowder, who gave eggs to choirboys, who threw them at the campaigner.  Westerton sued Lowder, who received a fine from a court and a six-weeks-long suspension from the Bishop of London.

Lowder visited France in May 1854.  There he cleared his head and studied the life of St. Vincent de Paul.  Lowder concluded that The Church of England needed an order of priests modeled after the Lazarites.  On February 28, 1855, Lowder and five other Anglo-Catholic priests founded the Society of the Holy Cross, devoted to missions and to charitable work among the poor.  The saint was so Catholic in his orientation that he, as a priest, committed himself to lead a celibate life.

Lowder left St. Barnabas, Pimlico, in August 1856, and accepted an offer to become the priest in charge of St. George’s-in-the-East to the London Docks.  The mission thrived, leading to the establishment of St. Peter’s Church at the London Docks in 1866, with Lowder as the Perpetual Curate from 1866 to 1873 and as the Vicar from 1873 until his death.  In 1857 Lowder invited Elizabeth Neale (1822-1901), sister of John Mason Neale (1818-1866), priest, hymn writer, and hymn translator, to join the mission at the London Docks.  The mission offered a wide range of social services, and the presence of Elizabeth Neale and her new order, the Community of the Holy Cross, of which she was the first Reverend Mother (1857-1896), expanded the range of social services among women.

Ritualism continue to prove to be controversial at Lowder’s new cure.  Some Evangelical Anglicans and other opponents of Anglo-Catholicism rioted outside the church, disrupted services, and threw rocks at the building.

Lowder was the first priest in The Church of England to receive the title “Father”  He was “Father Lowder” and “the Father of Wapping.”

The published works of Lowder available at are:

  1. S. Katharine’s Hospital:  Its History and Revenues, and Their Application to Missionary Purposes in the East of London:  Considered in a Letter to the Right Hon. and Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of London (1867);
  2. Ten Years in S. George’s Mission:  Being an Account Origin, Progress, and Works of Charity (1867); and
  3. Twenty-One Years in S. George’s Mission:  An Account of Its Origin, Progress and Works of Charity (1877). also offers a biography of Father Lowder from the early 1880s.




Opposing and attempting to overthrow an unjust system is a legitimate spiritual calling.  So is working within such a system to effect the maximum possible good at the moment.

The poor will always be with us.  That statement is a recognition of objective reality.  A companion to that simple statement is the divine mandate to work for economic justice and to provide relief to the poor.  Changing institutionalized inequality–artificial scarcity, which is alien to the Kingdom of God–is a daunting task.  So is helping people effectively in the here and now.

Our four saints worked within extant social institutions to help as many poor people as effectively as possible at the moment.  They also founded new religious institutions to work for the same goal.  Both strategies were important for, had they waited to change socio-economic-political structures, they would have done nothing to help the poor they assisted.  Yes, ancien regime France was economically exploitative of the majority of the population.  It deserved to fall.  Its collapse was inevitable, even though the French Revolution of 1789-1799 had pronounced excesses.  Yes, the Industrial Revolution in England gave rise to the reference to “those dark Satanic mills” in Jerusalem.  Political reform was necessary and morally proper.

One should not permit the perfect to become the enemy of the good.  This is a timeless principle that applies to the lives and labors of our four saints, whose vocation was to help the least among them.








Almighty God, we praise you for your servants

St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Charles Fuge Lowder,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

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


Feast of James Chisholm (September 15)   Leave a comment

Chisholm Grave

Above:  The Grave Marker of James and Jane Page Chisholm

Image Source = Jweaver28



Episcopal Priest

James Chisholm devoted his life to Christ and gave that life while being a pastor during an epidemic.  He exemplified the truth that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s brothers and sisters.

Chisholm, a native of Salem, Massachusetts, entered the world on September 30, 1815.  He grew up a Baptist.  His father was William Chisholm, a Scottish immigrant and a member of a family with Jacobite sympathies.  Our saint’s mother was Martha Vincent, of Italian ancestry as well as a native of Salem.  William died when our saint, as a youth, was 12 years old.

Our saint, as a youth, established certain life-long patterns.  He was a bookish youth with a gift for languages.   By the time Chisholm graduated from Harvard College in 1836 he had mastered the written and oral forms of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, German, and Italian.  He was also fond of singing sacred music and attending church and Sunday school regularly.  The serious-minded young man was able to obtain an education because of the financial support of his siblings.  Chisholm understood the principle of interdependence, by which he lived until the end.

Chisholm taught for a few years after graduating from Harvard College.  For less than a year, starting in 1836, our saint taught at the Academy in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia).  In Charles Town our saint became enamored of worship according to The Book of Common Prayer (1789) and attended Episcopal services regularly.   David Holmes Conrad, Chisholm’s biographer, wrote:

The beautiful simplicity of the ancient ritual spoke to his taste; the subdued and chastened emotions of the communicants, to his better feelings; the deep import of the whole, to his heart.  It was the first direct appeal of the Spirit, and was not unheeded.

Memoir of the Rev. James Chisholm (1856), page 25

For a year and half, starting in 1837, our saint lived in Washington, D.C., where he taught at a classical school.  In Washington, on February 24, 1839, he became an Episcopalian.  He studied at the Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia, graduating in 1840.  Chisholm became a deacon on October 4, 1840.

Chisholm was a clergyman for about 15 years.  For about two years he worked among the slaves of U.S. Senator William Cabell Rives of Virginia.  In 1842 our saint, as a priest, began to serve at Norborne Parish, Berkeley County, Virginia.  The parish consisted of two rural congregations–Trinity Church, Martinsburg, and Mount Zion Church, Hedgesville.  Chisholm attended to the needs of his flock faithfully and revitalized the congregations.  He remained there until 1850, when he left for financial reasons.  Chisholm, having married Jane Page of Clarke County, Virginia, in 1847 and became the father of William Byrd “Willy” Chisholm in September 1848, had a family to support.

St. John’s Church, Portsmouth, founded as a High Church congregation at a time when that was a subject of heated controversy in The Episcopal Church, called Chisholm to be their first rector.  He accepted.  During the next few years our saint’s family life continued.  The Chisholm’s welcomed their second son, Johnny.  Then, on February 28, 1855, Jane died of natural causes, leaving our saint a widower with two young sons.

Matters turned for the worse in late July 1855, when the outbreak of yellow fever in the tidewater region of Virginia began.  By the time the epidemic was over, thousands of people had died during several months.  Many people, especially the wealthy and many physicians and pastors, escaped to safety.  This reality made matters worse for those who could not leave and those who chose to remain.  Chisholm, who chose to remain, sent his two sons away, to live with their aunt, Mary Page, of Cumberland County, Virginia.  Nevertheless, Johnny died of measles on August 31, 1855.  The priest, who had to contend with personal grief, helped many in their times of desperation.  He, for example, functioned as a pastor, delivered food, served as a medic, and dug graves, often to the point of exhaustion day after day.  He died of yellow fever on September 15, 1855, 15 days short of his fortieth birthday.

Although Chisholm, as a youth, was capable of long walks without difficulty as a youth, had a delicate constitution by the 1850s.  He was also an introvert, so many of his duties, even during the best of times, must have proved difficult.  (Aside:  My experience is that many, if not most, church members prefer extroverted ministers.  I have also known holy, capable, and introverted priests need to undertake long retreats occasionally.)  Chisholm was definitely compassionate, however, and he died because he insisted on living compassionately.


Merciful God, you called your priest James Chisholm to sacrifice his life in working

to relieve his parishioners and the people of his city during a yellow fever epidemic:

Help us remember that in giving up our lives to your service,

we win the eternal crown that never fades away in that heavenly kingdom where,

with Jesus Christ our Savior and the Holy Spirit, you reign, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:9-17

Psalm 116:5-9

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Matthew 24:1-8

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 585


Feast of Dag Hammarskjold (September 18)   Leave a comment

1953 - Dag Hammarskjöld, generalsekreterare FN Foto: Pressens Bild  Kod: 190 COPYRIGHT PRESSENS BILD

1953 – Dag Hammarskjöld, generalsekreterare FN
Foto: Pressens Bild Kod: 190

Above:  Dag Hammarskjold

Image in the Public Domain



Secretary-General of the United Nations


Give me a pure heart that I may see Thee,

A humble heart that I may hear Thee,

A heart of love that I may serve Thee,

A heart of faith that I may abide in Thee.

–Dag Hammarskjold in Markings (published in 1963)


In this post I do something I seldom do.  I refer you, O reader, to a biography of the saint at another website and proceed directly to reflections.

Dag Hammarskjold operated based on Christian values he learned in his Lutheran family in Sweden.  He internalized the importance of building up “the least among us” and of seeking peace.  He even died while on a peace mission.

Such people tend to attract both admirers and detractors, both for their goals and their methods.  The question of methods is a procedural one, but such goals should win universal acclaim.  Yet they do not.

Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in middle age, dismissed in old age, and reconsidered in death.  Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all we can to destroy it.

–Lady Morella in Point of No Return (1996), an episode of Babylon 5

The purpose of politics should be to unify diverse groups of people and seek the common good, not to pit groups against each other and propagate prejudice and ignorance, often in the name of making one’s country great again.  One can consider the legacy of Hammarskjold and recognize an example of constructive politics, not, as an unfortunately accurate joke indicates, many bloodsucking creatures.  One can learn from our saint the value and imperative of love, not hatred, and of faith, not fear.

Every day and at home, we are warned about the enemy.  Is it the alien?  Well, we are all alien to one another.  Is it the one who believes differently than we do?  No, oh no, my friends.  The enemy is fear.  The enemy is ignorance.  The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different.  Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you.  And that same hate will destroy you.

–The Reverend Will Dexter in And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996), an episode of Babylon 5

The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, encourages us in the Diocese of Atlanta to

love as Jesus loves.

I detect that ethic in the life of Hammarskjold, who had both admirers and detractors in life and retains both in death.  Critics will always be present among us.  When–not if–someone criticizes you, O reader, may it be for works of righteousness that benefit people and glorify God.  May the criticism reflect badly on the critic, not you.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Dag Hammarskjold, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

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


Feast of Elie Naud (September 7)   Leave a comment

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Above:  Seal of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Image in the Public Domain


ELIE NAUD, A.K.A. ELIAS NEAU (1661/1662-SEPTEMBER 7, 1722)

Huguenot Witness to the Faith

We who enjoy the blessing of religious toleration are more fortunate than Elie Naud, also known as Elias Neau, was for part of his life.  He was a Huguenot, a member of the Reformed Church of France.  (Aside:  the “t” in “Huguenot” is properly silent, and the “h” is almost silent, according to the rules of French pronunciation.  My tongue, trained to speak English, is incapable of pronouncing that French”h” correctly.)  King Henri IV had issued the Edict of Nantes, granting religious liberty and civil rights to Protestants, in April 1598.  King Louis XIII rescinded the edict on October 18, 1685, making being a Protestant in France a criminal offense.  Even prior to that date, however, being a French Protestant could be dangerous.   Hence, in 1679 Naud fled France for the West Indies.  Eventually he settled in the City of New York, in the British Empire.

Naud’s troubles had not ended.  During the early years of his residence in New York he traveled to Europe and back to the colony for the purpose of raising funds for Huguenot causes.   For his steadfastness of faith Naud spent two years in the infamous island fortress-prison of Chateau d’If, near Marseilles.  On another occasion, in the 1690s, he received a life sentence to be a galley slave, but obviously did not spend the rest of his life in that manner.

Naud, back in New York City, worked among slaves and indigenous people as a catechist and a missioner of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.  Our saint, who joined Trinity Church, Wall Street, then L’Eglise du Saint-Espirit, a francophone parish, opened his catechetical school in 1704.  He had to overcome obstacles, such as racism and fear, especially in the aftermath of the slave riot of 1712.  Yet Naud persevered and succeeded.  He also worked successfully for the colonial government to pass a law permitting the religious instruction of slaves in 1706.

Others carried on Naud’s work after he died in New York City on September 7, 1722.








Blessed God, whose Son Jesus calmed the waves and knelt to serve his disciples:

We honor you for the witness of the Huguenot Elie Naud,

remembered as Mystic of the Galleys and Servant of Slaves;

and we pray that we, with him, may proclaim Christ in suffering and joy alike,

and call others to join us in ministry to those littlest and least,

following Jesus who came not to be ministered to but to minister;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Daniel 6:10b-16, 19-23

Psalm 30

James 1:2-4, 12a

Matthew 15:21-28

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 565


Feast of Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell (September 5)   2 comments

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Image in the Public Domain



U.S. Lutheran Minister and Theologian

colleague of


Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Theologian




Both saints I am adding to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days with this post were ministers of the Augustana Synod, formed in 1860 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants to the United States.

When I draft a blog post adding someone to the Ecumenical Calendar I seek to present information in an orderly manner.  This entails avoiding the temptation to chase too many proverbial rabbits.  Know then, O reader, that I understand far more about the Augustana Synod then I will reveal in this post, which is about Sodergren and Wendell, not the synod.  If you want to read more about the Augustana Synod, consult C. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (1963), published during the year following the Augustana Synod’s merger into the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987).

The Augustana Synod had several names during its lifetime.  It formed as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America.  In 1894 the denomination dropped “Swedish” from its name.  Then, in 1948, the body became the Augustana Lutheran Church.  The Augustana Synod was originally ethnically Swedish, worshiping in that language.  By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the question of how often to use English was a subject of serious debate.  Our saints argued for the greater use of the English language in worship, for they understood that there the future of the synod lay.  The Augustana Synod made that transition, but not without much sturn und drang.  The fact of nativism in the United States during World War I did much to accelerate that process.




Carl Johannes Sodergren, born on September 5, 1870, at LaPorte, Indiana, was a child of Swedish immigrants.  His mother was Brita Sodergren (1847-1919) and his father was the Reverend Carl Henrik Sodergren (1840-1905).  Young Carl studied at Augustana College and Theological Seminary (one institution until 1948), Rock Island, Illinois, graduating as the valedictorian in June 1891.

Biographical information about Sodergren has proven difficult to find, but I have been able to determine certain facts about him:

  1. He became a minister in the Augustana Synod.
  2. On June 30, 1897, at Chesterville, Texas, Sodergren married Elizabeth Chester (1873-1958).
  3. The couple had five children:  Carl Wendell (1898-1963)Una Elizabeth (1900-1985), Miriam Agatha (1904-1978), Anita Linnea (1907-1991), and Leila Ingeborg (1909-1911).
  4. The Augustana Synod designated the Lutheran Companion as its official English-language magazine in 1911.  Sodergren served as its editor, vacating that post in 1915.
  5. In 1913 Sodergren joined the theological faculty at Augustana College and Theological Seminary.  The installation ceremony occurred on March 11.




Claus August Wendell was a Swedish immigrant.  He, born Claus August Anderson at Sodia Ving, Vastergotland, on April 24, 1866, was a child of Lars Gustav Anderson, a farmer.  The family relocated to the United States when our saint was three years old and settled at Sycamore, Illinois.  Claus attended the country school there then studied at the Academy at Augustana College and Theological Seminary then at the college proper.  (Many colleges in the United States used to have academies and high schools attached to them.)  Our saint, as a young man, persuaded his parents to relocate to Rock Island, Illinois, where he graduated from the college with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893.  Claus, who changed his last name legally to Wingquist then to Wendell, remained in Rock Island for a few years, filling in the chair of English literature and philosophy (who was on a leave of absence) in 1894 then working on his Master of Arts degree (awarded in 1897).

Wendell married Anna Charlotte Norlin (1872-1965) in 1897.  The couple had two daughters, Anna Theolinda (born circa 1899) and Margaret (born circa 1909).

Wendell worked as an educator then a journalist for a few years.  He taught history at Rock Island High School from 1897 to 1902.  Then he joined the fifth estate.  Meanwhile Wendell was undertaking theological studies under the guidance of Dr. Conrad Emil Lindberg (1852-1930), who taught systematic theology at Augustana College and Theological Seminary from 1890 to 1930.  Lindberg, the most influential teacher in the Augustana Synod for a time, was, according to G. Everett Arden,

a conservative Lutheran, who saw the theology of the sixteenth century through the spectacles of the seventeenth-century Lutheran orthodox scholastics.

Augustana Heritage, 249

Wendell, ordained in 1905, served as the pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Rockford, Illinois, then of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Evanston, Illinois.  In 1914 he transferred to Grace Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he retired in 1947.  Wendell doubled as a staff correspondent for the Lutheran Companion, working under the editor, Carl J. Sodergren.

In 1918 and 1919 Wendell helped to found the Lutheran Bible Institute, located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  This proved to be ironic, for The Bible Banner, the Institutes’s official organ, championed fundamentalism, which Wendell opposed.




Sodergren and Wendell were, by the standards of the Augustana Synod in the early twentieth century, liberals.

I use that term precisely, not loosely (as many do) or as an invective (as many also do), because they were liberals, not revolutionaries.  If one uses the analogy or reinventing the wheel, one finds the following statements to be accurate:

  1. A reactionary thinks that the current wheel is nouveau and prefers the previous design.
  2. A conservative proposes that the wheel is fine as it is.
  3. A liberal agrees that the design of the wheel is generally sound yet requires some modification.
  4. A revolutionary argues that the current design of the wheel is flawed beyond repair and therefore favors reinventing it.

Sodergren and Wendell were Confessional Lutherans who belonged to a Confessional Lutheran denomination.  They affirmed such core Lutheran doctrines as baptismal regeneration and consubstantiation.  They stood within their tradition and argued by arguing for its continued relevance by avoiding the rigidity of fundamentalism on one side and the denial of Christ on the other side.  They stood in the theological lineage of St. Clement of Alexandria (died 210/215), who affirmed the validity of proved knowledge, regardless of its source.  Sodergren and Wendell stood in the best tradition of Christianity with regard to the reconciliation of faith and reason, along with luminaries such as St. Albert the Great, Robert Grosseteste, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Sylvester II (died 1003).

Charles Darwin did not originate the Theory of Evolution, but he did write two seminal books on the subject and became a proverbial lightning rod.  The debate over the relationship of faith and science, especially evolution, spread to the Augustana Synod.  In the December 16, 1914, issue  of the Lutheran Companion Sodergren, as editor, scandalized many in his denomination by waiting the following in the publication:

The time has arrived, it appears, for someone to say that the theory of evolution is not necessarily atheistic, and that is might be quite consistent with the Bible and with a Christian belief in God as the Creator of heaven and earth.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 285

The fact that Sodergren published that editorial in character, for he had already advocated for the acceptance of modern Biblical criticism, such as saying that Moses did not write the Torah, that the Bible contradicts itself in places, and that David did not write all those Psalms attributed to him.  Sodergren had balanced this position by arguing for the “plenary inspiration of the Bible,” meaning that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is normative for faith and practices but without committing to any particular theory of inspiration.

In 1925 Sodergren published a book, Fundamentalists and Modernists.  He affirmed Christ while rejecting fundamentalism, advocating for a form of evangelical confessionalism instead.  His evangelical confessionalism valued both faith and scholarly investigation, including history and science.  Sodergren’s form of Christianity openly rejected the verbal inspiration of the Bible.  That theory, he insisted, was inconsistent with the reality that divine inspiration has a human element to it.  The theory of verbal inspiration of scripture, Sodergren wrote, tended toward the heresy of docetism, which stated that Christ only seemed to be human.  Furthermore, Sodergren wrote, the classic Lutheran confessions of faith do not affirm the verbal inspiration of the Bible.

Wendell, in The Larger Vision:  A Study of the Evolution Theory in Its Relation to the Christian Faith (1923), also affirmed the science, especially evolution.  God is the source of both science and revelation, he wrote.  Wendell also affirmed salvation via Christ in that book and in a chapter in What is Lutheranism? (1930), edited by Vergilius Ferm.  Wendell summarized Lutheranism this way:

Lutheranism then we should say, means three things:  (1) It means adherence to the Confessions, comprising the Book of Concord, not as so many cement walls for man’s incarceration but as a witness to the faith of the fathers and a guide to their followers.  (2)  Faith in the Holy Scriptures, not as a fetish on the one hand nor a mere human document on the other, nor as an arsenal of theological polemics, nor as a textbook of history and natural science, but the inspired Word of God, whose purposes it is to make us wise unto salvation; and (3) Above all else, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not as a mere reformer or teacher or “pattern for young men,” but as the Redeemer of the world and the everlasting Rock upon which the church is built.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 286

That answer did not satisfy ultraconservatives within the Augustana Synod.  Vocal critics were legion.  The Bible Banner heaped scorn on Ferm and Wendell, both of whom Dr. Samuel Miller, head of the Lutheran Bible Institute, attempted to have the Augustana Synod expel from the denomination on charges of heresy.




The Augustana Synod, a longtime (1870-1918) member of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), withdrew from that umbrella organization rather than merge into the mainly ethnically German United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA).  Opposition to ULCA prompted mergers and closer cooperation among certain more conservative Lutheran denominations.  The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) was the union of several relatively conservative and mostly Midwestern synods.  In 1930 this denomination, the Augustana Synod, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Free Church, and the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (the “Sad Danes,” in some referred to them, as opposed to the “Happy Danes” of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church) constituted constituted a new alliance, the American Lutheran Conference, which disbanded 24 years later.  Three of the four members of the American Lutheran Conference merged to create The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987).  The Lutheran Free Church joined the new denomination in 1963.

The American Lutheran Conference existed to witness against ULCA.  The Conference affirmed the Galesburg Rule (1875) and the Minneapolis Theses (1925).  The former arose within the General Council over the question of pulpit and altar fellowship.  The Galesburg Rule was, verbatim:

The rule is:  1.  Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only; Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only.  2.  The exceptions to this rule belong to the sphere of privilege and not of right.  3.  The determination of the exceptions is to be made in consonance with these principles by the conscientious judgment of pastors, as the cases arise.

–Quoted in Abdel Ross Wentz, The Lutheran Church in American History, Second Edition (1933), 328

The Minneapolis Theses (1925) came into being as part of the process of the creation of The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).  They affirmed the inerrancy of the Bible and asserted the doctrinal content of Lutheran confessions.  Whereas ULCA recognized the Christian character of all churches confessing Christian doctrine, the Minneapolis Theses did not go that far.  No, they recognized the reality that true Christians are present in a range of Christian denominations and stated that unanimous agreement

in the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the confession of the same in word and deed

presupposes ecumenical fellowship.  Church fellowship with non-Lutherans was, in other words, out of the question.  The Minneapolis Theses also condemned secret societies and stated that no Lutheran minister should belong to one.  Furthermore, they insisted, Lutheran clergymen should try to persuade lay members who belonged to any secret society to leave it.

Sodergren and Wendell opposed the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  In The Augustana Quarterly in 1937 Sodergren protested the “exclusive confessionalism” of the Minneapolis Theses.  He wrote:

In spite of appearance to the contrary, the present generation is deeply religious; but its spirit fails to find in the old forms the body in which it can dwell.  But the reply to this prayer for the means of a daring adventure in faith–the reply of the established order–is only an exaggerated emphasis of the latter, of external observances, and of the old status quo…While the priests of yesterday are looking backward to the past and laboring to conserve its values, the prophets of tomorrow are facing the future and trying to give direction to movements of today.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287

At its 1937 convention the Augustana Synod censured and threatened with disciplinary actions some ministers accused of laxity with regard to the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  This angered Wendell, who published his protest in the September 2, 1937, issue of the Lutheran Companion.  He wrote in part:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easy for them to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare among us lately, but we do fear that the blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287-288

In the longterm Sodergren and Wendell won the argument, for they and people like them influenced the next generation of leaders of the Augustana Synod.  By the late 1940s work on the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the joint service book-hymnal of eight Lutheran denominations, including ULCA and the members of the American Lutheran Conference, was underway.  The second American Lutheran Church came into being via the merger of three bodies in 1960.  The Lutheran Church in America formed in 1962 when four denominations united.  The American Lutheran Church expanded by means of a second merger in 1963.  Eight ecclesiastical bodies had become two denominations that used the same service book-hymnal.




Language is about far more than words, for it conveys culture as well as meaning.  This is especially true for those who speak in a language other than the dominant tongue in their nation-state.  A reading of the history of the immigrant churches in the United States reveals examples of ecclesiastical bodies that functioned as both agents of evangelism and of the cultural perpetuation.  Such a reading also informs me of the manners in which many people struggled with assimilation into the dominant American culture.  One might, for example, think of the Dutch immigrants and their descendants in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the German-American Lutherans of various denominations, the Danish-American Lutherans in their two synods (the “Sad Danes” and the “Happy Danes”), and, of course, the Swedish-Americans of the Augustana Synod.  Furthermore, one might recall reading that rampant domestic xenophobia, often expressed via law and violence during World War I, accelerated the pace of the transition to English in all these cases.

Sodergren and Wendell led the pro-English language camp within the Augustana Synod.  Wendell even served as the chairman of the Association of English Churches.  In 1891 the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, to which the Augustana Synod belonged, founded the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest for congregations from the Great Lakes region to the Pacific coast.  The Synod of the Northwest appealed to many Confessional Lutherans who preferred to worship in English.  Ethnic enclave synods generally did a poor job of reaching out to this audience for a while, and many Midwestern and Western Lutherans who preferred to worship in English had to join non-Lutheran congregations.  Over time the geographical span of the Synod of the Northwest shrank due to territorial division.  Despite the necessity of the Synod of the Northwest its existence upset many in Augustana Synod officialdom, for they thought of it as a competitor on their home turf.

Sodergren and Wendell favored providing opportunities for younger Augustana Synod members who wanted to worship in English to do so, without depriving those who favored Swedish-language worship of those services.  Sodergren editorialized in the Lutheran Companion in the July 15, 1911, issue:

No one wishes to rob the old folks of the Swedish….In all our Swedish congregations the old folks are welcome, and will be for years to come, to half of the services, and that the better half–the Sunday morning service.  And no Christian will starve to death on this and a weekly meeting….But if we are considerate toward the old people and respect their admitted rights, we should also be equally careful not to refuse to give our young people their spiritual support.  We should be as concerned about their spiritual welfare….To have English services only once a month, or even every other Sunday evening, is almost worse than nothing.  It hurts the Swedish, and is of no conserving value to the English element.  It is merely a poor excuse….This plausible (?) selfishness which makes a language an end instead of a means is not a good conservative policy if our Synod is to live….It will not do to sacrifice souls on the altar of nationality.  Our congregations have a far higher calling than to be a mere “National-forening….”

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245

He wrote in the August 30, 1913, issue:

Dear old Swedish language!  We all love it–but some of us don’t like it.  We feel for it a sense of loyalty and respect akin to what good children naturally feel for their parents.  Nevertheless, a new generation, born and reared far from the doughty little kingdom which once was the land of our fathers, is prone to conform to the customs of the country in which it finds itself, and to speak the language which is generally employed as a medium for the expression of thought.  The children, the young people (and ever so many old people), almost invariably use the English language in ordinary conversation….God wants us all to be saved.  Why not tell His message in an as natural and intelligible a manner as possible; in Swedish to those who think in Swedish, in English to those who think in English….What would we suggest!  That our children be taught Christianity by means of the English language, even in our Swedish congregations…None of us are in a hurry to “get rid of the Swedish,” but we are “in a hurry” to preserve these souls with or without Swedish.  And if that can be done by means of the English language we are guilty of murder or at least criminal neglect in failing to anticipate and make due provision.  The Companion stands for neither Swedish nor English.  It stands for the cause of Christ and the welfare of souls.  If shortsighted language-conservatism should prove to stand in the way of Christ and the future of our Church, we have no choice but to do as Luther did:  let the Latin go and insist on using the German in the interest of the common people.  They are or more value than much Latin.  The word of God is not Swedish; the Church of Christ is not Swedish; Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not Swedish.  Nor are any or all of them English.  It is not a matter of language….

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245-246

Both Sodergren and Wendell served on the committee that crafted The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925).  The Augustana Synod, recognizing the necessity of an English-language hymnal in 1895, ordered work on what became the Hymnal and Order of Service for Churches and Sunday-Schools (1901).  That volume, with 355 hymns, was always supposed to be an interim hymn book.  Work on the revised hymnal started in 1910 and lasted for 15 years.  The hymnal of 1925 offered 670 hymns.  Wendell, who joined the hymnal committee in 1920, wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 139:23-24 for the project.




Sodergren became involved in another controversy within the Augustana Synod.  The denomination controlled the Augustana College and Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois.  Sodergren, at least as early as 1925, sided with those who wanted to separate the college from the seminary, leaving the latter under denominational control and the former with a separate board and president.  The debate, which became quite bitter, dated to 1886.  Sodergren perceived that the only way to preserve the unity of the Augustana Synod was to divorce the college and the seminary.  As the college expanded faster than the seminary the latter received fewer necessary resources than the former.  Other issues in the debate included mere conservatism and the conflict of vested interests.  The separation of the college and the seminary finally occurred in 1948.

Sodergren wrote at least 16 books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Aside from Fundamentalists and Modernists (1925) he wrote a book of Bible stories for use in Sunday schools, two courses in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, and commentaries on various books of the Bible, as well as other works of theology.

Sodergren’s last residence was in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  There he died on November 2, 1949.  He was 79 years old.




Wendell, who received a Doctor of Literature degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Augustana College and Theological Seminary in 1939.  He wrote at least eight books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Some of those were literary works.  There was, of course, The Larger Vision (1923), about science and religion.  Wendell also wrote books of church history.

Wendell, who sat on the board of directors of the Augustana Book Concern, was, despite the attempt of one ultraconservative to have him declared a heretic and removed from the denomination, a widely respected and much-loved man.  He died at Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 18, 1950.  He was 84 years old.




The names of these two saints came to my attention a year ago, when I was reading Augustana Heritage.  Sodergren and Wendell impressed me so much that I made a few notes about them and filed them away for future reference.  A few days ago I took many more notes then began to draft this post.

The legacies of Sodergren and Wendell can teach one several valuable lessons.  Among them is that, much of the time, one should stand within tradition and resist both the fetish of ossifying it and the temptation to dispose of it in favor of something new and shiny.  Tradition for its own sake is no virtue; the final words of a dying institution are:

We’ve never done it that way before!

Likewise, change for its own sake is no virtue either.  One risks throwing out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water.  As much as holding on to a certain tradition can constitute resisting social justice, overturning helpful traditions is destructive also.

Sodergren and Wendell understood that well.






Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servants

Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell,

and we pray that by their teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61