Feast of George Henry Trabert (September 18)   1 comment

Trabert

Above:  George Henry Trabert

Image Source = http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/t/r/a/trabert_gh.htm

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GEORGE HENRY TRABERT (OCTOBER 16, 1843-SEPTEMBER 15, 1931)

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 newspapers.com

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).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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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

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One response to “Feast of George Henry Trabert (September 18)

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