Strieter Autobiography: Confirmation
August 5, 2015 Leave a comment
In 1843 I was confirmed in the spring by Pastor Schmidt in Scio. We were positioned according to age. I was the second last. In the back of the Württemberg catechism [Württemberger Kinderlehre] are questions and answers for confirmation. There were enough for everyone to answer two. Whoever was good at learning learned them all; whoever was bad at learning learned the two questions and answers that would come up at his or her turn. The pastor held his classes in the church. They did not last very long. When it was time to start, we children sat in our place, Mr. Pastor would come in, say an ex corde prayer with his eyes half-closed and turned toward heaven, and then begin. With his hands behind his back he would walk up and down the aisle and talk. What did he say? This is the only thing I still remember: Once while he was walking, the stovepipe above him wobbled. I looked up and thought, “If that falls down, it’s going to hit the pastor on the head.” He noticed this, stood still, and asked what I was looking at. He never did ask anything from the catechism, never posed one question. In general he did nothing but talk, and towards the end I learned a couple Psalm verses and some hymn verses from Hiller.19 Hiller was also our hymnal in church. The questions, mentioned before, were assigned, as was the confirmation hymn that was supposed to be sung at the confirmation.
On Confirmation Day we had to go to his house. There he gave us a serious speech: We should not fall away. He would be able to see it in our eyes if we had fallen away. We cried emotional tears as we solemnly resolved that we would not fall away. He went away, soon came back, and his knees were dusty; he had apparently been praying on his knees. We headed to the church, the pastor in the lead; we followed along behind him. The altar was encircled by a railing. We had to take our seats inside it. He delivered an address, but I have no idea what that was about either. He stepped in front of the altar; we had to sing our hymn, and now he quizzed us on our questions. We knew the answers. Individually we went up to him, knelt down, and he solemnly blessed us with his hand laid upon us, and he read our commemorative passage from a small slip of paper.20 Mine was not a complete passage from the Bible, but his own words that were based on a Bible passage. For the Lord’s Supper we had to go to the altar two at a time. On the plate lay cut-up, ordinary bread, maybe about the length and width of a finger, and two drinking glasses stood there, filled with wine. He took one of those little pieces of bread, broke it in two and put a half-piece in everyone’s hand. He also put the glass in everyone’s hand. I don’t remember anything else about a confession and absolution. No one announced for the Supper. Later I saw a Catholic woman go to the Supper with everyone else.
19 Strieter is referring to Philipp Friedrich Hiller’s Geistliches Liederkästlein (Small Treasure of Spiritual Songs).
20 It is possible that Pastor Schmidt laid both his hands on each confirmand, but the immediate context seems to suggest that he blessed them with one hand and held the slip of paper with the other.
[Read the next part here.]