Strieter Autobiography: First Call

[Continued from Part 16. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Into the Ministry (continued)

When I arrived at B[esel]’s house, he was lying in bed and he informed me that I had to preach the next day. I went to his books with a heavy heart and tried to put something decent together. Across the street stood an old house where church was to be held. The folks came, I led the singing and preached. Eight days later I preached again and later in several other places. When B[esel] was well again, he took me in his buggy and now it was time to go to my congregation. Roscoe lay across the river along the hills, and on this side was a small town, Coshocton. There in Roscoe we turned in at a Prussian Lutheran’s house, whom B[esel] had praised highly, ate at midday, and then went into an adjoining room. But now I had an experience. All at once the man started in and began scolding terribly: B[esel] had promised them an older preacher and now he was bringing them a candidate. B[esel] got very embarrassed, but there was nothing he could do.

We left and headed out into the very hilly country. We turned in at an elder’s house and discovered that while B[esel] had been at the convention, the old preacher had returned and the people had taken him back in. His people had deposed him on account of an offense against the Sixth Commandment. What happened was that he was spending the night with the elder, Memmel. During the night the mom hears her daughter scream. In the morning the mom asks, “Jane, why did you scream last night?”

“O mom, do you have to ask me?”

“Jane, why did you scream?”

“The pastor came to my bed, so I got really scared. Then he tells me, ‘Child, I really didn’t do anything to you. Just don’t tell anyone, so that I don’t get a bad reputation.’ And I did promise him, mom, so don’t say anything now.”

But her brothers had also heard her scream and saw what had happened, and they spread it around. In the meantime the pastor stayed away. But after his shame had subsided, he returned and confessed, and his people thought that that could happen to anyone, and they kept him.

The next day service was held in the schoolhouse over yonder behind the hill. Memmel went with his family, a widow and a few men came, and a young man came whose mother had died. B[esel] gave a funeral sermon first, then I preached. After the service the men said that they had taken their pastor back in, so they could not make use of me. B[esel] went home; I was supposed to stay for eight days and preach in Roscoe. I did, but the Prussian Lutheran still wanted an older preacher, and so I was superfluous there.

I rode back to B[esel] again by stagecoach and wrote to my Professor Crämer. He wrote that I should go to Steinbach in Liverpool11; he had a congregation on the side that I could perhaps take over. I take my seat on the stagecoach and ride to Medina. From there I go on foot to Steinbach, who lived with the dear Haseroth. I taught school for Steinbach for a few days while he went to Schwan in Cleveland to ask him for advice. When he got back, he brought me to Elyria and then held an outdoor meeting on the South Ridge.12 There were two families in Elyria. There was a dear Theisen family. He worked in the mill. Philipp Theiss, her brother, was a tailor. And there was a Böse family. Between Elyria and South Ridge lived a Württemberger, S., and a few other Bavarians and Hessians, ten families or so. Steinbach drew up a short document which was to be accepted and signed on Sunday, and with that I would be called. But he told me, “There is a man here named B. Do not let him sign; he is an arch-drunkard.”

Sunday came. I preach and now it’s time for the signing to begin. B. was first. I told him my orders; he left the schoolhouse. Then a man started in: “I demand bread at the Lord’s Supper though, otherwise I will not sign.”

I read: “The Holy Supper shall be administered according to the manner and custom of the Lutheran Church. In the manner and custom of the Lutheran Church, wafers are used.” He stands up and leaves, with his wife behind him.13

I was to have a salary of sixty dollars for the year and was to be fed on rotation, going to someone different every quarter-year. On October 10, 1852, I was called and delivered my first sermon.14

Endnotes

11 Rf. fn. 22 here. Today this is St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Valley City, Ohio, at the corner of Lester Road and Center Road.

12 What today is Lowell Street, Telegraph Road, and State Road 113 (west of the intersection with Telegraph Road) used to be known as South Ridge Road. (Even a glance at a modern map of Ohio will reveal a North Ridge Road about three miles north of Lowell Street.) Strieter later makes it clear that church was held in the schoolhouse on the South Ridge. There is a landmark at the corner of State Road 113 and Bechtel Road for a South Ridge School that existed from 1875-1899. But Strieter later says that South Ridge was “two miles away” from Elyria, and that landmark is three miles away. But the Atlas of Lorain County Ohio published in 1874 by Titus, Simmons & Titus from surveys by D. J. Lake, Civil Engineer, reveals another school near the corner of Lowell Street and Murray Ridge Road, across from what is today the North Murray Ridge Cemetery – a much more likely location.

13 This is somewhat unfortunate on both sides. On the part of the call document, it is unfortunate that Steinbach and Strieter flatly insisted on wafers. We do know for a fact that Jesus used matzah or unleavened bread when he instituted the Lord’s Supper, but description is not necessarily prescription. What Jesus through his Holy Spirit had his inspired Evangelists record was not a “Continue to do this” with unleavened bread (ἄζυμος), but a “Continue to do this” simply with bread (ἄρτος) (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; 1Co 11:23-24). Unleavened or leavened bread may be used. In fact, leavened bread was regularly used in the early days of the Christian Church, and the great Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard wrote, “[T]he usage of leavened or unleavened bread in the holy Lord’s Supper is to be left to the discretion of Christian freedom and…no unnecessary conflict in the Church of God should be initiated on account of this” (A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Chapter 7). On the part of this particular man, however, it is unfortunate that he demanded regular bread and would not give up his demand for the sake of peace. It seems that further conversation on this matter could and should have taken place.

14 I.e., as a regularly called pastor.

[Read the next part here.]

About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the Midwest.

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