The Burial of Dr. C. F. W. Walther

By Prof. Martin Günther

The Burial of the Blessed Dr. Walther

On May 7, during the synod convention, on its fourth day of sessions, Dr. Walther fell asleep. So that the convention would not be interrupted and so that a truly large number of the synod’s members could take part in the burial, the burial was postponed at the desire of the convention.

On Friday, May 13, in the afternoon, the embalmed body was brought into the seminary building and placed on the bier in the main hall [großen Halle] there, near the lecture rooms. When it was time to depart from the house of mourning, Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt gave an address and said a prayer. The coffin, carried by eight students, was followed by the grieving survivors—the two sons of the deceased, Mr. Pastor Ferdinand Walther and Mr. Constantin Walther, Mr. Pastor St[ephanus] Keyl and his wife and daughter,1 and Mr. Pastor H[einrich] Niemann, whose wife, the youngest daughter of Dr. Walther,2 was unfortunately prevented from attending by illness. The rest of the students followed after them.

The seminary building was draped in black both inside and out. Even the professors’ residences, as well as those of the church members who live here, were hung with black. The students took turns keeping guard.

On Saturday evening, at the desire of Americans, an English funeral service was held in the main hall [Aula] of the seminary. Mr. Pastor Birkner from St. Louis was the speaker.

On Sunday afternoon the body was brought to Trinity Church. Great was the number of those who made an appearance for this solemn occasion. The main hall [große Aula] could not hold them all. Mr. Pastor Stöckhardt gave the address for this, printed in this issue. A great multitude followed the corpse on foot, in spite of the threatening weather. Trinity Church was decked in mourning crape both inside and out. Many, many additional people came into the church on that day and on Monday and Tuesday morning, in order to have one last look at the countenance of the cherished deceased.

At midday on Tuesday the body was brought to its final resting place. Around 11 o’clock the students, professors and pastors, from both here and elsewhere, teachers, congregational administrators, and others assembled in the schoolhouse on Barry Street, in order to proceed from there to Trinity Church in solemn procession. Around 12 o’clock the funeral service began, in which Mr. President Schwan preached on Psalm 90 and Mr. Professor Crämer spoke at the altar on 2 Kings 2:12. The pallbearers on this solemn occasion were the professors of the seminary and the pastors of the city. From all parts of our country pastors of our synod had hastened this way to pay their last respects to the beloved deceased. Even other synods were represented: the Hon. Minnesota Synod by her president, Mr. Pastor Albrecht; the Hon. Wisconsin Synod by Professors Notz and Gräbner from her seminary in Milwaukee; and the Hon. Norwegian Synod by her president at large3 and Mr. Professor Larsen from Decorah. Certainly there has been no funeral for a theologian in America in which that many theologians have taken part. Certainly the city of St. Louis has scarcely seen a larger funeral.

At the grave Mr. Pastor O[tto] Hanser gave the graveside address on Daniel 12:2,3. Mr. Professor Larsen (of the Norwegian Synod) could not refrain from giving a short speech, in order to testify for how much also the Norwegian Synod has the cherished departed to thank. We impart his heartfelt words here:

Included among the great host of mourners who have assembled on this sad occasion are a small number of pastors from the Norwegian Synod, including the president at large of this synod. On behalf of so many of our brothers, we would very much like to express the heartfelt gratitude that we feel toward God and his servant, the cherished Dr. Walther, now of blessed memory, for every good thing God has poured out through him, on us as well. And so we cannot pass up the opportunity also to convey our thanks to the entire synod, so strongly represented here, who had him as her leader. The Missouri Synod has demonstrated such great and sacrificial love to us for nigh unto thirty years now. Since the year 1858, surely without interruption, we have had students in her theological seminaries. Approximately half of our pastors have studied at these seminaries, and most of them have had the benefit of Walther’s instruction. Who can measure the blessings they have reaped from this, and the blessings reaped through them by their congregations and our people? But also others of us, including some older persons in our synod, who did not receive formal instruction here as enrolled students—did we not sit at Walther’s feet too? Certainly we did, and far from being ashamed of it, we rather count it as an honor and, more than that, as a great blessing which we have been allotted thereby. Our people have also been blessed by Walther and the Missouri Synod in that quite a few writings from here have been translated into our language and have been distributed among our fellow countrymen. We mention especially Walther’s Gospel Sermons [Evangelien-Postille] and the glorious little book, The True Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Congregation Independent of the State [Die rechte Gestalt einer vom Staate unabhängigen evangelisch-lutherischen Ortsgemeinde].

Walther and the synod who had him as her leader gave us such strong guidance and encouragement in faithfulness, both in preserving the divine truth and in striving for true holiness. Let it be our earnest wish and prayer today that this faithfulness might long survive the dear departed both in our synod and in his own! May it be so for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

It should go without saying that the students sang their funeral songs at the grave of their beloved teacher, just as they had for the preceding solemnities. Mr. Pastor Sieck spoke the collect and blessing, and Mr. Pastor Wangerin, after he and the assembly had finished singing the antiphonal burial song, “Now Lay We Calmly in the Grave,”4 spoke the Lord’s Prayer. The grave into which the coffin was lowered is lined with masonry. A heavy stone slab covers the coffin.

Source
Der Lutheraner, vol. 43, no. 11 (June 1, 1887), pp. 86-87

Endnotes
1 Stephanus Keyl (1838-1905), the oldest son of Pastor Ernst Gerhard Wilhelm Keyl, was taken into the custody of C. F. W. Walther, his uncle, in 1847 when his father accepted a call to Milwaukee. He ended up marrying Walther’s daughter Magdalena (b. Nov. 22, 1842), his first cousin, in 1862.

2 Julie (b. July 27, 1849)

3 Herman Amberg Preus (1825-1894; president of the Norwegian Synod from 1862)

4 A hymn by Michael Weisse (c. 1480-1534), #476 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary

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About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the South of the U.S.A.

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