Strieter Autobiography: Investigation and Mission Trip

[Continued from Part 29. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. This is more or less the site of Strieter's parsonage in Marquette County, located at W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Strieter's two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Strieter’s parsonage property, W3276 County Road E, Neshkoro. Copyright 2016 Red Brick Parsonage. Strieter’s two-story timber-framed house filled out with clay was built around 1856 on this site. A log stable was built around the same time. Eventually the 2-acre property was expanded to 4 acres, and in 1876 a new parsonage was built. A new barn was built at some point too, the foundation of which is pictured here. The property ceased to be used for the parsonage after 1898.

Something about hardships pertaining to Fall Creek. I go up there one time, drive to Montello, 12 miles. (I also had 12 miles to Princeton, and 12 to Wautoma. 400 steps or so off of the Mecan, to the west, was my house.) I take the wife along so that she can take the horse back home. From Montello I take the stagecoach to Parteville,25 from there to Toma on the railroad. Then it was 90 miles or so to Eau Claire on the stagecoach. Before it gets to Eau Claire, I get off and head off to the right on foot to Fall Creek to my people, who with few exceptions had been my church attendees [Kirchkinder] in Injunland.

How happy they were when I stepped into their midst in front of the schoolhouse! Man and woman embraced my neck and kissed me. Oh, with what delight I preached to them!26

On way home, while riding on the stagecoach day and night, the driver, who had apparently fallen asleep, lost his way and drove into the bushes. He halts and shouts that we men should get out and should look for the road because he didn’t know where he was. There were two other men besides me in the box, and several ladies. We get out. The one man looks around and shouts, “Here is the path!” But the coach was situated on a slope. He has to turn around, so we three position ourselves on a ledge, grab on top, and lean backwards to keep the coach balanced so that it doesn’t tip over, and we make it back on the road.

I had written my wife to pick me up in Montello, but she doesn’t get the letter; when I arrive in Montello, there’s not one woman there. What now? I have no other choice but to walk 12 miles. I was not at all accustomed to walking; I was always on the horse or on the buggy. I don’t get very far before my feet are aching and the soles of my feet are burning like the blazes. I sit down, take shoes and stockings off, and try walking barefoot, but that wouldn’t work at all. The sand was so hot, and every little stone was irritating. I put my stockings back on and now walk home in stockings, 10 miles or so.

Another time I was up there we rode to Black River Falls on the stagecoach.27 There we were told that the stage could not go any farther because of the bad roads. The 4 horses were hitched to a lumber wagon, three thin boards laid across the box. On the front board the driver took his seat. On the second board a man and a woman, each with a child in his or her lap; the boy was bigger and the girl was smaller. On the back board I and a short young lady. Others wanted to come too, but we were told, “The horses can’t pull that much.” It was just starting to get dark when we took off.28

We come to a frightful hill. The two of us men have to get down. The horses cannot pull us all. The driver, the two ladies, and the little children stay up. The ground was loose, yellow sand. The horses run in a gallop as best they can, 10 steps or so, catch their breath again, and then another burst like that, until they are on top. We get back on and away we go.

Wasn’t all that long before the little lady next to me gets sleepy, lays her little hands on my knee and her little head on top and drifts off. The people in front of me also fall asleep and were so careless that each one has his or her child’s little head facing out. Then all at once the man’s child hangs his head down over the box. I reach out between the two of them, grab it by its little robe and pull it back in. Then the wife’s baby hangs its head out and I pull it back in. So it went the whole night. Having arrived at a station in the morning, we drink some coffee. Then the wife expressed her thanks that I had “watched [gewatcht]” their children so well. —

I had been commissioned by my President Fürbringer29 to conduct an investigation. There was a preacher there by this point.30 I preached to a schoolhouse full of people, then the investigation got going. A number of complaints were brought forward; unfortunately they turned out to be true. The preacher asked for forgiveness, and since there were no criminal offenses, I asked the congregation to pardon him and retain him. But they didn’t want that; they still thought it would be better if he left, because things were simply ruined by that point. He was relocated out west after that, and became a very good pastor there, even a visitor.31 He has been in heaven for a long time now. —

I received a slip of paper on which a bunch of places were recorded for me that I was supposed to visit and do mission work. A man promised me a riding horse. Bright and early32 one man hitches his horses to his wagon, another brings me a horse, a big gelding, and says, “He has the heaves [die Heafs], but he won’t keel over. Just keep riding him at a good clip, sir.”

I get on my gelding. The other man takes off; I follow after. He puts them into a trot, and I put my gelding into a gallop. But right away I think, “Oh no, oh no, how is this going to turn out?” For he galloped so high and was throwing me into the saddle with full force. The consequences came soon enough. I get colic, and have to call to the man to stop, then take a seat in his wagon and tie the old boy to the back. The pains get worse and worse; the man finally has to drive at a crawl. I tell him to take me to an apothecary. He did so. The gentleman was in the middle of sweeping out. I tell him that I’m sick. He says, “Yeah, I can see that.” He disappears into his hideout and mixes me up something proper, a half glass full of yellow stuff. How it tasted, I don’t remember anymore, but I scarcely had it down before my belly gets red-hot and my pain is gone.

I get on my gelding and head for Chippewa Falls, leave my horse on this side, and I take the ferry across the river. Over there the path goes along between the river and the hill, toward the village. There stands a little house right next to the path, and behind it, at the bottom of the hill, a new brewery with “Gerhard” on it. “He has to be German; you should stop in there.”

The man was a young, friendly man; no beer belly on him. He directed me into the village. There, situated in the valley, stands a saloon in the center. I make my way there, address the bartender in German, and he answers me in German. I say who I am and why I was there. He says that he doesn’t care much for church. There in the distance in that little house by the hill lives a cobbler, he says; I should stop in by him.

I head over. The cobbler is beating his leather. He stutters and says that yeah, a pastor had been there earlier, and the people from the country had come in to hear him preach. The preacher was supposed to eat at his place at noon, and they were going to give him 25 cents each time. They still owed him 50 cents, and he wanted nothing more to do with it.

During the conversation, a door opens up and a woman walks in the door and soon picks up on the discussion. She speaks fine German. “Whoa,” I thought, “this is a sophisticated woman.” She gives me several zingers, but gentle ones, the gist of them being how people were expected to fodder the vagabonding33 preachers for free. I get red, stand up and say, “Listen here, ma’am, I am an honest pastor and no lowlife!” I pat my money-bag and say, “I have money. If you give me a meal, ma’am, I will pay you” [cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12]. She turns friendly and apologizes.

Now they told me that there were not many in the village and there were people scattered in the country, but they could not be called together now on such short notice. I say, “Okay, I will ride up to Yellow River and come back the day after tomorrow. Could the people be called together by then?”

Yeah, he didn’t have any time at all, he said, and besides that, he didn’t know anybody either. I myself could not go and do it, for I was always scheduled in advance from place to place. So I was unable to preach in Chippewa Falls.

I go back to the brewer, stay overnight at his place and ask, “What kind of a cobbler’s wife is that? She did not grow up here.”

“Yeah,” he says, “a military officer brought her along from Germany and jilted her, and in her need she took the cobbler as a husband.”

I cross the river34 and get on my gelding and head up to Yellow River. I arrive at a settlement of Swabians, my own countrymen, turn into a house where two brothers live, who had two sisters as their wives. Each had a baby. They were in the middle of cooking sugar.35 So in the morning the one woman would go into the bush and the other would stay with the children. In the afternoon they would switch. In the evening many people came. In the morning a nice large group assembles in the schoolhouse.36 I announce my hymn and start singing; they sing along, very well, but somewhat slowly. I start to preach. Then a man calls out, “Mr. Parson [Pfarrer], a little louder; there are people here who can’t hear well.” So now I belt it out.

After church I warn the people not to get involved with every single wandering preacher, but to come together on Sunday, sing a hymn, and a man should read a sermon out loud. A preacher would probably be coming to Fall Creek soon and he would serve them too.

They respond, “Yeah, we thought that you were just going to stay with us, sir.”

I say, “Yeah, my dear people, that simply will not work. Just take heart and stick tightly together and hold reading service. The good Lord will not abandon you, and he will give you a preacher.”

They bade me a fond farewell and expressed their many thanks.

I head back to Chippewa Falls and continue on to Menomonie, but have to gallop; the fellow will only walk or gallop. Soon the inside of my legs are in a lot of pain, but what can I do? I have to keep going.

Before Menomonie I arrive at a settlement and turn in at the house of the man to whom I was directed. He asked if I was Pastor Mohldehnke.37

I say, “No, I am Pastor Strieter.” “Great,” I thought, “now you have ended up in Mohldehnke’s ward, the traveling preacher of the Wisconsin Synod.”

In the morning I go to the schoolhouse.38 Was completely full. Before I know what’s happening they start to sing, but I don’t know the words and don’t recognize the melody either. When they stopped, I stood up and asked if this congregation belonged to Pastor Mohldehnke.

“Yes, Pastor Mohldehnke has preached here before.”

I say, “Then I should not be permitted to preach.”

They say, “You are Lutheran too, sir, from what we’ve heard. Go ahead and give us a sermon. You are already here anyway, and we so seldom get an actual sermon.”

“Alright,” I say, “then I will preach, but tell Pastor Mohldehnke when he comes not to look at this as if I were trying to interfere with his ministry [Amt]. I was directed here and did not know that he had already preached here. He should regard it as a guest sermon.” They said they would deliver the message.39

I state my hymn, start singing, then preach. Also warn them to watch out for the fanatics, the Methodists. The wife of the Methodist preacher was even in church, as I was later informed. They took a hat collection and gave it to me.

In general I received money almost everywhere. I have already wondered to myself why our traveling preachers today often have to be supported almost entirely from the fund. I never needed to apply to the fund for assistance. When I went to Big Bull, I would bring home a whole bag full of money. Indeed – 10-cent pieces, 5-cent pieces, such small 3-cent pieces, such big 2-cent pieces, a sixpence, a shilling, rarely 2 shillings. I would empty my bag onto the table for my wife and she would sort it all and put each sort into a little purse and revel in her treasure.

One time I had to ride way out of the way and baptize 3 children for a man. When I was finished, he counted 37 cents into my hand. I say, “That has to be all the money you have, sir!”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then I will give it back to you and add that much more.”

He started to cry: “Aw, it is meant to be a thank offering, that my children are now baptized, and you won’t accept it, sir?”

“Okay, if it is meant to be a thank offering, I will take it.”

One time a woman came. “Mr. Pastor, I am a widow and don’t have any money, but would really like to give you something. Here is a small sack of nuts; please take them along for your children.”

My people in the Injunland gave me two hundred dollars and rye for bread and some for the horse, some wheat too. —

I now hurried from Menomonie to Durand, across the river on the ferry, up the hill, into a saloon. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed!”

I say who I am and why I was there.

“Yeah,” he says, “there would no doubt be people here, but where can we assemble?”

I say, “There’s room enough right here.”

He says, “You want to preach in the saloon, sir?”

“Certainly!”

“Fine by me.” He goes and gets my horse into the stable and shows me in through the door to his family. I stay overnight.

In the morning a nice large group assembles.40 I announce the stanzas of my hymn and start singing. They sing along. I position myself with my back against the counter, the liquor bottles behind me, and start preaching. Soon the door opens up and a man pokes his head in, but quickly bangs the door shut again. Another man does the same, and another. It’s comical, and I have to control myself so that I don’t lose my focus. After the sermon I baptize two more children.41

From Durand I make my way toward Eau Claire. In the distance by the hill I see an old little house and think, “You should just stop in there once.” The door is open, opposite another door. In the middle of the living room sits the father with his head hung down. I call out, “Good day, father.”

“A German voice!” he says. “Do come in, sir.”

Soon an old little mother comes in through the other door. He told me that they had had 3 children, two sons and a daughter. The one son had drowned while floating logs, the other had been shot and killed in battle – the Civil War [Rebellionskrieg] was going on at the time – and the daughter had recently married and now they were all alone.

I comforted them with their Savior and asked if they had a Bible.

“Yes, other good books too.”

I told them just to keep reading them and to pray persistently and remain firm in faith in their Savior. He would not abandon them.

“Oh, dear Pastor,” he says, “couldn’t you please give us the Holy Supper?”

“Dear father,” I say, “I have absolutely nothing with me. Hold on to the spiritual use of the Supper, sir. Apply to yourself the merit of Jesus, which he has won for you by giving over his body and shedding his blood. Then you will have the blessing of the Supper even without actually taking it.” But I make up my mind: “That is not going to happen to you again.” From then on I always took some wine and wafers along, even when I rode.

I commended the dear folks to our dear God and took my leave.

I rode towards Eau Claire. On the other side of a bridge across a river I was supposed to turn right. Back there were also people to whom I was supposed to preach. I lose the barely visible track, ride up a high hill; the other side slopes down like a roof. Both of my gelding’s hind feet slip out and he sits down on his backside and doesn’t get back up until the bottom. At the bottom I bend a bit left and find the track again. Come into the open, turn in at the first house and tell the woman who I am and why I was there. She leaves me her child and runs to call her husband. He is a friendly man and, as I soon notice, Christian. I stay overnight and preach in the house to a number of listeners.42

I ride back over onto the Eau Claire Road. There I am supposed to go over across the prairie to a house and visit a family where especially the wife is really spunky, but find the house locked. I go back over and continue on the road. I come to a new house where a staghorn is fixed on a post, so it was a tavern. On the porch [Poartch] stands a man. “Are you by chance the Lutheran preacher, sir?”

“Yes!”

“Please come on in.” He took my horse from me and leads me into the saloon. “Do you want something to drink, sir?”

“No, thank you,” I say.

“Then go into this room,” and he opens the door for me.

There sit a number of women and also a man, and against the wall sit 4 nice girls, dressed in white, with a blue43 ribbon around their waists, and one woman has a child in her arm. The little children are seated according to size. I am supposed to baptize the children. I take down their names and give a short address, telling the adults and the little children what baptism is, that they were making a covenant with the triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that they would put on Christ. They should believe that from the heart and hold on to this covenant of grace.44

I now read the rite and ask the biggest one, “Do you desire to be baptized?”

“Yes,” says the child, leans its little head over the water and lets itself be baptized. Same with the second, the third, and the tiny little Trude too, the baby the woman was holding. Oh, it was too beautiful! I got to experience the same thing one time in Berlin.45

After the baptism they give me coffee and cake, then I continue riding to Eau Claire, turn in at my young carpenter’s place, who brings me to a widow.46 I cannot preach there.

Ride back to Fall Creek and turn my gelding back in, get driven back to Eau Claire, take my seat on a small steamer and head down the river to Reed’s Landing.47 Arrive there towards evening, go up the rise. A saloon is there and I go in. “Are you German, sir?”

“Yes indeed.”

“Do you have something to eat?”

He pours me a glass of beer, gives me a piece of sausage and a piece of bread. I take that to a corner, sit down and set it on a barrel and try to consume it. The beer doesn’t taste good; I let it stand. The sausage is dry and doesn’t taste good either. I chew on the bread. Then all at once a bunch of guys come in and take their places at the counter and get some drinks. In the middle stands a short man, a blacksmith, who right away starts mocking and says that the Bible is a book of lies. This is too much for me. I stand up and go up to the person: “Listen here, sir, you say the Bible is a book of lies. Let me ask you: If you were to get completely drunk right now, and you went home and abused your wife and children like a tyrant, would that be right?”

The keeper interjects, “Yeah, that’s what he often does.”

“No,” the man replies.

“Okay,” I say, “the same thing is also found in the Bible, for there it is: ‘You husbands, show common sense as you live with your wives’ [cf. 1 Peter 3:7]. Now how can the same thing that is the truth in your mouth be a lie in the Bible?”

He was quiet, and one-two-three, the room was empty.

In the corner a door is open and a woman stands in the doorway and calls out that supper is ready. The saloonkeeper says, “Mister, are you are a parson?”

“Yes.”

“Please come and eat with us,” he says.

I go in. There a large, roasted fish is sitting on the table; I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. We sit down.

“Mr. Parson,” says the keeper, “please say a prayer.”

I say a prayer and dig in.

He asks, “Do you know Professor Walther, sir?”

“Oh sure,” I say, “quite well.”

He says, “I was in St. Louis at N.’s, the confectioner” – I can’t remember the name, but he was a well-known individual. “Walther often tried to convert me, but he did not succeed.”

“Too bad,” I say. “You should be converted if you want to go to heaven.”

“Mr. Parson, time will tell. A mocker I am not.”

“Couldn’t a person preach here then?” I ask.

“Yeah, look here, sir,” he says. “Earlier a man came and passed himself off as a preacher, held church, told the people that traveling cost money and that they should take a collection for him. They do that. He takes the money and goes to the nearest saloon and wastes it on drink. Several others did the same. A person loses all his desire after that.”

My steamer comes and I get on board for La Crosse. The boat gets under way and I go inside. Soon I go back outside. There stands a large man with a raincoat [Wachsrock] on, at the front and looking out. I go inside and outside more than once, and in the morning the man is still standing in the same spot. He now goes inside and another man takes his place.48 I learn that the night-watchman was the captain. A noble figure, getting old already, with a hooked nose.

The thought now occurs to me: “This man stands in one spot the entire night in order to maneuver his boat safely down the river. What dedication! What, and you’re going to get tired? It’s going to be too much for you? You’re going to get testy – you who work on immortal souls for your Savior?”

I come to La Crosse and take my seat on the [railroad] cars for Parteville. There stands my Fanny in the innkeeper’s stable, whom I have left there for so long this time. I hitch up and take off. Haven’t gone too far when I start to feel ill. I drive under an oak, let my horse munch on a bush, and I lie down on the ground and throw up. But nothing comes out except sour, bitter water, and some blood at the end. I’m so dizzy, the whole world is spinning, and my head aches badly. It’s getting to be evening; I simply have to get going. I crawl to my buggy and claw my way up, hold on tight to the seat on both sides and take off. Have to drive at a walk though; my head won’t take it. Reach home toward morning,49 lie down for a little rest and try to take my clothes off. But my underpants have crusted together with the grime, so that I first have to soak them with a wet, hot cloth. My legs from the top down to the knees are completely sore. That came from getting thrown around in the saddle.

Endnotes

25 Strieter’s spelling of Pardeeville

26 Strieter appears to have departed for his first trip to Fall Creek on or around Monday, November 12, 1860, since he recorded two baptisms he performed in “Eau Clair” on November 14, 1860. According to Declaring God’s Glory: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (August 17, 2014), the commemorative book celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. John Lutheran Church in Fall Creek, “it was Wilhelm Stelter who convinced Strieter to make the trip to the Fall Creek Valley.” This is consistent with Strieter’s records, since Strieter calls him “my Stelter” and “a very dear Christian” in the previous chapter, and since he includes Wilhelm Stelter as a witness to the first of the just-mentioned baptisms, that of Florendine Caroline Stubbe. Declaring God’s Glory also claims that since “there was no local pastor” in 1863, Strieter “was called and twice made the 200-mile trip to conduct church services, baptize children and perform marriages” there. But this is highly unlikely, since a) Strieter’s records do not include any 1863 visits to Fall Creek, and b) Candidate Theodor Gustav Adolph Krumsieg was ordained and installed as as the congregation’s first regular pastor on September 28, 1862, and was installed at his next parish in Fond du Lac County on December 13, 1863. Even allowing for time to move from Eau Claire County to Fond du Lac County and for a delay in making arrangements to have a pastor install him in his new parish, it does not seem likely that Strieter would have had time to arrange and make two 200-mile trips to Fall Creek in the time available between Krumsieg’s departure and the end of the year in 1863. c) Fall Creek must have obtained a pastor not long after Krumsieg’s departure, since Strieter goes on to talk about another trip there in early April 1864 to conduct an investigation into the accusations against their pastor, a trip for which there is evidence in his records. That means that there had to be time for the new pastor to get settled in Fall Creek and for the relationship between him and his new congregation to deteriorate. Finally, d) Declaring God’s Glory speaks of two trips Strieter made, and there is evidence of two trips in his records – one in 1860 and one in 1864, but none in 1863. The only discrepancy between what he shares here and his records is that he goes on to mention how “the sand was so hot” against his bare feet on the final leg of his return trip, so that he finished the trip in stocking feet, which hardly seems possible in a Wisconsin November. Perhaps the conclusion of this trip got jumbled with another one in his memory, or perhaps it was an abnormally warm November day.

27 For this final trip, Strieter records 5 baptisms he performed in Fall Creek on Sunday, April 3, 1864, after baptizing the son of his neighborlady on Tuesday, March 29. Thus he departed on or around Wednesday, March 30.

28 Most likely the evening of Friday, April 1

29 Ottomar Fuerbringer (1810-1892) was president of the Northern District of the Missouri Synod from 1854-1872 and from 1874-1882.

30 The preacher under investigation remains a mystery, though someone with more time and ambition could doubtless discover his identify. Even the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Fall Creek, does not mention any preacher between Theodore Krumsieg and Wilhelm Julius Friedrich. The latter preached his first sermon in Fall Creek later that year on August 7 and was ordained and installed on October 2.

31 A visitor was akin to a circuit pastor today. He was answerable to the district president and responsible for visiting the pastors in his area.

32 On Monday, April 4

33 The printer misread herumlaufenden for Strieter’s herumstreichenden.

34 On Tuesday, April 5

35 That is, boiling maple sap down to syrup

36 On Wednesday, April 6

37 Strieter’s spelling of Moldehnke. See endnote 39 below.

38 On Thursday, April 7

39 Pastor Eduard Moldehnke of the Wisconsin Synod made three well-documented mission trips between 1861 and 1862, but in none of these does he mention stopping or preaching near Menomonie. However, at the 1863 Wisconsin Synod convention, President Johannes Bading reported that “during the course of spring [1863], journeys were also made in Minnesota and four stations were visited. Furthermore 14 new stations were established in western Wisconsin, so that altogether 22 stations in Wisconsin and Minnesota are being served by the traveling preacher.” At that same convention, it was resolved to release Pastor Moldehnke from his position so that he could serve as instructor of the seminary-college to be started in Watertown. Pastor Moldehnke agreed to the new position, provided he be given three more months to wind up his traveling preacher activities, which was granted. After 1863, Moldehnke appears only to have made one more trip in 1866, since it was reported to the synod convention that year that Moldehnke had spent several months in Minnesota as a traveling preacher. So the congregation mentioned by Strieter here most likely did not have to relay Strieter’s message.

40 On Friday, April 8

41 Strieter records baptizing 4 children in Durand on this day – Christian Lorenz Kuhn, August Wilhelm Zeising, Wilhelm Heinrich Wetterroth, and Anna Elisabeth Catenhusen.

42 On Saturday, April 9. Strieter’s two baptisms “by Mondovi” were of Johann Ludwig Heinrich Machmeyer and Heinrich Schreiner.

43 The printer misread buntes for Strieter’s blaues.

44 This is not exactly proper language about baptism. Baptism is a one-sided covenant in which God does all the acting, not a two-sided covenant. In baptism God saves us (Mark 16:16; Titus 3:4-5; 1 Peter 3:20-21), forgives our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), clothes us with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), makes us heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7), and makes a pledge to us that we will have a good conscience before him (1 Peter 3:21). This of course does not benefit us apart from faith in Christ (Mark 16:16), but the responsibility for the loss of faith lies with us, not with God. Strieter does allude to this proper view of baptism when he calls baptism a “covenant of grace,” which it cannot be unless it is one-sided. The language of two-sidedness crept into Lutheranism over time, especially in trying to describe the purpose of the confirmation rite, which is not instituted or commanded in Scripture. One faulty explanation of confirmation is that it is a renewing of our baptismal covenant, which we cannot in fact renew, since we had no part in making the covenant in the first place.

45 Strieter appears to be faltering a bit in his memory here. He did baptize 4 children in the town of Brunswick in Eau Claire County on April 9, but they were not all girls, and the baby’s name was not Trude. He baptized Anna Louise Wüst (b. September 6, 1856), Amalie Caroline Wüst (b. November 13, 1857), and Carl Friedrich W. Wüst (no birthdate given) – all children of Johann and Maria (Damas) Wüst – and also Marva Peisch (b. November 22, 1863), the daughter of Johann and Amalie (Würtenberger) Peisch. The similar experience he had in Berlin actually occurred less than a month later, on May 1, when he baptized 4 daughters of August and Barbara (Ander) Schipinsky – Pauline Wilhelmine (b. December 14, 1852), Emilie Clara (b. May 17, 1854), Louise Wilhelmine (b. October 14, 1855), and Anna Friederike (b. May 29, 1860).

46 The German in Strieter’s manuscript is difficult here. I have followed Leutner’s abridgment. Strieter’s manuscript reads (to the best of my ability, trying to discern what was later crossed out): “…der führt mich zu einer Wittwe [sic], die einzigen [sic] Lutheraner im [in? ein?]”, followed by a large space, followed by a word that starts with an S, but is indiscernible because of the lines stricken through it and the attempted corrections written over the top of it. Whatever the case, Strieter appears to have faltered here to one extent or another, since his records indicate he did baptize 2 children in Eau Claire on Sunday, April 10.

47 Strieter’s spelling of Reads Landing, Minnesota, on the western shore of the Mississippi River where the Chippewa River empties into it

48 This sentence was omitted by the printer.

49 Strieter appears to have concluded his investigation/mission trip on Tuesday, April 12 – nearly two weeks away from home.

[Read the next part here.]

Advertisements

Strieter Autobiography: Announcing for Communion

[Continued from Part 21. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Wisconsin (continued)

The people had the custom of not standing around in front of the schoolhouse or residence, but of going inside and singing until I arrived. They had Bollhagen’s hymnal,12 which in the main part had our hymns more or less unaltered. It had several appendices that contained rationalistic hymns. One man told me, “Our preacher in Germany always had us sing from the second appendix.” That’s where the worst hymns were.13 I looked up all the hymns that were in our St. Louis hymnal14 and wrote the page number in Bollhagen’s hymnal on the side. I purchased hymnals from Barthel and sold them, and thus I brought our hymnal into use among the people. At first I would say, “In my hymnal, no. —, in Bollhagen’s, page —.”

The people sang well and knew all the melodies. It never happened to me once that we were unable to sing a hymn. Almost everywhere I had some men who would act as the precentor. I would begin, and some good singer would take it up. Then I would save my voice as much as possible.

One time I noticed over at Buchholz’s that every last person was standing in front of the church. (There they soon built a log church thatched with straw,15 and soon another one just like it at Donning’s.16) When I got there, someone said, “Father died the day before yesterday. Please give a funeral sermon before you go into the church.” I announce the hymn, “Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me,” and while they are singing, I think of a text for myself and what I am going to say.

Now with the Lord’s Supper I had some anxiety. My Stelter – he was an administrator [Vorsteher] and a very dear Christian – said, “When we were abroad, people announced for the Supper with the schoolteacher or with the custodian. No one went to the preacher.”

I think to myself, “Where do you even start?” I give a speech and show what the Lutheran custom is, namely to announce for the Supper beforehand with the pastor, and I show how necessary this is for me and them.

But the reply was, “We’re not used to that,” meaning that it wasn’t necessary either.

A former schoolmaster from Germany wanted to know where it stood in the Bible that you had to announce for the Supper. I had already cited the passages, “We are stewards” [cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1], and, “Do not throw your pearls to the sows” [Matthew 7:6], and now I also pointed to the passage, “Confess your sins to each other” [James 5:16]; they confessed their sins to John.17 He was quiet. But they still could not and would not see the necessity of the practice.18

I say, “But what then if it is absolutely necessary for me to say something to someone for the sake of my conscience?”

They reply, “Then just say it.”

I say, “In front of everyone?”

They say, “But of course!”

I say, “Fine, that’s what I’ll do.”

I allow every single person to give me his or her name, and I always write it down. When I held Lord’s Supper at Buchholz’s for the first time, I had 75 male and 75 female names in my book. After that I posed the following questions: Do you believe from the heart in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you believe that in the Lord’s Supper the true body and blood of Christ is eaten and drunk under bread and wine? Are you reconciled, and do you wish to partake of the Holy Supper as repentant sinners? These questions were answered Yes in chorus.

But it didn’t take long before it happened as I thought it would. One time I’m going home from Princeton and see how someone is unhitching his oxen from the cart and letting them drink and hitching them back up again, and he’s so drunk that he can hardly get it done. On Sunday there’s Lord’s Supper at W[arnke]’s. My man is sitting way in the back, but gives his name too.

I say, “But my dear man, I have something to say to you, sir. I saw you there completely drunk, did I not?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “Does this happen with you at other times, sir?”

He says, “Yeah.”

I say, “You, sir, are a drunkard then. A drunkard cannot inherit the kingdom of God; God’s word condemns him [cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10]. He can only take the Holy Supper to his detriment.”

He says yeah, he was sorry and would amend his ways.

I say, “You, sir, must repent, sincerely, acknowledge your sin and hasten in faith with your sins to your Savior. Repentant, as a Christian, you must go to the Lord’s Supper.”

He says, “Yes, I will do that.”

I say, “I will give you the Lord’s Supper then, but I will be watching you to see whether you are serious about improving.”

Later, on the way home, a man is standing at the bottom of the little hill where I have to turn and he says, “Mr. Preacher, one moment!” I halt. He says, “I also want to go to the Supper. Will you take me, sir?”

I say, “You know my questions, sir. What is your position on them?”

He says, “I am not reconciled. My brother-in-law N. and I are mortal enemies and I would sooner go to hell than forgive him.”

“My dear man,” I say, “how then are you going to go to the Supper? Doesn’t the Lord say that if you do not forgive people their failings, then your heavenly Father will not forgive you yours either [cf. Matthew 6:15]?”

He says, “I know well that according to the teaching of Jesus I cannot go to the Supper.”

The Lord’s Supper is at B[uchholz]’s. After the names are recorded, a father stands up and says this: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so and Such-and-such, my daughter and my son-in-law, have also announced, and they are at enmity with us.”

I ask the accused; they admit it. I say, “Then reconcile with each other immediately! All four of you step into the aisle and extend your hands in reconciliation.” They do so.

A mother stands up: “Mr. Preacher, So-and-so, my son, has also announced, and he’s a drinker. Please admonish him.”

I admonish him.

The Lord’s Supper is at T[agatz]’s. There I learn that [Mr.] H. doesn’t believe in any devil. He announces.

“Mr. H., is it true what I hear about you, sir, that you deny the existence of the devil?”

He says, “How can I believe that there is a devil, when no one has ever seen him?”

I say, “Sure someone has seen him – there in the wilderness [rf. Matthew 4:1-11]. Haven’t you heard about that yet, sir?”

He says, “Oh sure, but I can’t believe it.”

I say, “Then you do not believe God’s word, sir. Then you also cannot believe the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, so you cannot go to the Supper.”

In the course of time one administrator after another comes to me. They say, “Mr. Preacher, the people don’t like having you tell them their shame right to their face in front of everyone.”

I say, “That’s exactly what I suspected!”

I now present again how necessary it is to announce. This time they want to do it. I now say that I will set a day on which they should announce; for those far away I will hold it so that they can announce by my buggy before church. And that’s how it went. That’s how I got private confession and announcing for the Lord’s Supper going.

One time I’m going to B[uchholz’s] for announcement in the church. On the way someone calls to me, “Mr. Preacher, we would also like to go to the Supper. Will you write us down here?”

“Gladly.”

He says, “But the question is whether I am allowed to go?”

I say, “Why wouldn’t you be?”

He says, “Yeah, I am in conflict with my neighbor [Mr.] P, who let his cattle in my pasture. I told him about it, but to no avail. Then I sued him and he was judged guilty. But in front of the court he came up to me and socked me one in the face and went to the judge and laid 5 dollars down. I go to him later and confront him with his wrong, but he says, ‘I have paid for that.’”

I say, “If you have offered him reconciliation and he didn’t want it, then you, sir, can go to the Supper, but he cannot.”

I reach my destination. Sure enough! My [Mr.] P. comes and announces. I confront him with what [Mr.] M. said. He admits it, but also refers to his 5 dollars. I say, “Listen here, sir, you know better than that. You know that you cannot make up for your sins with 5 dollars. You must ask [Mr.] M. to forgive you.”

“I will not do that.”

I say, “Then you cannot go to the Supper either.”

He makes a sour face and leaves.

After the service the administrators are occupied with something else, and I come out of the sacristy with my basket. (I always had to bring everything with me.) My [Mr.] P is also still there and starts in: “Listen, you administrators, I have something to tell you. I am in conflict with [Mr.] M. To him he gives the Supper, but not to me.”

I now lay the matter before them. My administrators said, “The preacher did exactly right.”

Later a woman came and said, “Mr. P. has threatened that he’s going to give you a sound thrashing, sir. I would definitely watch out; he is a wild man.”

I say, “Did he say that to you, ma’am?”

She says, “Yes.”

I say, “Good, give him my regards and tell him that here under the hay is a small little gun, loaded and ready. If he should attack me in the woods like a murderous robber, I will shoot him stone dead.”

But he did not come.

Endnotes

12 Laurentius David Bollhagen (1683-1738) first issued his Heilige Lippen- und Herzensopfer einer gläubigen Seele oder Vollständiges Gesangbuch (Holy Offerings from the Lips and Heart of a Believing Soul or Complete Hymnal) in 1724 for use in public worship in Pomerania. It was reprinted several times after his death. In 19th century editions the first word was changed from Heilige to Heiliges (A Holy Offering…).

13 The second appendix contained such hymns as “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” (Christian Worship 7), “The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us” (CW 10), “Come, Oh, Come, Life-Giving Spirit” (CW 181), “Alleluia! Let Praises Ring” (CW 241), and “Renew Me, O Eternal Light” (CW 471). Strieter, however, probably did not especially care for the strong representation in that section of Pietistic hymns and hymnwriters. And I am sure that hymn #1203, for example, made him positively shudder. Attributed to a certain J. P. v. Schult, it opens thus:

Jesus, come with your Father,
Come to me – I love you!
Come, O faithful Counselor of my soul,
Holy Spirit, take possession of me!
Let me, O triune Being,
Be selected as your dwelling.

This could perhaps be understood correctly in light of John 14:23, but by a) switching the perspective from Jesus’ third person to the first person of the singer, b) including the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus does not include in John 14, c) intensifying the language, and d) providing no theological context, it ends up conveying a message and giving an impression diametrically opposed to the truth Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16.

14 The Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch-Lutherische Gemeinden ungeänderter Augsburgischer Confession, first published in 1847, also colloquially known as “Walther’s hymnal.” Today it is also available in English.

15 Today this is Emmanuel Lutheran, Big Mecan (mailing address Montello), located at the corner of Evergreen Lane and Town Hall Road, just south of State Road 23. The church Strieter describes here was built in 1863 at what is today the east end of Emmanuel Lutheran Cemetery.

16 Today this is St. Paul’s Lutheran, town of Newton (mailing address Westfield), located at the corner of 10th Road and 11th Road.

17 Either Strieter was mistakenly thinking, either at the time or when recalling the incident later, that the passage was found in one of John’s epistles, instead of in James, or he was combining James 5:16 with 1 John 1:9 in his mind.

18 The practice of announcing with the pastor before partaking of the Lord’s Supper can trace its ancestry back to private confession, which in turn dates all the way back to around 250 AD in the Eastern Church. The Eastern Church historians Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen both relate that the office of penitentiary, a minister appointed for hearing private confessions, also thereby helped people to prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper (Socrates, Bk. 5, Ch. 19; Sozomen, Bk. 7, Ch. 16). The Bible nowhere explicitly necessitates private confession or announcing, but it does command us to examine ourselves before receiving the Supper and warns us of the consequences of treating the Supper lightly (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Strieter was also correct to cite 1 Corinthians 4:1 and Matthew 7:6, which emphasize the pastor’s role in relation to the Lord’s Supper, namely to be a faithful administrator of it and not to knowlingly or willingly distribute it to those who are continuing in some sin. Many Lutheran churches in America today no longer practice announcing, probably due to the difficulty of putting it into practice in our fast-paced, busy society and in larger churches. However, there is usually still some form of registration required so that the pastor is able a) to take note of those planning to partake of the Supper and to speak to them beforehand or afterward if needed, and b) to keep track of whether or not any of his congregation’s members are failing to make use of the Supper.

[Read the next part here.]