History of the First German-Lutheran Settlement in Altenburg, Perry County Missouri: pages 20 - 24

who had affirmed the presence of Christ in the church. Pastor Walther presented an argument with convincing clarity providing proofs from the works of Luther and Joh. Gerhard, stating that a church might be externally corrupt however it still remained a church as long as the essential components, the word and the sacraments, were still present. The Corinthian and Galatian congregations were rife with sins and transgressions but they could still be called congregations of God because deep down they still believed in Christ, even though this fact was not readily apparent. They were still a true church because the majority could still be called a true church, thus the term church applied to the entire congregation. From this was derived the validity of the preaching office and the administration of the sacraments and so all reservations were swept aside. Even the opponents in the debate were convinced. Renewed trust in the assurance of God's grace and His blessing were established. Once again people placed their trust in the pastors, who for their part were convinced that they wanted nothing other than to fortify the souls entrusted to them in the all-healing faith of Jesus Christ endowed through the pure word of God and the sacraments. They wanted to cleanse all flaws and false elements from doctrine and practice. The congregations no longer had reservations about their pastors, whom they had appointed only provisionally. Now they celebrated their appointments formally and saw those appointments as godly. The true bishop and shepherd of His congregations knew how to send sweet fruit. This was the clear and bright certainty in the answers to the questions, what is the church and whence comes the validity for the preaching office and the administration of the sacraments. Their eyes were opened and they saw that the church was still there. It had been obscured by much hostility and corruption but it had sobered up after its arrogant and false conceit. The Lord had put the church under siege so it would recognize that it was still a christian community despite how greatly it had sinned during the time of Stephan due to its loveless leadership. They had to learn in humility how much they needed God's mercy. The grace of God and the righteousness of faith

acquired renewed importance and greatness for them in countering the pangs of a guilty conscience. In addition to God's word they had turned to the writings of Luther, which served in a meaningful way to guide them out of their confusion. This bore good fruit because as a result Luther's writings were more highly treasured and thus more diligently studied.

The rebuilding of church and communal existence commenced along with agriculture once the first impediments and the most difficult battles were won. Gradually and peacefully things progressed. Even though climatic fever constantly returned, it proved to be less dangerous in time and claimed fewer offerings. By the summer of 1839 the hands of the congregation had begun work on a parish house. Church services were held on the top floor. The congregations of Seelitz and Dresden joined with Altenburg. Pastor F. Walther was called back to St. Louis in spring 1839 to take his brother's place when the Lord called him back to Himself earlier that year. The congregation deeply mourned his premature death. Now the congregations only had 3 pastors: Löber, Keyl and Gruber. Even the candidates received appointments to other places. Only Candidate Brohm remained to continue instruction of a few boys, who wished to study for the ministry. Later the school became a theological college and seminary administered by Pastors Löber and Keyl, who were joined in 1843 by Rector Gönner. After the death of Pastor Löber in 1849 the seminary moved to St. Louis and was administered by Pastor Walther and his congregation. The facility was called Concordia College and it soon attained prominence and grew significantly. It was praiseworthy that even at a time when resources were scarce, thought was given to the continued presence of ministers and people supported this facility. A few of the candidates and later especially Pastor Löber denied themselves many comforts in order to apply all their resources to this work. Even the congregation played its praiseworthy part by constructing the necessary buildings and providing

other means of support on a daily basis. The congregation felt painful loss and it was not happy when the facility was moved to St. Louis.

On the third day of Advent 1841 the church school was opened with a dedication ceremony. It's teacher, Mr. F. Winter, was one of the separatist Prussian Lutherans who had joined Stephan's emigration group. He was a capable man educated in a German seminary. Soon after the Altenburg congregation decided to build a new church. Even though people still had so much to do to provide for themselves and money was scarce, their love for God's word made them willing to sacrifice. The cornerstone was laid on March 14, 1844 and the quarry stone building was opened with a dedication ceremony by Pentacost 1845.

In 1845 the congregation was vexed by a new dispute concerning doctrine, which also had an influence on church practice. Until now only general confession was the custom brought over from Germany. In a well-intended move to reintroduce the congregation to the practice of private confession as it existed in the old form of Lutheranism and thus to win greater blessing in his ministry, Pastor Löber began to work towards the reinstatement of the practice. Factions for and against its reintroduction rose up and an article written by Dr. Harless in the Lutheran made the subject even more ponderous and difficult. One sentence stated that there was an essential difference between the servant of the word absolving a repentant sinner of his sins in Christ's place and that servant preaching the gospel concerning the forgiveness of sins. (The Lutheran, V.4, no.11.) The rector of the college at that time, J.J. Gönner, and his assistant teacher, J.D. Nitzschke, offered counter argument, stating it was clearly laid out in the writings of Luther, Brenz and others that each true sermon taken from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ contained and offered the grace of forgiveness within itself

and thus imparted the same grace as private absolution. The only difference was that private absolution extended this grace to the individual, brought him closer to God and lent support to his weak faith. This correct interpretation prevailed and most people were united in God's grace although some were led to rebellion in the heat of battle. Private confession was acknowledged as an old and honorable institution which could impart great blessing when used by a wise and experienced spiritual caregiver, however as history and experience teach, the art of the confessional has the potential for many serious misuses leading to the detriment of souls. Individuals must be allowed to follow their consciences as to whether private confession would bring benefit. Private confession must not become compulsory. Both general confession and private confession would be practiced.

In 1848 the congregation joined the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States, which had sprung to life two years earlier. There were individuals who had objections to the union however they rescinded them once Pastor Löber explained that they would not be irrevocably tied to the Synod. They could separate at any time if they perceived any harmful or prejudicial influence.

The year 1849 was again a time of great trial for the congregation. The deadly disease of cholera, which sometimes raged throughout the country, spread here and demanded many offerings. By organizing a regime for nursing care in times of dire need the congregation helped where it could. Even many young people risked their lives in the service of charity. The epidemic snatched away many heads of families and many mothers. The most difficult blow for the congregation however was the death ot its beloved spiritual caregiver, Pastor Löber.

He had served the congregation in selfless devotion and loyalty for 10 years. Despite poor health he worked ceaselessly in his ministry during those last days visiting the many people who were sick and applying all his energy toward various tasks

and functions associated with pastoral office. On August 1st he went to his own sickbed and on the 19th of the same month he gently and blessedly passed away into the arms of the Lord. "Lord Jesus, you have my soul now!" were his last words. The congregation lost a spiritual caregiver who represented the Lord with integrity and humility. He left an inextinguishable memory of love and esteem in the hearts of his parish children. His friend of many years, Pastor Gruber, wrote a beautiful commemorative article, which was published in The Lutheran. See V. 6, no. 19.

The writer of this chronicle, Georg A. Schieferdecker, was appointed to take his place. Since 1841 he had served the ministries in the counties of Monroe and St. Clair in Illinois. After contemplating the vocation and accepting it as God's will, I accepted the posting and began my ministry there on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1850. The circumstances under which I assumed the leadership of the congregation were so difficult that it required special wisdom and experience to preserve the congregation from perilous ruination. However because those circumstances centered around so many individual lives it was not appropriate to set them down in this chronicle. Suffice it to say there were many explosive issues as I began my ministry and there was much mistrust demonstrated against me. I am also not at liberty to state the reasons for this mistrust but I am at peace with my conscience that from the beginning I was filled with honest and proper motives for advancing the well being of the congregation and the administration of my office in accordance with the word of God. Perhaps many felt that I did not have the necessary tact and certainty needed to find the correct course amid so many difficult situations. Perhaps they expected these qualities from a leader of a congregation, which had gone through so many difficult challenges and conflicts. It also seems that I has not supposed to stay here for very long. President Wyneken nominated me to take the post of a newly established congregation in New Orleans. This post had been filled by Pastor Volk, who died of yellow fever shortly after taking up the holy work. Over the course of the winter I was offered the position there. The decision for me was even more difficult

Go to pages 25 - 29

Go to the index