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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : SPECIAL CONFERENCE IN VIRGINIA.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

SPECIAL CONFERENCE IN VIRGINIA.

83. Minutes of 1805. -- In the first decade of the nineteenth century a Special Conference was organized in Virginia: |Specialkonferenz der Evang.-Luth. Prediger (Lehrer) und Abgeordneten im Staat Virginien.| At the meeting held on Sunday, October 7, 1805, in the newly built church at Millerstadt (Woodstock), five lay delegates (among them Doctor Solomon Henkel) and the following ministers were present: Chr. Streit, W. Carpenter, Paul Henkel, J. Foltz, A. Spintler. Streit delivered a touching sermon (eine ruehrende Rede) in the Lutheran church on Matt.28, 20. In the afternoon Paul Henkel preached in the Reformed church on 2 Cor.4, 5; in the evening, Carpenter on 1 Cor.1, 23, also in the Reformed church. Monday morning they met in the schoolhouse. At 12 o'clock Spintler preached in the Reformed church on Eph.1, 7. In the afternoon it was decided that an address to the congregations be added to the minutes |on better bringing up of the children and better order of the youth.| On motion of Solomon Henkel it was resolved to add to the minutes also the 21 articles of the Augsburg Confession. Furthermore it was resolved that after the sermon the children should be instructed in the catechism. It was also approved to abolish as far as possible the custom of saying the individual lines of the hymns in public worship (die Lieder zeilenweise vorzusprechen). The address added to the minutes says, in part: |If children are to grow up well-bred and be reared to the honor of God, then the teachers in the churches, the schoolteachers in the school-houses, and the parents in their dwellings must perform their various duties toward the young plants in the vineyard of the Lord.| |Generally men care for the bodily welfare of their children, which in itself is not wrong; why, then, should we not also, and indeed much more so, be concerned about their everlasting and eternal welfare?| |O parents, parents! seek to save yourselves and, as much as is in you, also your children! Do not spare any trouble or expenses to have your children instructed in the fundamental truths of our holy religion. Send them, according to your ability and the circumstances, to school regularly, especially to such schools where they are trained, not only for this world, but for heaven also, where they are instructed in song, prayer, and the doctrine of the catechism.| |In our corrupted times some parents permit their children to waste the whole day of the holy Sabbath in a disorderly and sinful manner rather than bring them to the teacher in order to have them instructed for half an hour to their temporal and eternal welfare. O parents, parents! is that the way to bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? O remember that, who knows how soon, you with your dear children will have to appear before God's judgment! O ponder what a fearful and terrible thing it would be, if at that great day your own children should have to accuse and condemn you there before the throne of God!| With respect to the grown-up youth the address complains: |We cannot, in truth, think of many of you without shedding tears. Many of you do not only despise your mother tongue, but with it your mother church. Many, at least among those of our acquaintance, born of Evangelical Lutheran parents, neglect the instruction which they could have so conveniently, neglect confirmation and the Lord's Supper, and frequently behave in public worship in a manner to make one feel almost ashamed of them, and thus they live in the world without religion and without God.|

84. Minutes of 1807, etc. -- To the minutes of 1807 a formula for burial, furnished by Henkel, is added for the use of schoolteachers in the absence of a minister. At the meeting in the schoolhouse at Winchester, 1808, it was resolved that the congregations elect devout men to conduct reading-services and give catechetical instruction to the children on Sundays when ministers are absent. It was furthermore resolved that ministers should conduct, as often as possible, private meetings in their congregations in order to edify the members by prayer, song, and instruction. The admonition, written by Paul Henkel and Streit, and added to the minutes, in a simple and earnest manner urges the congregations to introduce the reading-services, the instruction of the young, and to attend the private meetings. |Coldness and indifference in religion,| they say, |is so universal that we must employ all possible means to awaken men to a true and living Christianity.| A special and fervent appeal is added not to abuse, but to keep, the Sabbath, the Day of the Lord, |the good, useful, holy day, which God especially has reserved for Himself for the furtherance of His honor and the welfare of our immortal souls.| The appeal concludes: |Do you love your country? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you love civic rest? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you love your neighbors? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you love your children? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you love your parents? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you love your preachers, your Savior, and your souls? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you desire to escape hell? Then sanctify the Sabbath. Do you desire some day to celebrate the eternal Sabbath with the saints and the perfected just before the throne of God? Then sanctify the Sabbath here on earth, whereby you may be best prepared for those blissful occupations.| At the meeting of the Special Conference in the school of Solomon's Church, Shenandoah County, 1809, it was resolved that the admonition to be added to the minutes of this year should take |special reference to the furtherance of the German language and schools.| The admonition, written by Paul Henkel and Carpenter, complains that the ministers were not able to do their mission-duty, partly because they were rich and unable to undergo the hardships connected with traveling, partly because the congregations supporting them refused to let them go. They admonish the congregations to show their brotherly love in permitting their ministers to serve their forsaken and needy brethren. Respecting the cultivation of the German language, the admonition remarks, in part: |In the first place, we know that the English language is not as easily understood as the German. Even when the Germans are able to read and write it, they understand very little of it aright. Their parents, themselves not knowing the language, can hear their children read, and see them write, but cannot show them where they err, nor correct them. And just as little are they able to explain to them the contents of what they read; for [even] the English understand very little of what they read in some useful books, until they learn to understand it from their dictionaries.| |If parents were really concerned about training their children for the general weal of the country, they would see to it that their sons be taught the Christian religion in their mother-tongue as well as be instructed in the English language to read, write, figure, etc. Then they might become truly useful men for the general welfare of their country. All the most useful men that one can point out in our country are, as a rule, of this class. It cannot be expected that men who, for reasons of selfishness and pride, despise their language and church will stand for the welfare of their country.| The admonition concludes: |We know how much good and wholesome instruction for the edification of our souls and for the comfort of our hearts we have derived from our German books, which are so easily understood, and which so plainly describe the simple way of life. From what we learned from them ever since our youth, we have obtained our only hope of salvation hereafter; why, then, should we, for any reason whatsoever, deprive our children of it?| According to the statistical appendix of the minutes of the Special Conference in 1809, there were, at that time, no less than 49 organized congregations in Virginia. It does not, however, appear that the interest in the German language and the consciousness of true Lutheranism made any marked progress in the following years. In 1817, at Culpeper, Pastors G. Riemenschneider, A Reck, Nicholas and Peter Schmucker, and Michael Meyerhoeffer, and five lay delegates were present. Four German and three English sermons were delivered. Among the resolutions is the following: |that only pious and, if possible, only converted men be chosen as elders of the congregations, and that they live piously both in their homes with family prayer in the evening and morning, and before the world respectably and honorably, receive the Lord's Supper frequently,| etc. Instead of any reference to the tercentenary of the Reformation we find in the minutes of 1817 a resolution to the effect |that the proceedings of this year, together with a Letter of a Traveling Jew appended, be printed.|

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