Thursday, September 1, 2011

Evangelicals in the Valley

In my last post "Santa Ana"  there was mention of a man who arrived in the middle of the aftermath of the wars in central Europe and the persecutions of protestants in that time.  As it turns out, his family became crucial to the development of the Lutheran church in the Rio Grande Valley area. 

As far as I can find, there was no public Luthean worship in the Rio Grande Valley before the early part of the twentieth century.  That does however not mean there was no Lutheran worship in the area.  In fact, I know now that there was Lutheran worship in private homes in this place.  There are worship materials to indicate this is the case.  That's not so unusual for Lutherans because there has been such a history of suppression of Lutherans in eastern Europe, first by the Hapsburgs and then by the  communists.  When the destination for Lutherans leaving Hapsburg  Europe is Hapsburg America, its not so surprising that they would continue the habits learned in Europe. 

A few years ago there was a letter from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod encouraging the churches to celebrate the first one hundred years of Lutherans in Texas. Mmm hmmm. The letter outlined how the German settlers brought Lutheranism to Texas. Mmmm hmmm.  Ok.  But seeing as how the first Germans here were Roman Catholic I saw a little problem with that proposition.  Seems the first Lutherans in Texas were Joe's family who  did not speak on German.  Some German Lutherans began arriving in the 1830s.  The Wends from Lusatia  began arriving in 1854 and were
soon joined by Wends from from modern Slovenia.

Some Hrvat Evangelicals were already here.  My family was in on that.  King of Spain had granted one of my family the rights that went along with maintaining the trail between Walnut Springs (downtown Seguin) and Sedalia up by the Missouri River.  He also gave them the Trinity River and some land over by where the Spindletop oil field came in.   Those might be parts of other stories for other days.  The point is,  the German migration which brough Lutherans to Texas was certainly welcome to settle here, and they certainly played an important role, but they were not the first Evangelicals here and the letter just was not correct.

 In the 1930's Joe's grandfather appealed to a Spanish speaking missionary from Cuba to come to the Rio Grande Valley.  He began a public movement  by speaking in public venues.  In the 1940s the Lutheran Hour speakers came to help. Joe's father was instrumental in establishing two of the Lutheran churches in Brownsville and Joe is an Elder of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Lutheran Fellowship today.

No offense to Germans is meant here.  Hey, some of my best friends are Germans.  Even my Grandmother's people hopped over here from Germany.   And its true that perhaps between 1860 and 1910 the German Lutherans took center stage in the movement in Texas.   In the 1890s there was the realization that the only language German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and other folk had in common was english and worship services began to be conducted on english.  To accomplish that the church fathers swiped and "Lutheranized" portions of the Anglican Book of Common prayer.  So now, should we have celebrated Cranmer's role in the Lutheran Church in Texas?   I didn't think so.  The letter from the church officials went into the round file.  Poof!

What does this have to do with music?   Chad Bird (right German sounding name, yes?) from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Commission on Worship was once asked if you needed to adopt German culture and sing German music in church to be a good Lutheran. He answered in the affirmative.  How do you think that fell on this old Slav's ears?   Hmmmpf!!!  Down here we are going to use the music we like.  Got it?  Hej Chad,  I so old you can't touch me now - pfffffffffffffft on you bro!!!

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac


1 comment:

  1. Poor Chad, if one must become uber German to be Lutheran he rings a death knell for the church. Fortunately, I don't think too many will agree with him. I love learning the history of the area you are telling us so well.