Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Missionary to America, d. Oct 7, 1787

October 7, 2009 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

Henry MuhlenbergFrom Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations:

“…born in Einbeck, in the province of Hannover, Germany, in 1711, the seventh of nine children…”

“…In the early part of the eighteenth century, the Lutheran communities in the New World were scattered over a wide territory and came from various ethnic origins.  They had built a few churches, but they were without any kind of general organization, and there was considerable dissesion among them…

“…August Hermann Francke, who had made Halle a great center of Pietism, sent Muhlenberg to America in 1742.  He went first to London, where he learned from the court chaplain Frederick Ziegenhagen, as he also had from Halle, something of the need of the New World.  Also, while in London, Muhlenberg had a gown made that was different from both the German and the Scandinavian style, and this was to set the pattern for English Lutheran clerical vesture in America.

“He arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 23, 1742, visited the Lutherans there and in Georgia, and reached Philadelphia November 25, 1742.  Muhlenberg was possessed of much courage and perseverance, and gradually the German-speaking churches recognized his authority and the Swedish clergy also cooperated with him.

“During the forty-five years he labored in America, Muhlenberg, struggling against schismatics and impostors, traveled incessantly, corresponded widely, and set a course for Lutheranism for coming generations.  He preached in German, Dutch, and English, doing so, it is reported with a powerful voice.  He sestablished the first Lutheran synod in America, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, which can be dated from SUnday, August 14, 1748, when the delegates met in Philadelphia.  At this synod Muhlenberg submitted a liturgy that was ratified and remained the only authorized American Lutheran liturgy for forty years.  It was revived and used in many places as part of the bicentennial observ ance of the United States in 1976.  Ultimately, this form of the historic Lutheran order developed into the common liturgy of North American Lutherans…as Lutherans slowly moved toward the ideal that Muhlenberg had expressed in 1786, just before he died, of ‘one church, one book.’

“Muhlenberg’s concern with questions of stewardship, pastoral care, and education strengthened the church life of Lutheran congregations and aided greatly in the transition from the state churches of Europe to the free churches of America; his model congregations constitution of 1762 established the basis for local church government.”

God, our heavenly Father, your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg displayed courage and perseverance in the face of opposition and slander, and brought order both in life and worship to scattered and dispirited congregations: Give to the pastors of your church such strength and faithfulness that the devotion of your people may be enriched, and that unity and cooperation may be advanced, to the glory of your Name; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


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