Family Lutheranism

Grandpa’s Story

2359384477_0a2fcebe69_oI used to sit and listen to Grandpa talk. Talk and tell stories. Eventually I got smart enough to bring a tape recorder, and later wrote them down. Today, on his heavenly birthday, I would like to share one of them with you. He told me this one on June 26, 1998 just over a year before he died. It tells of how his father came to the United States and got settled in Minnesota.

I gotta keep on talking German so I don’t lose out on it. My Dad used to sing Polish, used to sing songs. Seven [languages]. He could get along with somebody, like Polish, Bohemian, German, not Norwegian or Swedish, that he didn’t-, but some of the others like… He could even understand Russian. It was in the same line. That’s where my Dad, when he went to school, where those boys are come together. And he was working, he was a shoemaker, working on shoes, in the service, when they went out for dinner, or recess, or so on they got all kinds of friends, other languages. Now they cut that out… That’s where Dad went, from Austria to Germany. Austria wouldn’t let him out, you know, because he had to serve one more year, but those two Jews they went, had the suitcases, and my Dad carried their suitcases and they went to the desk and got their passports, and my dad had ahold of those suitcase and stood behind them, and when they got their passports, they went, and Dad followed them. And those guys on the…, that were giving the passports, they thought he was just hired to carry the suitcases. That’s how he got to Germany. When he was in Germany he was all right. And when he got to the boat, the guy, or somebody there hollered, “Anybody wants to go to America and hasn’t got the passports, come here you can get it right here.” That sounded so good to my dad; he went there. He got the passport. He didn’t have enough money; he got to eat on the ship. But when he got off the ship, he didn’t have no money. He was hungry when he came here to Rich Valley. From New York to Rich Valley. There was someone he met on the way there, who gave him something to eat. But, that’s the only way he got something to eat. I don’t know how long it took from New York. I can’t remember at all. But [in] Rich Valley, he had a rope on the neck, see, and he didn’t have to; all they had to do was look at that. That just told the conductor of the train, or the depot, they just looked at that and told him what train to take. And he come to Rich Valley, right there, and his brother and his sister lived on the hill by Rich Valley. They could see that far. And when they seen him walking in the field with two suitcases, my aunt figured “that’s him”, and she took off and met him in the field. And then they were both crying in the field when they seen each other. He (my dad) was the youngest in the family. Jake was here already, and Andrew was here, and Peter was here, and Sophie, that’s the aunt. They were here already, for quite a while. Uncle Andrew had that farm rented, and then my Dad stayed there and helped him on the farm there. That’s how he got, and Uncle Andrew he was; got acquainted with the Franzmeiers. The they went to the church, Emanuel Lutheran Church in Inver Grove.  A lot of  Germans came and went to that church. So my Dad walked from Rich Valley to Inver Grove to church, and then he met my mother there. Well, Uncle Andrew knew the Schindeldeckers already. There was the Franzmeiers, there’s so many of them; I don’t remember all the names. In Rich Valley, and Missouri Church, Lone Oak. There were more Germans there. Grandmother, but he was Missouri [Synod]. He come by boat, in October, he married here by South St. Paul, and she prayed, you know, that he would get something else to do, instead of going on the boat, delivering groceries, and he listened to her. He bought a farm there by South St. Paul, and that’s where my mother was born. She went to school, the Missouri had a school there. That school, that church is still there, but that’s where my mother was born, and raised. She went to school there, and my grandfather was Missouri. She [grandmother] wasn’t a Lutheran girl until she married him. She was a waitress in St. Paul. That’s how he met her, when he went to St. Paul. I don’t know how. That was not a short time. He made the trip several times. She made the trips, well, after she moved, she made the trips with him three times, and she didn’t like the waiting. He had beer, too, on the boats, delivered beer and groceries, from Missouri, but he was born in Indiana. It’s close, right next to it. That’s how he—how he got to be on the boats to deliver groceries, I don’t know. That was a business that had to go at that time, to deliver groceries to St. Paul from Missouri, and the Missouri church was great in Missouri, they were strong in that area, even now. They’re still pretty strong, but I guess they had some trouble a few years back.

You know the devil’s always at work. He never quit. Trying to trouble me. But, that’s where the Schindeldeckers come from.

Books School

Lutheran Education

In his recent book, Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future, Dr. Thomas Korcok examines the history of Lutheran schools, starting with Luther and the other Wittenberg reformers and ending with a discussion of how Lutheran schools today best make use of this rich heritage. The basic premise is that throughout its history, confessional Lutheranism has considered the education of their youth to be critical to the ongoing life of the church. In every age, the church’s schools have had to determine how this work is to be done. Korcok makes the case that at critical points in its history, Lutherans have determined that the classical liberal arts model of education was the ideal in accomplishing its aims. And yet, Korcok shows how Luther and the Wittenberg educators, and then Walther and the Saxon immigrants modified and adapted the liberal arts for their own use. In each generation, various theological and educational movements either needed to be rejected or adapted in order for Lutheran education to be useful. Luther dealt with medieval scholasticism and Aristotelian philosophy, while also understanding that Erasmus’ humanism wasn’t the complete answer either. In Walther’s day, Rationalism was a force opposed to the Lutheran teaching, while Pietism was the pervasive background, even to many confessional Lutherans of that era.

It was enlightening to see how these Lutherans saw in the liberal arts (and their adaptations of it) a natural way of passing on the faith to the next generation and raising up another generation of useful members of society, particularly in the seedbed of society, the home. Baptism, vocation, and catechesis were central. Music was considered  an essential part of this education, and was incorporated into the lower trivial arts. Languages were always important, as language is the means by which God communicates in his word and the tool with which the baptized serve in their vocations in the world and with which they are able to communicate the Gospel to others. This was true even if the languages shifted from Latin to German to English.

The book does not spell out exactly what a Lutheran classroom should look like in the 21st century. It does make the point that the modern classical education movement is not completely identical to the Lutheran adaptation of the liberal arts. But Lutheran schools should carefully consider (or at least be familiar with) what their fathers did, why they did it, and thoughtfully adapt for today.

The book focuses on the schools established by the Saxon Lutherans who became the Missouri Synod. It would be very interesting to find out how those efforts compared to the beginnings of schools in the Wisconsin Synod. It seems as though Wisconsin churches were nearly as aggressive in starting and promoting their parish schools. I wonder if the paths are parallel here. Today, I don’t hear much talk at all about the liberal arts or classical education within the WELS. For example, last fall’s Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Symposium on Lutheran Schools featured a paper entitled “What our Lutheran Fathers Taught Us about Lutheran Schools.” The paper didn’t even mention the liberal arts as a foundation for Lutheran schools. The other papers didn’t mention it either. It makes me wonder why.

One issue that took me by surprise was the response to the kindergarten movement from confessional Lutherans. Interestingly, the first kindergarten in the United States was begun in Watertown, WI, in 1856. The first publicly funded kindergarten was started in St. Louis in 1873. The founder of the movement, Friedrich Fröbel, was raised a Lutheran but denied original sin, among other things. The philosophy behind the movement was not a good one, and the reaction from confessional Lutherans was not positive. At least one point of opposition to the kindergarten was that it removed young children from the influence of their parents. Today, obviously, we do not hear such objections. In fact, early childhood education is hailed as a premier outreach opportunity for Lutheran congregations. For example, take a look at this video that was publicized yesterday. My question is:  How is it that we have come full circle on this? I’m interested to know how the original objections were dismissed, and whether there is still some need for caution.

Another question that crossed my mind while reading about the differences between a Lutheran use of the liberal arts and progressive liberal education in the United States today, is to what degree are our Lutheran schools today influenced by these opposing philosophies? Or, have we somehow reconciled them? What are the distinctives in Lutheran education that set it apart from other models of education? How, for example, does our teacher training prepare our teachers to distinguish their teaching from progressive liberal education? Is it just that we teach religion classes and we watch for anti-Christian bias in other subjects? Or is there something fundamental in the basics of educational theory that is either Christian or not? Are our teachers trained to know the difference?

Finally, what does a liberal arts education look like in a 21st century Lutheran School? According to Korcok, there are three areas of emphasis in which a Lutheran school draws on its liberal arts roots—catechesis, language, and music. I would guess, then, that a strong focus on these areas is the best way for a Lutheran school to begin down the path of drawing on our rich heritage of Lutheran education in the liberal arts.

This past year our school went through the process of accreditation, and as part of that process we identified these statements to describe the way we see our school fulfilling its mission. At least part of the goal in stating these is to keep in the forefront those things that make a Lutheran school what it is.

  1. The school will demonstrate that its main objective is the catechesis (instruction) of its students in the Word of God and its teachings.
  2. The school will develop and maintain a quality music program, as central to its ministry.
  3. The school will intentionally seek to build up the homes and families of students and members of the congregation.
  4. The school will develop and maintain a language curriculum that prepares students to be master communicators and clear thinkers.

I highly recommend this book to all Lutheran pastors, teachers, school board members, etc. At the very least it should be a starting point for a discussion of the state of our schools and teaching today, and as a guide for talking about our future as well. Perhaps some of my readers will have some answers for the questions that my reading has raised. Below I have included a few additional links to resources dealing with the topic of the Lutheran use of the liberal arts and classical education models.

Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future
Lutheran Schools of America (Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education
Issues, etc. Segments on Classical Education

*This image is from the title page of a music book published in 1894. My copy came from my great-uncle George, which I think belonged to his grandfather before him.