This article or letter to the editor by G. Birkmann, pastor em., was written in German for the 26 August 1937 edition of the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt. It was translated by Ray Martens.
Dear Mr. Proske,
In this letter, I am sending some items of information which I believe will be of interest to not a few readers of your esteemed newspaper.
A week ago, a newspaper from Riesel was sent to me in which there was a short article to be read concerning Trinity Lutheran Church in Riesel. It was reported that a farewell service for their church building would be held on the first of the month because the congregation had resolved to tear down the existing church, which has been in service since 1892, and to build a new church on the site. Some historical dates also were included in the paper. The congregation was founded in 1883 by Missionary J. J. Trinklein. Their first resident pastor was Fr. Wunderlich, who served them from 1884 to 1904, followed by the Rev. H. Studtmann, 1904-26, and then by E. A. Heckmann, pastor of the congregation from 1926 until now. The number of those baptized during the entire time amounted to 1,100, and 250 were buried. The pastors of the congregation served many places in the area as missionaries: Waco, Marlin, Mart, and Battle. Members of the Riesel congregation sought their release to the named new congregations, and so it happens that Trinity in Riesel, like the old St. Paul in Serbin, became the mother congregation from the roots of which a number of other congregations sprouted. There is a fifth congregation beyond those named above to be added, that served by Rev. Hannusch in Otto.
The Rev. Immanuel Eckhardt Has Died
Another item of news that I wish to report here is that the Rev. Immanuel Eckhardt died a year ago in St. Louis, where he had lived for a long time. He had been the pastor in Anderson, Texas, from 1886 to 1907, for twenty-one years, and thirty years ago his name was well known in our congregations and among his brothers in ministry. I had many occasions to associate with him, and I can certify that he went about his ministry faithfully and conscientiously, that the wellbeing of his congregation lay on his heart. He was especially happy in the school with the little ones, and they placed their full confidence in him. He had enjoyed a good education and was also gifted, had a good mind, and was very adept at speaking. Born and raised in Saxony, he spoke error-free German. It is said that everyone has his peculiarities, and that applies also to him. When I first met him on a train trip and could converse with him at length, I had to wonder about his opinions in different matters, ordinarily quite contradictory. But, yet, he was friendly along with all of that, and one could practice leniency.
He came to conferences at times without a suitcase, instead had his things tied up in a cloth. Sometimes he wrote letters on slips of paper that he took out of a wastebasket. He sent his boys (one of them adopted) off to college in Concordia, MO, barefoot. That is how thrifty our Eckhardt was, and, yet, it is also a fact that sometimes he gave something to poor students and once helped a small mission congregation to the extent that he loaned them money without interest to build a church.
I remember a nice remark that he made at the table of the celebration of a pastor’s anniversary. He said that one should mention not only the pastor at such celebrations, but also his wife, who stood so faithfully at his side and made his work possible.
He liked to be with people, attended conventions and conferences regularly, and one took an interest in him because of the many original and unusual remarks which he made, even if he sometimes brought up something that stirred controversy. For example, he chose to maintain that no salary should be offered to missionaries, but that, like the apostles, they should go out without bag or purse, without means of their own, and seek their support from those to whom they preach. If a lively debate were to arise about this and he was contradicted, that did not upset him at all, as long as there was always something to dispute.
Eckhardt remained in ministry for another twelve years in Nebraska after he left Texas and lived in St. Louis since 1920.
An Anniversary of Years in Ministry
My son, the Rev. Paul G. Birkmann, notified me during these days of a celebration which his congregation in Rose Hill, Texas, organized for him last Sunday in recognition of his twenty-five years in the pastoral ministry.
They wished to surprise him, of course, and he was picked up for the noon meal, and, afterward, his host took him for a ride, and they came to the church, where many cars and people had found their way. Mr. W. A. Froehlich, who was driving my son, said to him, “This is for you, but you do not have to preach; just take your place in front of the altar.” Rev. Wiederaenders preached, and the hymn, “The Lord Has Led Me Hitherto” was sung.
Then Rev. Ulmer from Hufsmith spoke, and several representatives of the Hufsmith congregation, which my son had served earlier, made an appearance and brought some gifts. The Rev. G. Naumann from Klein delivered a short message as circuit counselor, and his son, John, a missionary in India, also spoke. Then a couple of congratulatory letters were read, one from Rev. Fischer in Giddings and the second from me.
My son took the floor and told how happy and moved he was that day as he recalled the grace of God, etc. The congregation, which filled the church, gathered a collection from among themselves and gave it to the one celebrating the anniversary. After that, the gathering moved to the school house, where refreshments were served. A social gathering had been planned next to the church, but it rained on that day, and that too was a desired gift of God.
G. Birkmann, pastor em.