June 18, 1936 – Earlier District Conventions in Serbin, Texas (Continuation of the article about district conventions)

This article by Rev. G. Birkmann, emeritus, and translated by Ray Martens, first appeared in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatrt on 18 June 1936.

Second Convention of the Southern District in Serbin, 1904

This was the last convention of the Southern District in our state. From the beginning of the district, eight conventions were held in New Orleans, and the convention in 1904 in Serbin was the eighth in Texas.

Both congregations in Serbin accommodated this convention again, as they had the first time, with only one exception, that the sessions in this second convention were not held in both churches, but only in St. Paul (Herm. Kilian, pastor) because only his church offered enough room for the gathering, which now was much larger than that of eighteen years earlier.

But St. Peter did reserve the right to hold a service on Sunday also in their church and arranged that the president of the synod and president of the Southern District be present at this service and sit in front of the altar so that everyone could see them. The president of the synod sent Vice-President Peter Brand as his representative, and he preached at the opening service on Wednesday, (in July) in St. Paul, where, as said, the sessions were to be held. In his sincere and capable way, he also made the proceedings interesting with his accounts of the position of the synod in its entirety, its institutions, missions, and so forth. Vice-President Brand for many years had served the Eastern District as its president, then the entire synod as its vice-president for probably twenty-five years. In 1917, when he became eighty years old, he was relieved of this responsibility, and then, in Pittsburgh, during the following winter, he was called to his eternal home.     

Prof. Pardieck delivered a wonderful lecture on the Fifth Petition at our convention in Serbin, unusually original and fascinating, one to which intense attention was given. He was a school colleague of several pastors in Texas, Kramer, Bernthal, and Oertel, probably the people who instigated his coming to our convention in Serbin. In our free times, he then also offered much entertainment with his cheerful comments and jokes. Later, he served our institution in Concordia, Missouri, for about another eight years, then became Stoekhardt’s successor at our St. Louis seminary, where he worked for about seven or eight years, in addition to being the editor of our synod’s publication, Der Lutheraner. In accord with God’s mysterious plan, he was surprised by a severe stroke at the peak of his manhood and expired some years later.

I do not remember whether or not at the convention in 1886 we were fed as a group at the church, but it is certain that this was the case at the following convention in 1904. There we had our noon meals in the congregation’s school building.

Third Convention in Serbin, Summer 1918

This was a gathering of the Texas District of our synod. That district was founded in 1906 at its first gathering in Houston. The convention in Serbin in 1918 was the ninth meeting of the Texas District. I cannot provide an exact count of those who attended, but I estimate that we already reached more than one hundred, perhaps more than 125. Guests attended in addition, with the result that the total count may be placed at 150.

This gathering occurred at a critical time, in the last part of the great world war, into which our country had also entered, and many readers certainly remember what feelings dominated our people at the time.

Sugar and flour and other things were items difficult to acquire, and the people of Serbin were afraid that they would not be able to get enough flour to host the convention. A group of representatives from Serbin went to the [district] president [i. e., Birkmann] to ask whether the convention might not be pushed back, but it was too late for that because it was only two weeks away, and everything had already been arranged and prepared for it. So, the gathering occurred at the appointed time, and the Serbin people hosted us well and somehow obtained the flour and sugar necessary for supplying the required food, and meat and vegetables were not in short supply in any way. President [of the synod] Pfotenhauer came, and, although he was weary because of the long trip and because of many other conventions in which he had participated earlier, yet, he delivered a very fine, powerful sermon for us at the opening and also abundantly instructed and encouraged us on the days following.

By then there were no longer two congregations in Serbin. St. Peter had rejoined the mother church and had become entirely one with it, and the Rev. Hermann Kilian was pastor of the entire congregation. Teacher Kilian, however, had died two years previously, and Teacher Schroeder and Teacher Traugott conducted school.

Professor Jesse from Seward, Nebr., was the essayist, and he delivered lectures on the origin of the Formula of Concord and then treated also its first article. Since that time, the articles of the Formula of Concord have been discussed at our conventions, one after the other, and now we have reached the eleventh article, which treats the doctrine of God’s eternal election.

On account of our predicament as a result of the war in which we were involved back then, a time when we Germans in this country often would be blamed as though we did not sympathize properly with our country and its people—or however one says that—the convention gathered in Serbin adopted resolutions which made clear that we were good Americans and loyal citizens, and also intended to stay that way. Resolutions like this were not uncommon at gatherings at that time. That was surely a dangerous time, but God heard our petitions, and, after a few months, restored precious peace again.