This article by Rev. G. Birkman was written in German for the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt edition on 4 Mar 1937 and translated by Ray Martens.
This was the fourth gathering of the Southern District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other States to have taken place in Texas. The first was in Houston in April of 1883, the second in Serbin in February of 1886, and the third in Klein, Harris County, in February of 1889.
The convention alternated between the east and the west of the state. We had gathered four times in New Orleans in the three congregations we had there at that time, first in the congregation of Rev. P. Roesener, Zion, in 1882, then, three years later with Rev. Tim. Stiemke at St. John, then, after another three years, at St. Paul, which Rev. G. W. Wegener cared for since 1887, then once again at Zion in 1891, where W. Heyne was now the pastor.
So it was that we came together in Warda, Fayette County, Texas, in 1892, and several memories which I would like to share are connected with this convention. But I wish to say in advance that I no longer have the Proceedings in question, and, even if I had them, I could not use them. As also otherwise in my articles, I must always compose them from my memory. [As the reader probably knows, Birkmann was virtually totally blind in 1937.]
The Warda congregation was already then one of our most important congregations in this part of the state. It was founded in 1873 and served by Rev. Tim. Stiemke from 1874 to the end of 1879. Then, from February, 1881, until August, 1930, almost fifty years, Gottfried Buchschacher was its leader and pastor. Soon after he became pastor, a new church was built—the old one, which had stood near Rabbs Creek, was moved to where the new one was built and was used as the school. A new parsonage was built, and a teacher was soon called for the school, which earlier had been conducted by Buchschacher himself, as also by Stiemke before him.
So things were going well in Warda. The congregation had a number of enthusiastic and capable people, well prepared by Rev. Stiemke and now, likewise, having in their Rev. Buchschacher a faithful and capable pastor. This congregation had the first pipe organ among all of our congregations in Texas. It was built by an organ builder from St. Louis named Pfeffer, well known at his time, and I believe that organ is still in use today.
The synod’s president, H. C. Schwann, opened the convention with an edifying sermon, the text for which has escaped me. Schwann was a skilled, experienced preacher, whom one was happy to hear even when, at times, he delivered somewhat long sermons—his sermons were very orderly, and what he said was well thought out and went to the heart. One especially liked to listen to him if he spoke freely in the sessions or reported something about his life—he was unsurpased as a story teller. Serious and strict in matters pertaining to the Word of God, but open in other matters. When someone once said to him, “One must be open,” he answered, “Yes, even very open.” In his opinion, the constitution of a congregation needed to contain only these two articles: “In matters which concern the Word of God and one’s conscience, one judges entirely by the Bible; in all other matters, one should pursue love.”
Affairs and activities governed by the law were contrary to his nature. His heart was full of gentleness and leniency toward brother pastors who were weak, and he knew how to comfort and renew in an expert way those who allowed their courage to sink.
So, he was the president of the synod, a position somewhat above that of the district president G. W. Wegener, who had been elected a year earlier. He then held this office for thirty-six years. For the fifteen of those years before the founding of the Texas District in 1906, we were under his responsibility for our care, and, in the end, he took this care upon himself. He was always concerned that we be provided with pastors and teachers, the necessary workers, in church and school, and that the congregation grow inwardly and outwardly, and about everything else that belonged to the major task of being president. Our Wegener did this in an untiring way. He was especially gifted and capable at leading the discussions, and he always conducted the role of chairman in the sessions of the convention with calm and assurance. We must not forget that about him.
When he was with us in Warda, he was only about thirty-one years old and ten years into his ministry, five up north and five in New Orleans. At the age of seventy-six, he still helps out with occasional preaching at his old St. Paul in New Orleans.
Rev. W. Heyne from New Orleans was the essayist in Warda in 1892. He delivered a thorough discussion on the meaning of Holy Baptism, that is, about the fourth part of the Fourth Chief Part of the catechism: “What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” The discussions to which this theme gave rise were rich in blessing and compelling. We Christians should and are able to be comforted daily by our baptism, since in it we have put on Christ, and, in the power of this trustworthy, firmly held grace, we want to and can engage in the fight against the old man and change over into a new life. We should always be comforted by the grace given us in baptism.
We also deliberated and resolved many things in Warda about our missions in Texas. Rev. Herman Kilian submitted the report of the mission board, and a number of missionaries reported about their fields of work. Rev. Adolph Kramer, then in Coryell County, still served some of the places on the Texas-Pacific Railway (Abilene, etc.) in addition to his own area, and Oertel, who lived in Clifton, preached in Malone and other places, and Kilian, who, of course, was pastor in Serbin, served Austin from time to time. Rev. Barthel served a number of mission places out of Houston. In the same way, Eckhardt in Anderson, Wunderlich in Falls County, and others had mission work to take care of along with their own congregations. So the convention in Warda had to occupy itself very seriously with this subject, and a number of resolutions were adopted, which then were carried out through the effort of the president and of the mission board. This convention resolved to invite Rev. Heinrich Schmidt, the father-in-law of Rev. M. Heyer in Dallas, to work in Austin temporarily, which he did very well, and, in the following year, Emil Deffner could be called to Austin as pastor of the newly founded congregation. Furthermore, the convention at Warda resolved to serve the places on the Texas-Pacific Railway with their own missionary, a role in which Rev. Emil Moerbe began to serve in the fall of the same year. Hopmann was called to Malone, and Rische came to Waco. Herman Foerster came to La Grange, which Buchschacher had been serving from Warda. The large mission field in north Texas received the experienced missionary Schulenburg, and this development in our way of doing mission work followed in February, 1892, soon after the convention in Warda.
The old father, Rev.Geyer, who was in St. Peter in Serbin also still took part in this convention. I can still see him as he, almost eighty years old, came to our sessions and also on Sunday to our worship service in a white scarf wrapped around his neck, his top-hat, which he had broiught from up north years ago, in his hand, and how he made his appearance so punctually and regularly and followed with interest everything that took place. Then, after four weeks, he departed in peace, as did old, pious Simeon.
Forty-five years have gone by since then, and doubtlessly many of those who attended that convention likewise are no longer here below. Among these is Rev. G. P. A. Schaaf, who on the Sunday of the convention delivered a wonderful edifying and substantial sermon on the Gospel lesson of the weeds [tares] among the wheat. He had a fine gift for preaching and delivered everything clearly, easy to understand, and powerfully.
I also remember Rev. Brommer, who came to the convention from Florida, a thousand miles away. Later, he was a pastor in Houston from 1896 to 1901, and is now the head of our teachers college in Seward, Nebr.
The convention goers were free on Saturday afternoon. They could move about outside, riding or driving if they had horses. Many of us went to Rabbs Creek, where the high banks were located and some water with fish, as well. Petrified wood could also be found by those who knew the places. Rev. Buchschacher had a number of flower beds in front of his house enclosed with petrified wood, which gave occasion for many to ask where one could find such objects.
They had such things in Warda, and probably still do. Many then even said in jest that everything in Warda is petrified. Yet that is not true; in fact, the opposite is the case. The convention there was entirely fresh and lively and happy, as everyone else, including readers of this who were then in Warda, will agree. Visitors drove from Swiss Alp and Serbin, and others from other places, including some who earlier had belonged to the congregation of President Schwann in Cleveland, Ohio. One such was the elderly Mr. Sackewitz from Pflugerville, Texas, and the Placke and Hoelter families came from Swiss Alp, Texas.