It is the 4th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1646.
Of course, this is the last year of the first of the English Civil Wars. However, we will leave the Roundhead/Cavalier business for another day. Today, we travel across the Atlantic to check in on the Colonies, to see some genuinely bizarre Puritan behavior, and to see something from this author's home team, the Lutherans.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony had recently been rocked by the trials and exile of Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and others. The development of non-Puritan non-Calvinist colonies led to what is possibly the first Christian culture wars in the New World. Although to be fair, Puritan Calvinists were perfectly capable of going to war with one another.
The precarious situation, theologically and politically, led the Colony to publish a few laws this year, the first being the Stubborn Child Law of 1646. This law stipulated that any teenage boy who disobeyed his parents could be put to death. Later, cooler heads prevailed, and the death penalty was removed from the law. The law itself wasn't taken off the books until 1973.
In 1646, a law was similarly passed that set the penalty for denying Biblical inspiration at death. They were not messing around. Lest you think they were too harsh, in 1646, Robert Scott was tried and convicted as a malefactor in the church. However, all he received was a whipping. His offense? He fell asleep in church. He received the scarlet letter (or sentence?) of being "a common sleeper at the public exercise."
And, as is sometimes the case when some Protestants get a little too puritanical, one solution has been "bring in the Lutherans." And it was the rowdy Swedish set led by Johann Campanius Holm that dedicated the first Lutheran church in the new world on this, the 4th of September, in 1648.
Campanius was born in Stockholm in 1601 and attended the University of Uppsala. He was ordained in 1633 and ten years later was sent as a missionary to New Sweden on the Delaware River Valley. There were, of course, Lutherans in New Sweden and even a Swedish Lutheran pastor. However, there was no church building. Within five years, Campanius would dedicate the first Lutheran church building on Tinicum Island near Wilmington, south of Pennsylvania.
Campanius would also begin mission work with the Lenape tribe and would translate Luther's Catechism into their language. It is considered the first European work translated into a native, North American language.
Furthermore, Campanius would become known for his work in meteorology. He is considered the first European in the new world to take systematic daily notes on weather and weather patterns. Today the NOAA grants a yearly John Campanius Holm award for outstanding accomplishment in weather observation.
Unlike the Puritanical laws, records of rules in the early Swedish Lutheran church include the equivalent of a five-pound fine for blasphemy, a six-shilling fine for singing at unseemly hours, and a forty shilling fine for showing up to church tipsy.
But at least they had a church to get to, as we remember the first Lutheran church in North America, which was dedicated on this the 4th of September in 1646 in the Delaware Valley.
The reading for today comes from Thomas Ken. This is his poem, entitled "A Prayer."
A Prayer. Thomas Ken
I Bow my knee to God on high,
Father of Filial Deity,
To whom the blessed owe their birth,
Inhabiting or heaven or earth,
That from his gracious glories He
Would dart one pardoning ray on me:
That by his Holy Spirit's aid,
My soul may be his temple made:
That He by faith may in me dwell,
And all terrestrial joys expel:
That I in love may deeply root;
And may with all the saints compute
All measures, length, breadth, depth, and height,
Of his benign, all-saving might;
That I his loves may comprehend,
Which intellectual force transcend,
Filled with all plenitude divine,
Derivable from Godhead Trine.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 4th of September 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man swimming in shilling fines, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.