It is the 24th of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1703.
Today we turn our attention to colonial Pennsylvania. And by heading back to this year, in this area (for today's remembrance), we might do well to recenter some of our ideas about Christianity in the colonies in the early 18th century.
We've told stories about William Penn on this show before. His father, an admiral, was granted the wooded area in the New World that he intended to call "Sylvania," Latin for "woods." King Charles added Penn's name to the land, to the chagrin of William. But even before the British were setting up shop in this corner of the New World, other European settlers and native populations had already established relations and commerce.
While we rightly remember Penn and his plan for religious outcasts. The area was already known for its relative diversity amongst its Swedish and Dutch settlers. The Dutch had been in the area since Henry Hudson explored the area in 1609. Explorers set up trading posts in the Delaware region by 1620, and the colony of New Sweden was established in 1638.
We do well to "recenter" some of our understanding of colonial America, whether in the southern, mid-Atlantic, or inland regions. For every Puritan that sought to be a "pilgrim" in the Massachusetts Bay, we have essential records of the Dutch, Swedes, French, and Spanish who made even more significant contributions to the early colonies' makeup.
And while language or religious prejudice kept some from mingling, this acceptance of diversity was remarkable for its time. And not just for the European settlers, you may remember the story of Penn and the mythic treaty with the Leni Lenape tribe.
By 1703 William Penn had begun parceling out his remaining land through an estate agent in the Netherlands. One of the men with power of attorney, Justus Falckner, sold 10,000 acres to the Swedish minister, Andreas Rudman. Rudman learned that Falckner, while working for Penn in Amsterdam, was originally from Germany, where he had studied for the ministry at Halle under August Herman Francke. Falckner explained to his friend that he took up the study of theology but did not feel the call to ministry. Now, with an invitation to Pennsylvania, Justus and his brother took off for life in the new world.
Justus continued studying theology in the colonies. And his ability to write and speak in both German and Dutch led to him authoring the first Lutheran catechism in the New World. The Swedish pastor, Andreas Rudman, who first bought the land from the Falckner brothers, convinced Justus to consider taking up his pulpit when he retired. Unsure as to his own calling and even the validity of ordinations without Bishops, Justus contacted his old professor Francke. Francke encouraged Justus, and that correspondence led to Justus Falckner becoming the first Lutheran pastor ordained in the New World on this, the 24th of November in 1703. The German pastor to the Dutch and Swedish Lutherans would establish Pennsylvania as a multi-ethnic enclave for non-English speakers and expressions of Christianity divergent from English puritanism.
Falckner would serve as pastor in many parishes across the colonies, but it was the reluctant pastor's ordination and the first in the new world that we remember on the 24th of November.
Today's reading is a poem from Pamela Cranston, appropriate for this time in the church year. This is her "Poem for Christ the King."
See how this homeless babe lifted
himself down into his humble Crèche
and laid his tender glove
of skin against that splintered wood —
found refuge in that rack
of raspy straw — home
on that chilly dawn, in sweetest
silage, those shriven stalks.
See how this outcast King lifted
himself high upon his savage Cross,
extended the regal banner
of his bones, draping himself
upon his throne — his battered feet,
his wounded hands not fastened
there by nails but sewn
by the strictest thorn of Love.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who once toured with a group of very pious German bluegrass musicians, they were called "Hoot and Halle." The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.