The Otto Gruendemann Story: Part 2
A Conference Assignment
by David Meier, grandson of Pastor Otto Gruendemann and Pastor Albert Meier
Presented at the summer sessions of the Protes’tant Conference, Sunday afternoon, June 19, 2016,
at St. James Ev. Lutheran Church, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The writings quoted in this assignment were obtained from the family archives of Albert Meier, the family archives of Otto Gruendemann, and from the Protes’tant Conference archives held in Albert Meier’s possession. The compiling of Conference archives began after the November 1959 Conference (Faith-Life XXXIII, 2 [Feb., 1960, 7]). Other information was gathered from interviews with eight surviving family members.
The first part of the assignment, delivered at the previous Conference, ended in 1944. Pastor Gruendemann, then aged 50, purchased a farm in the Algoma area and moved his family there. He farmed and supplemented his income by working in factories in Algoma until his retirement in 1960 at the age of 66. This assignment means to take a careful and honest look at the events leading up to Pastor Gruendemann’s leaving the Conference in 1969-1970.
The Protes’tant Conference has always had special regard for the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The foundation of this report is Galatians 5:25, with Luther’s explanation.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Now just as there is nothing more dangerous in the church than [arrogance], so there is nothing more common. For when God sends forth workers into His harvest, Satan immediately stirs up his servants too, who refuse to be regarded as inferior in any respect to those who are properly called. Here a controversy soon arises . . . . Therefore let everyone who boasts of the Spirit see to it that he remains in order. If you receive praise, you should know that Christ is being praised, not you; for the praise and glory belong to Him . . . . When you acknowledge this, you will remain in order. You will not be elated by praise . . . .
Therefore a faithful sexton is no less pleasing to God with his gift than is a preacher of the Word, for he serves God in the same faith and spirit. And we should not honor the lowest Christians any less than they honor us. In this way we remain free of the poison of vainglory and walk by the Spirit . . . .
The flesh is such a sly beast that it will not forsake good order, distort and corrupt true doctrine, or shatter the harmony of the church for any other reason than for the sake of this accursed [arrogance]. (LW 27, 97-104)
In his preaching, translating, and prepared papers, Pastor Gruendemann was part of the fabric of the Conference from the beginning. He personally knew and understood the characteristics of both the Synod officials and the Conference pastors. With this in mind, this part of the assignment begins with a letter from Pastor Gruendemann to Pastor Meier. Pastor Gruendemann had written to the Conference chairman, Albert Meier, asking for a second opinion concerning the translation of the Gutachten, the Seminary faculty’s condemnation of the Beitz paper.
April 11, 1957
Dear Butch [Pastor Albert Meier],
Thanks for sending the translation. Naomi was flat on her back for ten days, with sand bags attached to either side of her head to keep her completely still so the grafting would knit. I don’t know just what was done because writing is still difficult for her. But she hopes to be back soon. What a mercy it is that one can bridge the insufferable present with his mind and heart and in faith live in that which is not yet but is to be. More than we realize, do we live upon hope and reflect our inner state in word and deed. [This refers to Pastor Gruendemann’s daughter Naomi, who was involved in a serious car accident. As a result of this accident,
afterward she never spoke above a whisper.]
Hensels drove out yesterday and said that Phil and you were in Minnesota. All my best wishes are with both of you. The Hensels are in good fettle and cheerful enough. Ruediger had written a letter to Paul. The doctor told him he needs two vacations a year, each vacation lasting six months.
Now as to the translation [the Gutachten]. No doubt your opinion that [District President] Thurow must have been “almost persuaded” is correct. That, as I recall, did not constitute the first time he was halting between two opinions—though it appears to have been the final time. Out of JP’s [John Philip Koehler’s] letter one must gather that Thurow was between two diametrically opposed spirits—one crying “repent” and the other enticing: make a “name” for yourself, you already are a leader of men. Strange how vacillating people must always make a choice and suddenly become set and purposeful and lend themselves to molding and hardening.
In this case Pieper was Thurow’s bad angel. How could a superficial District President, on whose shoulders rested the burden and dignity of office, escape the trumpet call to duty and to battle which lay in Pieper’s inspired and fighting words: “we have to exercise church discipline”. When Pieper later stooped to the lowest act of perfidy to get the aborted Gutachten into Thurow’s hands, as if by schedule, to carry out that “Zucht” [discipline], Pieper did that more in self interest than any one realized—he was but feeding the fire he had fanned, if not indeed kindled.
One cannot but wonder if Pieper did not already at that time realize more than anyone else could (except perhaps [Synod President] Bergemann) whereto the resort to such “discipline” would lead in Synod and also at the Seminary; and that he was dealing himself a pat hand, knowing JP’s reactions and position beforehand—where everyone was puzzled as to how Pieper would play his hand. This new concept of discipline was Pieper’s answer to the growing concern about “hoehere Fragen” [larger issues]. This concept of “discipline” had already annihilated the budding concept of “Zucht” held by the Watertown Faculty. And parallel to the Faculty house-cleaning with fear and trembling, it set up a house-cleaning of Faculty. This had been brought about, thanks to the solidifying in the Board itself, under the whip of Bergemann and his dark assistant, Moussa. There were straws in the wind. A definite pattern was shaping up. Pieper had his finger on the pulse of synod. He knew things that Koehler always had to learn about post festum [after the issue had already been decided]. It had not always been thus between our two teachers. But when that relationship was disintegrating, what could be more alluring to the heart of one with the makings of a leader, than to wield the whip: die Zucht liegt bei uns darnieder [Discipline has fallen apart in our midst]. Small wonder that he quite unabashed hits upon that two-fold division in the Gutachten. In the first part he extols dogmatics and with hair-line distinctions in terms, he wipes out the distinction between exegesis and dogmatics which had become lapidarian concepts [gems of truth] since the Reformation and especially so at Wauwatosa. And in the second part of the Gutachten he extols the law (die “Zucht,” “Zuchtmeister” [discipline, disciplinarian]) in such a way that this fine hair-line distinguisher again—in his zeal for the law—wipes out the immense Reformation concept of the Gospel—specifically, the latter day revival of that concept in Wauwatosa.
I am giving this background in reaction to a sentence in your translation. You translate it very correctly: “We must settle this thing or else confess that discipline among us lies prostrate.” With that Pieper is saying more than the words seem to imply—though the naked words imply plenty, especially under the strained relations as they then obtained. With one effortless sentence Pieper wipes out everything that JP is trying to do. And to a certain extent that is what had always happened at the Seminary. For an entire class, or for a series of classes—or for three years of classes—Koehler would labor to create something out of nothing, which verities Pieper also seemed to master and was able to hand out in a sentence or two with the greatest of ease. The only difference being that it then was not opposed to JP. Or is it possible that Pieper’s terse, catchy, “all-embracing” remarks were only apparently in complete harmony with JP, simply because we willed and believed it to be that way, being carried away by the overwhelming sweep of JP’s child-like faith. Who will solve the riddle that confronts us in the simultaneous appearance of these two giants? One can visualize Koehler being Koehler even if there had been no Pieper, but one cannot visualize Pieper as Pieper without the presence of Koehler. So Pieper was great only by reflection and when he went his own way he was not even that. In fact, he was about what he pictures Beitz as being.
I am slowly getting to the point. You will no doubt agree that Pieper’s sentence, which JP quotes in his letter, is of historical significance and, rightly understood, can be said to have color. If historical accuracy and color can be gained, verbal accuracy should give way—and good riddance. That is a conclusion I have finally arrived at in my wrestlings with the Gutachten translation. The first cast was not always right, though verbally accurate as I could possibly make it. But why waste words, you know that as well as I do, if not better.
As this story unfolds, it is evident that some disagreements did surface among active members of Conference. But these differences did not necessarily cause the parting of ways, as is evident also in the following entry from the journal of Albert Meier.
Sunday, June 2, 1958
Katherine and I went to the Hungry Settlement [common name for the neighborhood of the Meier farm], but had plenty to eat and were not at all anxious to leave.
Gruendy [Pastor Otto Gruendemann] and I visited at Tom’s in the evening. Gruendy is quite upset over the attitude of Paul Hensel and Hans Koch toward his work on the Gutachten translation, sensing also that Faith-Life is drifting decidedly away from Karl’s vigorous policy of not mincing our words and speaking in unvarnished terms. [Paul Hensel was the editor of Faith-Life at the time.]
I mentioned that my observation perhaps was limited, since I was disturbed by my inability to absorb and make my own what J. P. was telling in his Ephesians Rhapsody. Still, I looked upon his views as the expression of one man’s honest opinion and as such had every reason to be voiced at the coming conference. I urged him to attend if at all possible and bring up the matter.
Background information concerning the editorship of Faith-Life is as follows. Karl Koehler edited Faith-Life until his death in May 1948. John H. John edited from 1948 until 1953. In February 1953, a special session of the Conference was held to discuss the editorship. Due to a number of concerns, it was decided that Paul Hensel would edit the periodical, with Hans Koch as assistant editor and John H. John as the managing editor. In July 1963, Philemon Hensel began as assistant editor. Following the Stoddard Conference in November 1964, Hans Koch resigned. In 1965 Marcus Albrecht became an assistant editor. Following Paul Hensel’s death in 1977, Marcus Albrecht became editor and Philemon Hensel remained assistant editor.
Pastor Gruendemann had been ousted from his congregation in 1934 on the issue of Synod vs. Faith-Life. He had explained the purpose of Faith-Life in his letter of June 5, 1935, to Judge Detling.
Faith-Life is the mouthpiece of the suspended pastors. It is unique in as much as it faithfully presents all available documents from either side and throws open its columns to its opponents. It explodes error, elucidates, and teaches, soberly and patiently.
The policy of Faith-Life echoes these thoughts.
We hold that our policy of not mincing our words and speaking in unvarnished terms is in character with the Word of God. We do not make any assertions which we have not carefully verified. We do not betray confidences. Charity often prompts us to withhold information which would help to prove our case, because we know too that no proof of fact will convert hearts, but the Gospel alone. We have a larger purpose than the venting of personal grievances and the winning of our case.
Faith-Life later attempted to draw a correlation between the Conference’s response to Pastor Gruendemann’s translation of the Gutachten and his eventual leaving the Conference. A meeting was said to have taken place the evening before Stoddard Conference in November, 1964. A recollection of this meeting was published in Faith-Life in 1994.
As yet that night Gruendemann was a silent, if critical but bemused observer. Later he too fell out with Hensel regarding the publication of Gruendemann’s translation of the 1927 Seminary Gutachten condemnation of “The Beitz Paper,” when Hensel pointed out the similarity to Pieper’s dogmatic theology in Gruendemann’s interpretation. Then Gruendemann joined the dissidents. (F-L LXVII, 2 [March-April], 20)
At the recess of the October, 1994 Conference, the writer of the above Faith-Life description was shown the 1958 journal entry of Albert Meier and how the writer’s recollection did not correlate with this entry. The writer dismissed the issue by saying he was tired when he wrote this. No correction was ever written. This is the point where the author of this assignment first sensed any frustration with Conference on the part of Pastor Gruendemann.
In the summer of 1959 there was a wonderful coming together of Protes’tant pastors in support of Joel Hensel’s beginning his ministry in St. John’s Lutheran Congregation at Marion Springs, Michigan, as Albert Meier tells in his journal.
Wednesday, July 8, 1959
Otto Gruendemann, Alex Hillmer, and I [Albert Meier] left for Marion Springs, Michigan, at about 9 a. m. via the Straits Bridge, arriving at Joel Hensel’s—the former Gerhardt Ruediger parsonage—some time after 10 p. m. Joel was having a trustee meeting, ending not too long after we arrived. All joined in a little lunch, visited for a while, and retired.
It is the time of Joel’s first days at the Marion Springs congregation as well as Ruediger’s retirement from there, sober problems and difficulties confronting both. Each one is relying on the Spirit of the Savior to liberate from the yoke and to establish the joy of his salvation. Ruediger is staying at Erich’s for the time being, where we share his company several times. Erich, with Paul helping, is rounding up his hay-baling operation, their father lending a hand. Joel is swamped with work, making a new beginning in the congregation, outwardly house cleaning, inwardly attempting to tie the latchets of his forerunner’s shoes, a lifetime pattern cut out for him.
Another entry from a few days later continues:
Sunday, July 12, 1959
Gruendy delivers English sermon at Marion Springs, Ruediger the German, with the announcement: “Lange halts nit mehr aus!” [This cannot go on much longer!]
We spend the evening at Erich’s place, visiting there with Ruediger and the family of Erich.
We finally return to Joel’s and there Joel at the piano, Ruth with violin, play for us beautifully. A fitting close to a truly fine visit.
Over the next few years, difficulties arose between Pastor Ruediger and Pastor Joel Hensel, and between Pastor Ruediger and the Protes’tant Conference. In February of 1962, the Manitowoc area Protes’tants issued invitations and hosted the first Winter Conference. Previously Conference had been held only twice a year. On the floor of the Winter Conference, with Pastor Ruediger not in attendance, the problems in the Marion Springs congregation were discussed. Pastor Gruendemann and other members of Conference wrote to Pastor Ruediger. Pastor Gruendemann tried to take the edge off of Pastor Ruediger’s bitterness, and invited him to come to Summer Conference in the following letter.
March 7, 1962
What a winter it has been here! Severely cold, no end of snow, high winds with higher and higher drifts. And no breaks to interrupt the dizzying cycles. Even our always welcome January and February thaws did not materialize to vary the mad routine. I have shoveled more than in any previous two years, even though the activity was confined to the outlet end only, which is less than a fourth of the distance from my isolated domicile to the road, all of which distance I would and should have open were it not completely out of the question. Ordinarily our blizzards are out of the prevailing direction, this winter they inundate us in a most disorderly fashion from all points on the compass. One would be inclined to ask with Nicodemus: How can these things be? Were it not for the obvious answer: Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things?
But the fig tree shall bud again. The original parable makes it a symbol of hope, a change for the better. The poet passed the parable on by observing: When winter comes, can spring be far behind? The mighty barriers of ice and snow will soon have vanished like morning mists before the approaching sun.
Already it is Ash Wednesday. But who could dwell upon or contemplate its meaning had not the veil of time been lifted for us allowing a glimpse behind the saddest scene the sun has ever looked upon and from which it finally was compelled to hide its face out of compassion. The disciples did not yet have this glimpse behind the veil (Luke 18:34, “They understood none of these things.”) Their eyes and thoughts were on Jesus’ person and presence only. Of all men born of woman, theirs was the highest privilege before as well as after the Resurrection. This privilege was committed unto them with which they were to overcome the world and eventually lay it at Jesus’ feet. The power of his Resurrection was shown to them by the fullest and most intimate experience possible to man. They learned what it means not only to live with Him but also what it means to suffer and die with Him. The Apostle Paul does not abrogate anything from the glorious privilege of the twelve, but rather sets it down more firmly and clarifies it when he refers to himself as being born out of due time.
As I sit and write this at the kitchen table, I have a wide view out of the south window into the orchard where it is not as dead as one might think. Here is a speech which neither winter nor death can silence. The orchard has apple trees that are old and very tall. Not far from the kitchen windows is a bird feeder, which I keep replenished with seeds and crumbs, suet and leavings. No English sparrows—I always think of them as typical Synodicals —show up there at all, and no starlings either, since Junior one weekend shot one of the two or three who tried to get a foothold. But a variety of winter birds come and go. No doubt many must perish when snow is deep and feed scarce, unless man comes to the rescue. But I am leading up to something else.
That brings me to an experience I feel is worth relating, because it opened, what seems to me at least, one of nature’s wonders or secrets. I do not remember ever seeing an apple crop so abundant as the one of last fall. Almost as many apples remained on the trees for the winter as a normal small crop would otherwise amount to. This unusual feast did, of course, not mean a thing to me at the time, at least not more than a cow looking at a new barn door. But there all the fruit stayed hanging high above the ground and out of the possible reach of any animals. Even the hard winds did not knock off any of these apples, simply because it was impossible. This was a special crop in addition to the ordinary crop which fell off the trees so easily and abundantly with the usual fall winds. The ground was literally covered with the apples last fall. But without question our apple trees had two entirely different and distinct crops on them at one time, already intended for a two-fold purpose. Late in the fall I took a ladder thinking I would pick some of those apples that remained so abundantly on the tree; but I soon gave that up, for they were just not the pickable type. They would tear off somewhere along the branches rather than at the stem. This required great effort and was bad for the trees. I gave the matter no second thought. It meant nothing to me at the time, but it does now.
In a language all its own nature told me: leave these apples alone, they are not meant for you; you have already had your share this year and more. I have other plans and thoughts than you have in your selfish mind, just wait and see. As the winds blew and the snows piled higher and higher the orchard looked more and more unusual and conspicuous—almost like a tempting display of bedecked Christmas trees.
Then something happened that I will not soon forget if ever. It was about five or six weeks ago. One day suddenly the orchard was loaded with birds. That first day, in the height of winter, the birds came in flocks, attacking the apples. There were several small flocks consisting of from twenty-five to about sixty birds. And there was one flock of well over three hundred. The air was full of birds all day. They were all of the same kind: cedar waxwings. They live in the woods, though I never saw one there. They eat the seeds of the cedar. They came in flocks the first day only. This was either for protection or out of hunger. After that the orchard was filled almost continually until about a week ago. They disappeared as suddenly as they arrived. The waxwings look like cardinals. These birds went through all those frozen apples with their sharp and powerful beaks. They scattered the pulp like so much waste. It must have been the seeds they were after. It is a small wonder that the Savior makes special mention of the Father’s special care for the birds and the provisions he makes, when one considers how much they need him. I never saw birds so tame as these waxwings. Perhaps one does not notice them in the dense cedars simply because they are so tame. When I walked in the orchard they paid no attention to me whatsoever, though the trees were loaded with them overhead. They do sing, but have a real small, somewhat tinkling voice. But one must be real close by to hear them.
The experience I just related was a real pleasure in the midst of a hard winter. Another such pleasure was the Special Winter Conference. But I presume Joel gave you a report on that. I am sorry you could not have joined in it, because I am sure you would have rejoiced with us. The correspondence and reports revolving around the Hinz case were like a sweet scent-laden whiff out of the springtime of our own cases in the earlier and balmier days. What a miracle the young man and his wife together with his parents are experiencing. This year the Hinz developments were a very real Christmas present to us from our heavenly Father, and our age could not be a barrier to our becoming again like little children with a joy no less than that of our grandchildren.
With kind regards,
The letter shows the wonderful countenance of Pastor Gruendemann. The story of the birds and apples was a beautiful parable of the situation in Marion Springs. The picture of Christ carrying the lost lamb in his arms was the confidence that Pastor Gruendemann had in his Savior. He conveyed this trust to Pastor Ruediger as well as to his grandchildren mentioned at the end of the letter.
As Pastor Paul Hensel later pleaded with Hans Koch to remain editor of Faith-Life after the Stoddard Hotel Conference in 1964, so Pastor Gruendemann was pleading with Pastor Ruediger to remain with the Conference. He was trying to bridge the differences between Pastor Ruediger and other members of the Conference.
After sending this letter, Pastor Gruendemann traveled to Marion Springs to visit Pastor Ruediger. He wrote afterward,
After the Winter Conference I visited Pastor Ruediger in Michigan. We went over old ground and also touched lightly on later developments in the church generally and in the Wisconsin Synod specifically.
The give and take of rebuke among Protes’tants was wonderfully put into words by Pastor Paul Hensel:
We Protes’tants watch over one another and rebuke one another so far as we are [in agreement] with the truth at the moment. I have been set straight repeatedly, not always [privately] either, but before spectators, the hardest kind of rebuke for anyone to take. But after I crawled into the kennel, nursed my wounds and licked my sores for a while, I was thankful for the whipping. This thankfulness was not always spontaneous either. We Protes’tants would be in a sorry mess, were we not to discipline one another. For who else does? (F-L 3, March, 1939], 8)
Pastor Ruediger did not attend the Summer Conference held in Manitowoc. Pastor Gruendemann returned to Marion Springs in August of 1962 to preach for Pastor Joel Hensel for two weeks. By now the situation was beyond repair. Not everyone adhered to Luther’s admonition to remain in order. Pastor Ruediger’s bitterness consumed him. Pastor Gruendemann returned without much hope of Ruediger’s ever returning to Conference.
As Pastor Gruendemann was trying to bridge differences and bring members of the Conference together in the spirit of the Gospel, other factors inside and outside of the Conference were pulling things apart.
The Fall Conference of 1964 was held at the Stoddard Hotel in La Crosse. Troubles that had been developing between members of the Conference erupted on the floor. As a result of this Conference many members left. Among them was Hans Koch, the assistant editor of Faith-Life.
A careful study of all available information from Faith-Life and from the Conference archives would shed light on the many issues that factored into the Stoddard Conference. Some of the papers presented examined what had transpired in Michigan and were self-critical of the role the Conference had taken in congregational matters.
Luther gives timely guidance appropriate to this dark period of the Conference’s history.
It is a serious matter, that to us of all people it has been given to see the pure and original face of the gospel. Since you have now become zealots of the Spirit you must spread it out and let others see it. But see to it that you walk in harmony with one another and offer your hand to one another without strife and dispute. (LW 36 229)
Again Pastor Gruendemann tried to bridge the differences between the members who left the Conference at the time of the Stoddard sessions and the members who remained. He did this without compromising his love for the blessings that the Conference offered. An example of this is furnished by a letter that Pastor Philemon Hensel wrote to Michael Meier, Conference Treasurer, nearly a year after the Stoddard breakup. The letter was sent from Brant, the mailing address for Marion Springs.
11 A.M. Monday
July 12, 1965
. . . It took us a week to unwind from Conference, as it always does. The Stoddard melee will take a lifetime. On Sunday evening after the last session, Pastor Gruendemann appeared at the door quite late. During the day he had received a message from Uetzmann through Henry Albrecht that Uetzmann wanted to see him that evening.
When Gruendemann got there, the living room was occupied by Hans and Vernetta Koch, their daughter Mary, Mrs. Hinz [Gerald Hinz’s mother], Zimmermann and his wife and their daughter Helen and her husband; Henry Albrecht and Clara Albrecht and Victor Albrecht and the Uetzmanns.
The Kochs and the Zimmermanns were fuming, enraged that Conference met at all, that, having met without them, it wasn’t a flop, and that Faith-Life is continuing. Zimmermann said, “That’s the trouble, we’ve allowed Faith-Life to become our god!”
Koch railed against his brother [Marcus] for writing an article on Whitaker Chambers. “Why he’s nothing but a Mason!” “Were Christians there? They were?!!” Feeling that he had betrayed his hand, he flushed and fumed at Faith-Life, Conference, and his brother.
Gruendemann said quietly, “There you are, sinning against your brother.”
At this Hans jumped up in a rage and lunged at Gruendemann, as if he were going to knock him down, pointed his finger in his face (a thing August Pieper always did to cow his victims), sputtered and yelled and said, “I’m going home,” grabbed his coat and stomped out, leaving his wife and daughter sitting there.
Uetzmann said not a syllable during the whole business. Madame Albrecht had her say, but was several times put in her place by her husband. Gruendemann said at one point, “There is no other group in the world at whose meetings one can be so uplifted, and I wouldn’t miss out on it for anything.”
“Oh,” Clara laughed in ridicule, “and I didn’t get a thing out of it! Not a thing.”
Henry said, “Yes, but you came with a chip on your shoulder in the first place. Be quiet. You don’t know anything about these things.”
At any rate, Pastor Gruendemann stood his ground, and we all rejoiced to see and hear him, because he had not been to visit us since the winter conference . . . .
Pastor Gruendemann never “joined the dissidents.” This letter also does not line up with the recollection printed in Faith-Life in 1994.
Beginning around 1955, Otto Gruendemann regularly conducted services at the home of Tom and Judy Meier. The liturgy was TLH page five. Hymn TLH 237, “All Glory Be to God on High,” replaced the “Gloria in Excelsis.” The Creed and the Lord’s Prayer were recited in German. The closing hymn was sung in German, “Segne Unser Taglich Brot” [Bless Our Daily Bread]. Judy Meier and the children took turns accompanying on the piano. Communion was celebrated on the high holidays.
After the service, all would stay for Bible class, which was conducted in German. Most of the class time was spent learning to read the Psalms in German. The adults then retired to the kitchen while Pastor Gruendemann taught Sunday School to the ten or twelve children present. After Sunday School, all were welcome for the Sunday dinner.
On Wednesday evenings Pastor Gruendemann came to Tom and Judy Meier’s home to conduct German class. The ten children were expected to turn in an assignment every week. German grammar was taught, and the class ended with the singing of a German chorale. Confirmation classes for Tom and Cheryl Meier were added on Saturday afternoon. Pastor Gruendemann prepared detailed lesson plans for all of his classes.
Christmas Eve services were held using Karl Koehler’s Christmas Eve Service. Chorales were sung in English, German, and Latin. Practice for this service began after Thanksgiving.
An average Sunday saw about twenty people in attendance, with visiting family members always welcome. John Springer and his family came once or twice, and Pastor and Mrs. Mielke attended a few of the German classes.
Pastor Gruendemann valued singing in the church services and at home, as is evident in the following correspondence with Pastor Gerald Hinz.
July 1, 1967
Dear Pastor Hinz,
. . . With our own little group of children I have adhered to the German almost exclusively, because it serves us with a twofold purpose. We sing English hymns in our services, although the children occasionally sing a hymn out of the Gesangbuch [hymnal], which they enjoy doing; and is also very pleasant to listen to, partly because they are children and are still naïve, and partly because the original carries more meaning for some of us than translations do.
Now that I can look back upon an extended period of trends and developments in the churchly arts, I would say that singing, like praying, must begin at home if it should not suffer irreparable harm. In David’s day the two were practically synonymous, neither are they far apart in any healthy period. It was not by accident that Luther’s procession to Worms was accompanied by a singing peasantry, nor that Gustav Adolph’s armies marched to the melody of powerful Reformation hymns. David, inspired by song, also inspired song wherever he went and with whatever he did. It is the “Song of Zion” that lived and marched onward and was reborn again and again, to which the crown of David and the visible kingdom were but incidental, even as Saul’s kingdom, which was not founded upon that song nor upon the heart of the Lord, but upon the fleshly heart of Israel.
Another thing I have learned is that singing sometimes is a free gift to individuals and comes without our efforts. But with many it must be sought after diligently as a prize, or it cannot be obtained. Why this is so is a mystery and would be an impertinence for anyone to offer as an excuse for indifference to it. Singing is good for the soul, and it can be learned. It can either unfold the mystery of godliness, or it will become slave to the mystery of iniquity.
What we observe in modern teenagers reflects on the homes, many of them Christian homes. In times of stress and emotion the soul seeks outlet in song. If they have not learned and experienced in the home that singing soothes the soul (even has power over a Saul), then the Christian homes have starved the hearts of parents and children alike. We have not been alert to learn from Scripture and from history about the weapons within our grasp that avail against the devil’s deceit, power, and inroads, and that he uses those very weapons to our destruction and confusion just as he has done in past ages. Germany, the cradle of the Reformation, did not seek the Lord though destroyed by two world wars. It now depends on us. Perhaps the Lord has still another miracle left, perhaps he will yet teach us through some Gustavus Adolphus to sing unto the Lord a new song.
Best regards to you and your family,
[signed] O. Gruendemann
The two following entries from the journal of Pastor Albert Meier describe the usual Sunday services at Sturgeon Bay.
February 12, 1967
Sunday service at Tom’s. Children sang: Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ [Lord Jesus, We Give Thanks to Thee]. Gruendy has the regular instruction with the children in German. Stay for dinner, Grace and children, Gruendy, Mama and I.
Sunday, March 12, 1967
In church at Tom’s are Mr. Gruendemann and Junior; Roland, Sylvia, Paul, Cheryl, Debbie, Susan, Kurt; Tom, Judy, Tommy, David, Alberta, Miriam, John; Katherine, Kenny, Ruthie, Timmie; Mama and I. Stay there for dinner and a part of the afternoon as often before. Then all head for home. Naomi and Jerry and their children are still in Hawaii where Jerry is stationed for a part of his hitch in the Coast Guard.
The Fall Conference held on November 7-8, 1968, in Two Rivers was the last Conference Pastor Gruendemann attended. The Conference Report by Gerald Hinz, which was printed in Faith-Life (XLI, 6. 18-21) and (XLII, 1. 18-21), delves into the topics presented and discussed. These topics include the correspondence between the Conference and two men suspended “for cause” from the Wisconsin Synod, a recording of a paper by a lay member of The Church of the Lutheran Confession, a continuation of a study on David, a paper on Justus Jonas, and a practice in choral singing.
The minutes of the 1968 Conference submitted by Pastor Gerald Hinz and found in the Conference Archives do not correlate with the Conference Report. Over one third of the minutes concerned a discussion that was introduced by Pastor Gerald Hinz. [At the time, Paul Hensel was the editor, with Marcus Albrecht and Philemon Hensel assistant editors.] This discussion was not mentioned in the report in Faith-Life. From the archives:
G. Hinz brought up the matter of editorial policy in dealing with the manuscripts of the conference reporter. There was some confusion and resentment on his part over the matter of editorial deletions and adjustments to the material submitted, although changes have been of a minor nature and amplified or clarified the points under consideration.
Discussion followed with a general historical survey of past practices on the part of the editors. Karl [Koehler] felt that he really ought not to change things in the manuscripts presented to him. Yet he did anyway out of editorial responsibility, and there are those among us who are grateful for that guiding hand on his part to this day. Criticism is needed, and it is the task and call of the
editor and editors to supply a discipline whereby the individuals among us grow to a temperate and sober use of the language and also a similar attitude in what we report.
Incidents were then related. Prof. Koehler was himself very careful about what he wrote publicly. He was not the kind to divulge private conversations of one of the saints merely to titillate others’ itch for an inside report of some personage . . . .
Philemon Hensel stated that he was unhappy if the editors did not improve on what he submitted. When we write, we ought to do our best and look for the editor to improve on that yet. This is part of Karl’s legacy also, one which began when he changed the lettering on the Faith-Life masthead at his own initiative and at his own expense and with the attendant criticism of some in Conference. Also instructive is the manner in which Karl dealt with some old manuscripts of Beitz. He would quietly blue pencil such florid expressions as “millions and millions” and substitute the more sober “numberless.” Or on another occasion he emphatically vetoed Beitz’s proposal for a new column entitled “Lifesavers.” These were not arbitrary corrections or adjustments but part of Karl’s exquisite taste in Christ which he wished to pass on to those of a disposition given to the soft spots of enthusiasm.
Other remarks which stood out were as follows. At the beginning of the discussion Paul Hensel remarked simply that the editor had his responsibility and the reporter his. Each must do his job, and we can only pray God that the two do not lock horns . . . .
Finally the chairman[Albert Meier] reminded editors and reporters alike of Psalm 127:1: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
Another source of trouble appeared soon after this concern over the editing of Faith-Life. In December, 1968, Pastor Albert Meier wrote a letter to Mrs. Agnes Probst. Mrs. Probst was the widow of Prof. Sigmund Probst, an early Protes’tant. The letter is a thank you for a Christmas gift, and describes the circumstances at that time in the Valders congregation.
December 14, 1968
Dear Mrs. Probst,
. . . If a present sample of the way we pass our time can serve to bring you back into our midst, so to speak, and to tell you what thoughts occupy us these days, I’ll just ramble along by telling you of last Sunday, perhaps throwing in a thought or two as they crowd one another into the setting.
We had not been to Manitowoc for several weeks. The idea to go came early Saturday when we were about our routine affairs and I suggested it to Em [Mrs. Albert Meier] for her consent.
My saw horse had been left there during the summer for I hoped—even as Em and I both repeatedly hoped to come to you by note or letter—hoped to put a molding or piece of trim or so on the post and railing of Paul’s porch after I had repaired it a little.
But the sawhorse stayed because I didn’t get back.
Then Paul in a short letter recently reminded me that the horse was still there and would it be an out and out impossibility that we come sometime to pick it up. The sawhorse probably served as a gentle reminder that we hadn’t been there for quite some time.
Em then agreed on Saturday that should the weather hold out we would go. And go we did, for Sunday morning came with a bright sky, sending us on our way rejoicing . . . .
So on we went to Valders. For once we got there in time, gathering with the rest of the little flock to listen to a sermon on that part of Bible history where Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt and subsequently went up to the beginning of their second journey.
It was a sermon, as Paul later relates, which he had written several years back, yet is completely relevant
Before entering upon any of the issues at hand, let me just complete the rest of our visit in Manitowoc till we returned to Sturgeon Bay in the evening. Already in the aisle when he greeted me, Marcus informed me that it was a foregone conclusion that they would take Paul, Tante Lydia Schuelke, and us to dinner.
Later Paul tried to renege, but Marcus’s wife Irene persuaded him to go home and rest for a few moments— ever since his wife’s death Paul has had days of severe, almost mortified depression as if a large portion of his very self had departed with his spouse—rest for a while, and then we would come to pick him up.
He consented. Then after greeting Phil and a few of the others we took Mrs. Springer home—they live in Two Rivers now, where John has accepted to teach in the grades of a public school—took her home while John waited to take Paul back.
In Two Rivers then we stopped at Marcus Koch’s and while getting settled there momentarily he made
me aware of the things that came to pass in Jerusalem [Valders] these days, of which we were entirely
On the prior Sunday Paul had finally laid his cards plainly on the table to one of the elders in the sacristy, that some arrangement must be made by the congregation to make steady help available to him because he is unable to carry on with the work alone.
During the ensuing dilemma for the elder, who perhaps was vaguely aware of the decision they must make, Paul pointed out that the one solution lying nearest and most pertinently at hand was Phil, though his suggestion must not be understood as urging Phil upon their necks.
The elder thereupon without ado or flare-up stated that Phil’s person and long preaching would not be acceptable to the congregation. That briefly was the outcome of Paul’s presenting the matter there in the church one week before we were there.
Then during the week the elders called Pastor [Paul] Hensel, asking if they could meet with him on Wednesday evening, which they did. Again the elders were in agreement that it would not do to have Phil called as Paul’s regular assistant because they knew some would then leave the congregation and the few remaining would not be able to carry on.
Paul pointed out that this certainly would have to be brought to Phil’s attention, and did they do that? No.
Well then last Sunday, the day we were there, after church Paul called the elders and Phil into the sacristy to face one another.
Again, there was no flashing of swords or battle scene. [It is worth noting here how Pastor Meier shared Luther’s concerns about remaining in order.] The elders are all people of no harsh personality who would be inclined to sink bear claws into flesh and spirit to tear it apart. They spoke calmly, as Phil related later, but still did not change their attitude toward him. When they finished, he answered, pointing out that on his part there was not too much to reply to them. In fact, the wholesome thing for him to do might be to just accept their verdict upon him and let it stand. He pointed out to them that it should not be their impression that he was anxious to be their pastor nor to preach to them, neither now nor at any time in the past. Whenever he had preached there it was only because he felt called upon to do so because his father needed help because of his age, especially since his recent bereavement. The singing with the little choir at Christmas—he regularly rehearsed the songs to implement the children’s Christmas service (Karl Koehler) in the congregation, spent time and effort to bring forth a masterpiece of simple worship—the singing he did gladly even in the face of opposition when some felt that if they did not come the choir would collapse.
There were some matters of immediate concern which he pointed out for them to consider, but did not draw out the matter to any length, also speaking calmly without feeling ruffled toward them at all.
Thus it went, Agnes. It actually takes longer to write and try to relate it somewhat clearly than the actual incident lasted.
The consequences, however, may be more lasting and serious.
During that Wednesday evening meeting with Paul it was suggested—would it not be possible to make an arrangement as in the past, namely that those who assisted in the preaching would continue to do so but on a regularly scheduled basis? The matter as I recall it was merely inquired about without coming to any decision.
You will see at once, however, that if Phil’s preaching and personality—or whatever it be—is not compatible to their way of thinking or living, certainly it will be no different with those of us who might preach there in Paul’s stead. Or if Phil’s gospel is distasteful to them, resulting in the departure of some, I maintain that this reaction was there to Paul’s preaching also. And if that is true, a grave situation exists. That is why I went to all this length to mention it to you, Agnes. And I’m sure you will not consider it a waste of words. This it is, and I felt that you, as one of us, would be interested to know what is going on. It doesn’t leave one with much sleigh-bell jingle for Christmas. Yet he who came to earth in these days really bore the brunt for us whereof we are glad . . . .
E & A
[Emma and Albert]
After the November 1968 Conference and the December 1968 Valders situation, Pastor Gruendemann no longer attended Conference or assisted with preaching at Valders.
At this point a number of questions arise. What elements in these two situations may have caused Pastor Gruendemann to step back? Did he share concerns over the direction of the editing of Faith-Life? Did he not necessarily share Pastor Meier’s concerns about the tension between Pastor Phil and the Valders congregation involving the other pastors in the circuit?
In light of the eruptions in the Conference from 1962 through 1968, did Pastor Gruendemann see and sense a pattern developing? His independent nature was not to be combative, but to stand back and see how things would develop.
This, however, was not Pastor Meier’s nature.
The following entries from Pastor Meier’s journal show that in the Sturgeon Bay congregation things continued as normal, and that no tension existed there.
Saturday, February 8, 1969
Conference at Utilities Building, Manitowoc. We stay at Marcus Koch’s.
Sunday, February 23, 1969
Church in Tom’s house as usual. Those present were: Mr. Gruendemann and son Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. (Naomi) Kirchman and two boys (Roger and Jerry, Jr.); Roland and Sylvia and their children, Cheryl, Debbie, Paul, Susan, Kurt; Tom (Judy working), Tommy, David, Alberta, Miriam, John; Emma Meier, Albert Meier.
Tom begins teaching Sunday School with the younger children.
The following entries from the same journal record the first signs of tension arising from Pastor Gruendemann’s not attending Conference or assisting the Valders congregation.
Monday, October 27, 1969
Return from Katherine and Kenny’s in West Allis. Stop at Tom’s around 10 p.m. to deliver Sunday School maps. On the way back we had already stopped at Paul Hensel’s for a few hours. There is tension these days since Mr. Gruendemann hasn’t assisted in preaching at Valders, didn’t appear for mission festival there, nor has he attended Conference for the last three times—one wonders why.
Begin pondering on the latter part of Hebrews 1, beginning with v. 4 as material for sermon on Nov. 9 at Valders.
Saturday, November 8, 1969
Em and I to stay overnight at Paul Hensel’s since tomorrow is my Sunday to preach in Valders. Mrs. Schuelke (Tante Lydie) and Paul—both in the eighties—are both slowing up, but managing, with Phil and Esther’s help, to get along from day to day. Visit till 10:30 p.m. and off to bed.
Sunday, November 9, 1969
Phil set a pretty table at breakfast. Church at 9:30. Sermon on Hebrews 1:4-14. Marcus and Irene on weekend vacation. Springers not in church because John fell last night while walking and suffered a sprained ankle and cut on his knee. Mr. and Mrs. Otto also not in attendance. During past week John Springer has taken requested volumes (bound) of Faith-Life to student Haueser at Seminary. Phil has also heard from a Hassol. Return home about 6 p.m. with one bound volume of Faith-Life for Gruendy, Roland, and Tom. Supper at Tom’s.
After these two visits to Valders, Pastor Meier’s journal records the tension building because of Pastor Gruendemann’s absence from Conference.
Sunday, November 23, 1969
Gruendy, unable to preach because of back hitch, attends worship with Junior, Naomi, Jerry, and children. My sermon on Hebrews 1:4-14.—Gruendy assumes instruction of children—via Tom he informed me late Saturday evening that he was disabled and that service would be dropped unless I was able to take over.
I record this, because in the Conferences—the last three Gruendemann has not attended —there is a feeling of heaviness due to Gruendemann’s not attending and not supporting, neither by a prepared paper, nor by a few shekels scrounged from a meager supply.
Sunday services in Sturgeon Bay continued without the congregation being aware of any strife between Pastor Meier and Pastor Gruendemann.
After the Manitowoc Conference, February, 1970, Marcus Koch wrote to Pastor Gruendemann.
Sat., Feb. 14, A.M. 1970
Pastor O. Gruendemann
Another Conference has come and gone and no sign of you.
Please let me remind you of the post-Stoddard days. Even before that, when you like Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic like the Lone Eagle, undertook the lone long trip to Marion Springs to confer with Ruediger and reminded him of the danger of repeatedly absenting himself from meeting with us. Then after Stoddard you went to Uetzmann and asked him why he hadn’t attended that first Winter Conference. That took courage and I admired you for it and thanked God. It was in the second post-Stoddard Conference that you got up and said, after noting the absence of the other one-time brethren, “I wouldn’t have missed this conference for anything!”
Now what could possibly have happened this past year that is gnawing your innards that you should absent yourself without giving an account of it. Then there is the preaching matter. Don’t you see in what an embarrassing position you put your brethren before the Valders Congregation? What should we say! Gruendemann can’t come because he has pigs that need him more that we do? Komm doch! [Come on now!]
You can’t pull back into your shell and pretend to be preaching the Word and deny fellowship with those to whom you stood some forty years!
You’ve likely heard of the vast amount of new archive material willed to Conference by the late Kurt Koehler. It’s in my basement awaiting willing hands and heads to sort and evaluate!
Da koenntest Du mit machen!
[You could help with that!]
Your younger brother,
Was it understood that Pastor Gruendemann had his own flock and was busy every week preparing for Sunday services, Sunday School, German Bible study, as well as Wednesday evening German classes and Saturday confirmation classes? At the same time this does not appear to be the reason why Pastor Gruendemann was not coming to Conference.
Pastor Gruendemann kept his own counsel. He had not communicated any concerns to other Conference members or family members. Until the 1970 Summer Conference, Pastor Gruendemann had no differences with Pastor Meier or Tom Meier. It was merely his unexplained absence from Conference that caused a separation of ways.
On Sunday, July 5, 1970, just one week before the Summer Conference, Pastor Meier and Pastor Gruendemann worshipped together as usual at Sturgeon Bay.
The 1970 Summer Conference was held on July 11 and 12 at Camp Tapawingo, near Mishicot, Wisconsin. The minutes of the 1970 Summer Conference, found in the Conference archives, record that Pastor Gruendemann’s absence was discussed on the Conference floor.
Otto Gruendemann’s continued absence from sessions and silence in response to people who have attempted to contact him was aired. The situation does not encourage many words, and there was the feeling on the part of some that it was beyond repair. Still it was suggested that we write Pastor Gruendemann and appeal to him to unburden himself to us at fall sessions.—G. Hinz
The Conference Report that appeared in Faith-Life [XLVI 5, 15], makes no mention of Pastor Gruendemann or of this discussion.
Attempts to locate the audiotapes of the 1970 Summer Conference proved fruitless. These tapes would lend insight into this matter, telling what was said, and when,
and what led to Pastor Gerald Hinz’s comment in the minutes that “some felt it was beyond repair.”
After the Sunday dinner at Camp Tapawingo on July 12, 1970, Pastor Meier called his family together. The thirty-one members of his family, including his wife, his children, their spouses, and grandchildren met in front of one of the cabins. Pastor Meier was a strong-willed man who lived by his convictions. Few people ever argued with him. Pastor Meier stated that he would no longer come to church at Sturgeon Bay (namely, the services held at the home of Tom and Judy Meier), unless Pastor Gruendemann starts attending Conference. After this ultimatum Tom Meier and his wife and children stopped at Pastor Gruendemann’s on their way home to deliver the message.
It is difficult if not impossible to understand why the letter Pastor Hinz was asked to write at this Conference was not allowed to be in the hands of Pastor Gruendemann before this ultimatum was given.
On Saturday, July 18, while Tom Meier and his children were baling hay at the farm where Pastor and Mrs. Meier lived, Otto Gruendemann Jr., Naomi and Jerry Kirchman (Pastor Gruendemann’s son, daughter, and son-in-law, respectively) went to Pastor Meier to try to arrange a meeting as a congregation to discuss these matters. Pastor Meier lashed out at Otto Gruendemann Jr., who, in trying understand the situation, asked, “Where is the devil hiding in all this?”
This meeting, a week after the Conference at Camp Tapawingo, did much to sever ties within the family to this day. When the children of Tom Meier were interviewed, they all emphatically stated that this event completely changed their lives, and not necessarily for the better.
Following is the first letter Pastor Hinz wrote to Pastor Gruendemann after the 1970 Summer Conference.
July 30, 1970
Dear Pastor Gruendemann,
Your recent absence at Conference and your silence in response to individual members who have approached you in a spirit of fellowship does not encourage one to many words in this appeal. But an appeal it is. We appeal to you by the mercies of Christ in which you have previously fellowshipped with us to come to Fall Conference and lay before us the cause of your disaffection. This, incidentally, also constitutes a report to you of a discussion concerning you at the Summer Conference.
I would add on my own words which you spoke at a recent meeting you attended: “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” Be assured I am not flinging these words in your teeth.
In the Lord’s service,
[signed] Gerald Hinz
The only correspondence in this situation from Pastor Gruendemann came four
August 3, 1970
Dear Pastor Hinz,
Your letter of July 30th comes post festum, for I have already been deposed.
On July 5th, the Sunday before Conference, we gathered for worship as usual at the house of my son-in-law, Tom Meier, at which service Albert Meier was also present. Little did I or the majority of our group dream that after nearly twenty years this was our last gathering. But on the following Sunday evening, July 12, on the way home from Conference Tom Meier stopped at my place to inform me that his father had told him to conduct services: “You’ll have to take over eventually anyway, so why not now.”
I expressed my offer to step aside, but to have the group assemble once more for discussions and decisions regarding the future. I only wanted Albert Meier to say to the whole group, and to me, what he had already told part of the group sometime during Conference; but I would not remain for the following discussions. Other members of the group also tried to help bring about such a meeting, but we were effectually blocked at every turn by Conference Chairman Albert Meier, and his son Tom. Hier ist hier. [This is where things stand.]
Whatever may or may not have transpired in or outside Conference to unleash on us this full-blossomed von-oben-herab [down from on high] mania, I harbor no personal animosity toward you. However, the quotation you lay to my charge in the bottom paragraph of your letter is undoubtedly the product of wishful thinking. I do not now, nor did I ever, regard the people you refer to as being “not of us.”
Lord, have mercy on us!
[signed] Otto Gruendemann
Pastor Hinz responded:
August 8, 1970
Dear Pastor Gruendemann,
The “post festum” period you speak of had its inception before now. How can a historian as yourself pass over that? Your laying your present inability to hear any appeal from us at the door of Albert and Tom Meier continues to ignore your own deposing of a once fruitful fellowship in Christ with us. So there the matter apparently is to rest. What reasons you may have for your sudden coldness are by the board now because I don’t think you wish to speak honestly about them. But do not compound a wretched situation by heaping calumny upon the Meiers.
[signed] Gerald Hinz
This was the final communication between the Conference and Pastor Gruendemann. In light of the concern expressed at the Summer Conference, one may well wonder why no mention of this correspondence was made at the following Fall Conference of October 17-18, 1970, either in the Conference Minutes or in the Faith-Life Conference Report.
Pastor Hinz was unaware of the situation that had unfolded in the Sturgeon Bay congregation during and after the 1970 Summer Conference when he wrote the first letter that the Conference had asked him to write. A change in tenor is noticeable in Pastor Hinz’s second letter of August 8, only nine days later. Yet, by the accounts of all of the eight surviving people involved, the one letter written by Pastor Gruendemann was accurate. The question arises whether Pastor Gruendemann’s letter had been discussed with other Conference members or at least with Pastor Meier before the second letter to Pastor Gruendemann was written.
It is noteworthy that Pastor Gruendemann’s letter was found not in Pastor Gruendemann’s archives, but in those of Pastor Meier. One may wonder whether Pastor Meier was upset by this letter, as he had been earlier by Otto Jr.’s question, when he (Otto Jr.) was trying to arrange a meeting of the Sturgeon Bay congregation.
Tom Meier attempted to lead services at his home. A few Sundays later, Albert Meier with great reluctance began conducting services for the families of Tom and Roland Meier. Pastor Gruendemann, his children Naomi Kirchman and Otto Jr., and their families did not return. The service included a Bible Study instead of a prepared sermon. Pastor Meier did not teach Sunday School, but Roland Meier instructed David and Alberta, (Tom Meier’s children), and Debbie and Paul (Roland Meier’s children) for confirmation. Immediately after Pastor Meier’s heart attack in 1982 the congregation disbanded, some to worship in Valders, some to worship at St. James in Green Bay.
To the end, Pastor Meier hoped out loud on more than one occasion that he was on the right track. After working on this assignment, the writer now understands the foundation of Pastor Meier’s concerns.
According to Pastor Gruendemann’s son, Otto Gruendemann Jr., the loss of his congregation left Pastor Gruendemann reeling. He eventually became closer to people in the Algoma area, most of whom were Catholic. He was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor a year and a half before his death. But even in his incapacitated state, when the family would visit him in the Kewaunee nursing home and read Scripture to him, he would always thank them by saying “Wonderful.” He was a kind man who never held any bitterness.
Tom Meier asked Pastor Meier to visit Pastor Gruendemann in the nursing home, but he declined. Pastor Gruendemann died on October 2,1977 at the age of 83. His children asked Pastor Hans Koch to conduct the funeral service, not having another pastor to officiate the funeral, which was held in a Manitowoc funeral home. Members of the Conference attending the funeral were Pastor and Mrs. Meier, Mr. Hillmer, as well as the entire families of Tom Meier and Roland Meier. Pastor Otto Gruendemann is buried in the church cemetery at Valders next to his faithful wife, who was laid to rest 42 years earlier.
What can be said in conclusion? John Springer once noted, “The young people in our church are the ones who will seize the Lord’s banner and carry it aloft in his battles long after we are gone.”—(John Springer church bulletin of January 7, 1990)
Where are all our children? Why are so many former members of the Conference not here with us today? Can the charge that “they went out from us because they were not of us” be said of these also? We all at once with no hesitation would say “No!” Then is it fair to say that some of the fault lies at our own doorstep? Did we as members of the Conference fail to uphold the wrestling and self-criticism that the Wauwatosa Gospel inspires?
Once again, from Galatians 5:25:
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Pastor Paul Hensel wrote:
The knowledge of the Gospel itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit. No one can get a patent on it. It must be given anew every morning. If we abuse such knowledge through pride, conceit, or indolence, we will bring back darkness into our lives. The Holy Spirit is given only to those who are in trouble, those who fear, those in despair of themselves. (F-L LIV 3, 7)
This report closes with 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, with our eyes respectfully on Pastor Gruendemann’s preaching and teaching.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit.
We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.
These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe.
Yes, we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the power of Jesus Christ within our dying bodies.
Because of our preaching we face death, but it has resulted in eternal life for you.
(The quotation above is from The Living Bible.)
This is a sober and moving assignment for Conference. It has been done in a spirit of Christian love. With this seriousness in mind, let us close by singing Luther’s Vater Unser, “Our Father, Thou in Heaven Above.”
1. Our Father, Thou in heaven above,
Who biddest us to dwell in love,
As brethren of one family,
To cry in every need to Thee,
Teach us no thoughtless words to say,
But from our inmost heart to pray.
2. Thy name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,
In purity to keep Thy Word,
That to the glory of thy name
We walk before Thee free from blame.
Let no false doctrine us pervert;
All poor, deluded souls convert.
3. Thy kingdom come. Thine let it be
In time and in eternity.
Let Thy good Spirit e’er be nigh
Our hearts with graces to supply.
Break Satan’s power, defeat his rage;
Preserve Thy Church from age to age.
4. Thy gracious will on earth be done
As ‘tis in heaven before Thy throne;
Obedience in our weal and woe
And patience in all grief bestow.
Curb flesh and blood and every ill
That sets itself against Thy will.
5. Give us this day our daily bread
And let us all be clothed and fed.
From war and strife be our Defense,
From famine and from pestilence,
That we may live in godly peace,
Free from all care and avarice.
6. Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore,
Remove from us their burden sore,
As we their trespasses forgive
Who by offenses us do grieve.
Thus let us dwell in charity
And serve our brother willingly.
7. Into temptation lead us not.
When evil foes against us plot
And vex our souls on every hand,
Oh, give us strength that we may stand
Firm in the faith, a well-armed host,
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost!
8. From evil, Lord, deliver us;
The times and days are perilous.
Redeem us from eternal death,
And when we yield our dying breath,
Console us, grant us calm release,
And take our souls to Thee in peace.
9. Amen, that is, So shall it be.
Confirm our faith and hope in Thee
That we may doubt not, but believe
What here we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Thy name and at Thy word
We say: Amen. Oh, hear us, Lord! Amen.