Monday, February 8, 2021

The Story of Our Church in America by Theodore Graebner

The Story of Our Church in America is a brief survey (33 pages) of the history of the Missouri Synod. While it is certainly not comprehensive, it offers a overview of the Missouri Synod's first 75 years. Of special note are the first three chapters which give a brief sketch of Lutheranism in North America before the founding of the Synod. Attention is given to the work of the Synod in education, publishing, and both home and foreign missions. The book has a wealth of pictures of the principle founders and leaders of the Synod as well as hand drawn maps that add a nice touch. Though originally published in 1922, the last chapter (of the version I have) includes an Addenda of supplementary material from 1932.

Thedore Graebner goes out of his way to thank a Mr. Bendix Taenzer of St. Louis, the artist of the maps. Graebner states that, "No such maps illustrating the history of American Lutheranism, and especially the work and development of our Synod, have ever been printed before." (The maps from the booklet are included as pictures below.) As a lover of maps myself, and a firm believer in their importance in teaching, I cannot help but echo Graebner's exhortation concerning their usefulness: "They deserve earnest study, and, once their meaning is well grasped, will deepen our realization of divine favors conferred upon our Church."

The history of the book's publication is interesting as well. Graebner was already at work on a brief work of the history of the Synod when he was made aware of a resolution passed by the school board of the South Wisconsin District. The resolution stated that there was a "woeful lack of information in our own circles concerning Synod and the various phases of its activity," and suggested that "the situation might partly be remedied with the aid of our Christian day-schools." The General School Board of the Missouri Synod seemingly agreed and supported the resolution from the SWD. Graebner relates in the introduction that he viewed the booklet as also helping to fulfill a resolution of the Detroit synodical convention of 1920 that called for such literature as well. 

It sure is good when synodical resolutions are actually useful and get accomplished! Well, perhaps the past isn't as rosy as it seems from behind our tinted glasses. In Graebner's estimation, with the publishing of the booklet, the resolution from Detroit "has now received at least initial consideration."

I have made the whole booklet available in PDF here.

If you would like to know more about Theodore Graebner, there is more biographical information on him at the bottom of this post.

Need To Get Level: 5/10 for pastors and laymen. 10/10 for map lovers.

There are many more detailed histories of the Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church in America. . It's most basic use would be for an introductory history for adults or children. However, this little booklet would be excellent for other specific purposes. For example, it could be used in a study on the history of Lutherans in America. Currently, I am using it as the basis of the study we do at the beginning of our Elders Meetings. I am also considering it for a congregational study in the future. So far it is working out very well. It is short, sweet, and perfect for jumping off into more detailed discussion. Each chapter basically serves as a worksheet and summary handout. While the subsequent 100 years will need to be filled in, this booklet is a great tool for outlining how the Missouri Synod got started, grew, and its original purposes.

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