Johann Kilian’s Call

by Dr. George Nielsen, Special Features Editor

Following is the text of Rev. Johann Kilian’s Call to serve as pastor for the group of Wends that emigrated on the Ben Nevis in 1854. The original document is located in the archives of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Serbin, Texas and a typed copy is included with the Serbin Collection at Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, Missouri. The document provides information on both the intent of the immigrants and the duties of the pastor.

It also gives an insight into the role of the lay leaders and the extent of their planning. According to the Prussian currency system, twelve Pfennig equaled one Groschen (silbergroschen) and thirty Groschen equaled one Taler.

A Taler was similar to a dollar, and the exchange rate at Galveston in 1854 equated one US dollar to one Taler and 12 Groschen.


In these recent times an Evangelical Lutheran Association has been organized, which up to now has been based at Dauban in the Rothenburg district. The purpose and details have been fully stipulated in a special document, written at Dauban and dated March 25, 1854. Any future issues not addressed in this document would call for newer resolutions. This document has been presented to the royal, most honorable government [office] at Liegnitz.

The main purpose of the organization is to emigrate to North America, and there to form a pure evangelical Lutheran congregation for themselves, and also to establish a community in keeping with all civic regulations. The leaders of all these matters are mentioned in the document.

One of the most urgent needs is the installation of a pastor [Seelsorger] in the spirit of evangelical Lutheran Christianity, and as the emigration to America by the association will take place as a group through God’s working, therefore this need of the installation of a teacher and pastor for this congregation shall be fulfilled here in the German fatherland.

The congregation, or the association, obligates its pastor:

  1. to perform and carry out conscientiously the office of the ministry according to Lutheran religious customs.
  2. likewise, to administer the holy sacraments according to this religious tradition.
  3. in addition to the pastoral office, to assume the position of the elementary school teacher of the children and to perform the teaching for an entire year during the first year in the newly established homeland.

In return, the congregation or present association obligates itself:

  1. to pay the new pastor a salary of 1,000 (one thousand Taler) for the first year, including travel costs, and resolves that this salary be paid in the following installments:
    300 Taler (three hundred Taler) to be paid by the association on the first of July of this year.
    700 Taler to be paid to the pastor by the association through its officers, 10 days prior to the appointed departure.
    [The payments were not made as stipulated and one year later, on October 14, 1855, Pastor Kilian reminded the congregation of its promise.]
  2. but should the stipulated salary of its pastor be insufficient in the new homeland, then the association obligates itself to grant the potentially necessary funds from the association’s account.
  3. The payment for the ceremonial duties of the pastor are set down on the following list:
    1. One baptism – 10 Groschen
    2. First church attendance after childbirth [churching – see In Search of a Home, p. 121] (freewill offering, but not under 5 Groschen)
    3. Marriage ceremony – 1 Taler, plus free-will offerings of the wedding guests.
      Bans [marriage announcements] – 10 Groschen.
      Presentation to another pastor in case the groom holds membership elsewhere – 10 Groschen.
      Marriage certificate when the couple marries elsewhere – 10 Groschen.
    4. Funerals
      1. with only the collect [prayers] – 10 Groschen
      2. with a brief address, that is called a eulogy [Abdankung] or half funeral sermon – 20 Groschen
      3. with brief address and funeral sermon – 2 Taler
      4. When the pastor goes to the house and accompanies the casket [to the church or cemetery] – 3 Taler and 15 Groschen
    5. The Confession contribution is freewill, but not less than 2 Pfennig or a silver Groschen, 1 Groschen
    6. The confirmands for the instruction received – 10 Groschen
    7. Also the pastor is to receive 4 freewill offerings, to which every member contributes according to choice, but not less than 2 Pfennig or 1 Groschen.
    8. For issuing a church certificate, a baptismal certificate, marriage certificate, or a death certificate, excluding the seal – 10 silver Groschen.
      A statement from the church records–5 silver Groschen.
  4. The above named association obligates itself to grant and secure also the following conditions:
    1. To yield to the pastor the property closest the parsonage grounds in the planned settlement in the new homeland either by outright sale or resolution [Actien] as his personal property.
    2. In the event that the pastor is called away by death from his newly formed congregation, through the wisdom of God, the congregation pledges itself to support conscientiously the widow and his family.

The civil and churchly circumstances in the new homeland will require many changes in the pre-sent arrangements. Therefore there can be, for the time being, no different arrangement pro-vided for the ministerial office than the present one. When time and conditions force that revision, the congregation or the association in co-operation between the pastor and its leaders shall take matters in hand so that the entire affair can be preserved and made to prosper and so that the position of the pastor will be recompensed according to necessity and to the best of our ability.

All this with the grace and the help of God.

Under these mutual conditions and guarantees, the congregation ventures to name as its future pastor and caretaker of souls the Pastor John Kilian of Weigersdorf, in the hope that he willingly may accept and conduct this office in God’s name.

May the Lord grant us also His Holy Spirit that we might remain in His love and in the love to-wards our pastor, until after our pilgrim journey we all enter into his heavenly kingdom where we shall laud and praise God and our dear pastor eternally. Amen

Dauban 23 May 1854

In the name of the Lord, the leadership committee

Carl Lehman current Chairman, from Dauban
Carl Teinert committee member, from Dauban
Ernst Adolf Moerbe, from Klix near Bautzen
Johann Hohle, from Jahmen
Christoph Kokel, Reichwalde
Johann Urban, from Rackel.

[Wm. Nielsen, trans. and Dr. Joseph Wilson, consultant]

George Nielsen

George Nielsen is a professor emeritus at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois; noted Wendish historian; author of In Search of a Home, Nineteenth-Century Wendish Immigration; special features editor of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Newsletter; and author of a biography of Jan Kilian.