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A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler



Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
     
 

The Independent German Reformed Congregation

by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

   The 1870 and 1888 failed attempts by the community to become independent was tackled a third time in 1919 and their goal was achieved in 1921.  We wanted a detailed report about it.  On the 6th of February the Rev. Toth had the elders increase his salary from 480 to 1500 Kronen.  After that the war started and the old salary doubled to achieve the same amount of service.
This must have caused a lot of discord in the community because many threatened to convert to the Evangelical-Lutheran congregation.  The idea was also again kindled that the community could be made completely independent.  The elders attempted on the 8th of February to convince the pastor that a raise in salary of another 480 Kronen would be enough.  However he explained on the 17th of February that he did not want to do this because he could not allow this because then the office and service of the pastor would be little more respected than the service of a maid.  The community had over 7000 Kronen in the treasury in 1918 so that it was easy to decide on a fee of 1500 Kronen.  However in response to those who threatened to resign from the congregation, in order to placate them and retain the dignity of his services, he explained at the same time that as long as he was in the branch community the service of the pastor would be performed, he will do this completely free of charge, and in no way would he accept a salary from them.  The yearly accounts show that he had not received a salary since 1919.  The pastor also brought to their attention that independence for the community meant about four times the burden.  However the elders were not dissuaded from this plan because the majority of the community members were for independence; above all for the reason, so I have been told, because most church services could not begin at the intended time because the pastor held the Hungarian church service immediately before it and because there were often baptisms or other events the length of time was stretched out.  The long wait was much too much.

   On the 9th of March the community assembly discussed the unanimously brought up suggestions of the elders for the independence of the community, for the acceptance of the pastor's salary letter and the corresponding tax key.  Seventy-four members were against the pastor's salary letter and 8 were for it.  This gave a salary of: 1. apartment in the existing teacher's apartment, 400 Kronen, 34 q of wheat after the 1st of September's prices were paid, 27 q of corn after the 1st of May's price was paid, and Stolarien.  His duties were as follows: complete service of a pastor according to the regulations of the Reformed church law, religious instruction in case of nationalization of the schools, and if the community has no choirmaster, he is to lead the community in song.  The new tax key was voted on with 45 votes for, 37 against, and 3 abstentions.  For the independence of the community there were 54 votes, of which 27 were against it and 5 abstained.

   On the 30th of March the general assembly had a new higher tax key accepted and decided that a new pastor (Verweser?) should be employed in the same year.  Towards these decisions 58 community members put in an appointment for leadership under Martin Göttel.  They said that the community would not find the means to maintain a school for the duration without difficulty, and they should still open a second school.  In addition to this burden they still had to pay a pastor a very unusual amount for so small a community.  However, the state took over the school so the above fears declined and the community could unanimously begin to continue on with their work. Part of the desire of the community was fulfilled in 1919.  At the request of the elders the Rev. Toth (the local pastor) sent to them in the same year the completed theologian Karl Bincze  to be pastor (Hilfsprediger?) in the community.  The joy in the community was great.  They had their first pastor.  He went at his work with youthful eagerness, it was recorded, in the community with "all his heart and soul."  He started to collect Pastor Karl Bincze donations in the community for a church fund with which the community could get materials.  After his death this fund reached a level of 27,000 Kronen and was named the "Karl Bincze Fund."  But the community was not to enjoy his services for long.  He only served here for 5 months when he died on the 2nd of February 1920.  The grateful community made a vault for him, in  which he was buried on the 4th of February with the greatest of participation.

   Rev. Bincze's death was a great loss to the community.  But the work he began should be continued.  Shortly after Rev. Bincze died Rev. and Senior Toth and the Hungarian community had the pastor (Verwesern) Laszlo Benedek and Sandor Kovacsy but they did not know German and therefore they could not serve the German community.  The community therefore wanted to employ their own pastor (Verweser) again, but there was no provision for one.  The church service was held mostly by teacher Schmidt, but baptisms, weddings, and funerals were conducted by today's Evangelical-Lutheran pastor (Senior at the time) Peter Scherer.  Through his willingness the elders encouraged him to continue this service officially as long as he wanted to do it, until the community could have their own pastor again.

   Then in 1920 the school was handed over to the state so the community could with united strength make an impact to pursue the independence of the community.  Now they wanted to gain the young preacher Christian Jung from Crvenka.  The elders sent church father Karl Eng, elder Michael Gutwein, and Philipp Schwebler whom Senior Janos Kontra from Suza (Baranya), one of 147 community members who signed the request, wanted them dispatched personally to deliver it to the pastor Jung.  In November they went on this laborious journey.  The Senior promised to fulfill their request.  On the 12th of November the Senior appointed Christian Jung to be pastor of the community and he finally took over the position on the 25th of November, after he had already held the church service in the community since the 31st of October.  The community was again overjoyed.  They could continue on with new work and fresh courage to achieve their independence.

    Still in October 1920 the Seniorat's assembly turned down the decision from 1919 pertaining to this matter with the reason that at the one community meeting almost half, at the other more than half of those who had the right to vote were absent, that of 58 community members, more than 1/3 have appealed the decision, so that it can be seen that the community did not stand completely behind these decisions.  The request for the employment of a pastor (Verweser) was elected and was soon - after renewed requests, as we saw - was fulfilled.  Since 1919 the relationship in the community has changed a lot, which is why the Senior advised that the community assembly should seize upon the necessary decision anew, accept an appropriate salary letter and tax key which guaranteed the existence of a permanent pastor position.

   On the 23rd of January 1921 the community assembly accepted the necessary decision unanimously.  The pastor was assured the following salary: apartment with side buildings, 1000 Kronen, 34 q of wheat, 27 q of corn and Stolarien. - The decision was then presented at the Seniorat's meeting with detailed reasons, which was confirmed on the 30th and 31st of August.  So the community had achieved independence; from then on it was the "German Reformed Congregation of Feketic."  Since then they have established their own pastoral office and registrar (secretary).

   However pastor (Verweser) Jung was still not proper, that is (ie.), he was not appointed pastor by the community.  Then he passed his second pastor examination in June 1922, so he could be initiated in the pastor election.  At the election assembly on the 25th of June Pastor Jung  was unanimously appointed to be their pastor.   He was the first elected pastor of the community.  With it the goal they strived for since 1919 was completely achieved.

II.

   The unanimous appointment of Rev. Jung showed that he was greatly appreciated by the community.  He eagerly served here for 5 years.  He made his rounds around the community so they could grow to know the Word of God better, he introduced the Bible study hour, which since then has been held weekly almost every winter.

   In 1923 the established Reformed branch community of Kula was then connected to this community.  So for a short while, until March 1926, the local community was entrusted with a branch community.

   At the end of August teacher Schmidt resigned as state teacher and choirmaster for the community and returned to his home community.  For a few months the Hungarian Reformed teacher Laszlo Kozma performed the choirmaster service as a substitute.  But soon at the suggestion of the pastor, representatives of the community were formed who named teacher Philipp Zepp, a fellow countryman of the pastor, to be state teacher of  Feketitsch in November 1923.  However he couldn't start in his position until January 1924 because the schools were closed due to illness.  With him the community gained a good choirmaster and the pastor an eager collaborator.  He conducted the religious instruction, held with the pastor's choir practice to practice the psalms and hymns and learn new ones.  When the pastor from Kula served, he also held the church service. - For his eager service the elders, pastor, and choirmaster, when it was possible, elected to subsidize his salary from year to year.

   On the 25th of August teacher Zepp bid farewell to the community and moved back to his hometown.  Since then the community has often had to bid farewell to their servants with emotional hearts.

   Soon Rev. Jung also bid farewell to the community since he took on the pastor's position in Beschka on the 21st of October 1925.  Before he left informed the elders that the Reformed teacher from Werbaß, Koloman Rumpf, was to be appointed as the local state teacher.  The elders him right away to be choirmaster.

   On the orders of Senior Peter Klepp, Lewit (pastor's assistant) Daniel Gutsohn took over control of the community from the teacher from Werbaß.  He came each Sunday to hold the church service when he did not have to go to Kula, then teacher Rumpf held the church service.  Levit Gutsohn served until the middle of March 1926.  Meanwhile they tried to fill the pastor's position but without much luck.  Then Rev. Jung's plan that was already considered to build a new parsonage was actively discussed.  Rev. Peter Weimann (at the time the Senior of the Southern German Reformed Seniorates) held many of the meetings and discussions in this matter.  Then the Keleman's house was purchased for the parsonage.  At an elder's meeting and a general assembly which took place one after the other, various suggestions were made and discussed.  The community was in constant excitement, the opinions went in many directions although everyone wanted one and the same thing: the orderly, permanent care through an elected ordained minister.  The majority rejected the purchase of the house and the elders had already concluded a temporary contract which had to be cancelled and caused some trouble afterwards.

   So it continued as Rev. Kornelius Weimann was employed as the local pastor (Verweser).  From the middle of March until the middle of September 1926.  Finally the community assembly decided on the 25th of April at Daniel Giese's suggestion to dictate an extraordinary two year tax to raise the money for the parsonage building.

   On the 14th of September theology student Philipp Eng, administrator of the community, had to go away to continue his studies starting in November.  Afterwards there was a shortage of pastors in our Reformed community in many places so they had to get foreign help.  Two young Swiss came to serve in the German community.  The one was Rev. Heinrich Berger, who started service in the community at the end of November 1926.  He also soon won the heart of the community.  The Bible hour in winter was picked up again, and he also gave the religious and confirmation instruction.  The community gave him a monthly salary of 1,300 Dinar, which at the proposal of church father Johann Huber it was raised to 1,500 Dinar in January 1927.  A very valuable work of Rev. Berger was the creation of a community library for which most of the books were given to him by his friends from Switzerland, but the community also contributed.  The library was somewhat increased during the time of Rev. Eng, numbering 350 issues and volumes and were especially during the winter months.

   In April choirmaster Kolomann Rumpf had to leave service of the community because differences developed between him and the elders.  In the same year he went to Laslovo near Osijek.  After that there was no German Reformed teacher in Feketitsch.  The community had no choirmaster so Rev. Berger sometimes led in the community singing while he was unknowledgeable in playing the harmonium.  But soon this service was assumed by somebody in the community.  "Mr. Ludwig Gutwein, member of our community, proved to be an exemplary replacement in his service as choirmaster/organist which we would like to recognize.  He declined any cash but he should receive our sincere thanks in the minutes." (Minutes from the 25th of September 1927.)  After that he served our community in this way until today.  From 1931 to the end of 1933 the community gave him a salary of 5 q of wheat and 5 q of corn a year but because of the difficult material situation they could no longer do it.

   Still at the time Rev. Berger made the first decisions and took the first steps for the new building of the community.  A special section should report about it.  At the beginning of April 1928 Rev. Berger bid farewell to the community and his departure was greatly regretted.  From one Sunday to another the church service was held by one preacher after another until the community received another pastor (Verweser).

   From the 3rd of September to the middle of November 1929 Rev. Philipp Bellmann served the community.  After him until the 20th of January 1930 Sandor Szekely was pastor (Verweser) who also worked for Senior Agoston at the same time.  His work was made more difficult because he did not know German very well.  After him Rev. Bellmann came again and worked here until the end of March 1931.  He directed the difficult work of the construction with the elders and also had to do the many steps for it.  After a short time he bid farewell to the community and after that he served in the Diaspora by being employed in Sidski Banovci.

   From the 1st of April 1931 until the 30th of April 1935 Rev. Wilhelm Müller from Germany served with an interruption of 5 months.  He also had the most intimate relationship with the community and made this his second home.  He was certainly more skilled than others with his family visits and sick visits and he did so with special diligence and eagerness as nobody did before or after him.  Some could also hear of his helpfulness.  From the 20th of April to the end of September 1933 he was pastor (Verweser) in Torschau until the local pastor's election was over. - Meanwhile Ludwig Poth served as pastor (Verweser) and at the same time he had to do the work of curate besides Senior Agoston.  If his service was impaired by it, the community at least had the material advantage because they only had to pay him a part of his salary which improved their difficult economical situation. - On the 1st of October Pastor (Verweser) Müller took over the service again and worked here again until he had to bid farewell to the community on the 28th of April 1935.  After that he could not be promised lasting employment as a foreigner, so he resigned his office.  Rev. Ludwig Poth took over the service of pastor (Verweser) from him.  This time he also had to work in the bishop's office at the same time again besides his service so over 4000 Dinar could be saved by the community, so a part of the debt owed by the community could be paid off with it.

   Since October 1925 the community has not had a permanent elected pastor of their own although it has always been their desire to have one.  For the past ten years so much was worked out so the large construction could be begun in 1928.  At the suggestion of the elders the community assembly decided unanimously on the 13th of April 1936 that the pastor's position be filled by an elected ordained minister and accepted a new pastor's salary letter in which the pastor was assured of receiving an apartment, 1500 Dinar a month, and the Stolarien.  On the 28th of June Ludwig Poth was appointed as the pastor.

[Published at DVHH.org 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]