Take the First Step (Redux)

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

― Winston S. Churchill

It took me a long time– WAY too long– to realize that if I wasn’t trying things and failing (and trying again), I wasn’t learning. I somehow expected myself to know how to do everything right the first time I tried it. Not really bright, because I’m pretty sure I didn’t just stand right up and start walking as a child.

Usually, in life there are a few false starts and missteps before things really get going. Take Concordia University Texas, for instance. Do you know how many times folks in Texas tried to get a Lutheran school off the ground before they finally met with success?

Several.

Before the Texas District of the Missouri Synod was organized in 1906, churches in Texas were part of the more expansive Southern District (which still exists in a much smaller form). The Southern District was in turn formed from part of the very large Western District in 1882.

One problem Missouri Synod Lutherans had in Texas was getting and keeping pastors and teachers; many times they would be assigned to congregations and schools in Texas, but would only stay for a few years (and honestly, you have to think that the climate of Texas would be a real shock to someone raised in Illinois or Minnesota, particularly in the days before air conditioning).

As a result, folks down here were aware that it might be a good idea to have higher education available for Lutherans in the South who desired to teach or enter into the ministry; the Synod (headquartered in St. Louis) also encouraged such a move. It was during the Southern District years that several attempts to do that were made in New Orleans (which was and still is part of that district) but each time things fizzled out. Although they were not in Texas, Lutherans out here did support them, and a few Texans did receive training through those attempts.

In 1894 folks in Texas took matters into their own hand and purchased the house pictured above (the Schubert-Fletcher home, completed in 1879) for the purpose of establishing a school in their state. The house sits just across Hempstead Street from the Lee County Courthouse in Giddings. Classes were held for about a year before things fizzled out (from what I’ve read the fellow who taught classes was very smart but not terribly engaging).

In 1907, the year after the Texas District was formed, representatives of the Norwegian Synod, which had established a school up in Clifton, attended the District Convention in Walburg and asked the District to join them in supporting their new school. By 1912, the District had entered into a cooperative agreement. That agreement, however, was not long for this world; at approximately the same time, the Norwegian Synod had entered into discussions with other Lutheran bodies in the United States and was considering a merger that would create a larger church body.

The Missouri Synod was in doctrinal agreement with the Norwegian Synod, but not in agreement with the other bodies the Norwegian Synod was about to join via the merger. A smaller, dissenting group in that Synod broke away and continued in fellowship with the Missouri Synod, but the folks in Clifton were not a part of that group. And thus ended the cooperative agreement (the Lutheran College in Clifton later merged with Texas Lutheran College in Seguin in 1954).

It wasn’t until 1926 when the ball really started rolling. That was the year that Lutheran Concordia College of Texas opened to its first class of twenty-six high school students (it would still be some time before college classes would be held). Even then, particularly during the Great Depression, the school was on shaky ground, financially. Yet the school has endured and grown– and by 2008, the school had outgrown its original campus between I-35 and Red River Street (behind St. Paul’s Lutheran Church) and moved west of town to a much larger campus.

It took Lutherans in Texas several attempts to get things off the ground. Some of it was the timing, but some of it was certainly also learning what they wanted and what they didn’t want in a school. They learned lessons from the earlier failed attempts and incorporated them into future decisions. Even after Concordia Austin was founded in 1926, they learned and made changes and adjustments.

It’s like that for us as well.

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