To Generalize or Not To Generalize, That is the Question

When it comes to the study of history, generalization is (in general) a problem. (See what I did there?)

That being said, it’s difficult to begin the study of any historical event without starting with generalities.

One such generality is “the Wends came to Texas to preserve their language and culture.”

In general, that is true. But which Wends? All of them? The 1853 group that came on the Reform? The group that arrived in 1849? The smaller groups that arrived after the War Between the States into the early twentieth century? The 1854 group that came on the Ben Nevis?

I’m pretty sure it was in my pre-Lutheran days as a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC that I first heard someone say “If you get ten Baptists in a room there will be at least eleven opinions on any issue.” And let me tell you, that is the truth (in general)!

Honestly, though, that’s probably the case with any group of people.

Of the roughly five hundred folks who survived the trip to Galveston on the Ben Nevis, I’d imagine there were a number of opinions about how important it was to preserve the Wendish language (and see, I’m generalizing here, because there are were and are two major dialects – Upper Sorbian, which is more similar to Czech, and Lower Sorbian, which is more similar to Polish).

For folks like Pastor Kilian, his wife’s family (the Groeschel family), and his longtime friend, Carl Teinert, it was very important. For Kilian it was important enough that he translated quite a few hymns and Lutheran theological works into Wendish.

But if you surveyed other folks on the Ben Nevis I’d imagine you’d find that for some keeping the Wendish language would be nice, and for others, it wasn’t that important at all.

And thus even when the Wends that arrived with Kilian founded their town, Serbin (which means “Wendish Land”) there soon was a desire to use German in Divine Services in addition to Wendish.

Kilian and the leaders of the congregation struggled with how to handle this, but ultimately lost the battle to maintain unity. Of this, I will write more in the coming days.

One of the more interesting things they tried was having separate voters assemblies– one for folks who preferred or could only speak German, and another for folks who preferred or could only speak Wendish. This experiment was discontinued after only a year, and I’m sure it probably worked (in general) out about as well as you think it did!

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