Telling the stories of Texas with photographs (and words too...)
The members of Rev. Kilian’s congregation who broke away and formed the first St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (see “A time to tear apart…” for more details) styled themselves as “the little flock” in their letter to the church council of the congregation from which they were withdrawing.
The congregation first sought to affiliate with the Missouri Synod but didn’t receive a response quickly, and they subsequently looked to the Texas Synod for pastoral care. Initially, that synod was hesitant to serve the members of St. Peter’s. However, Kilian, who was concerned that they might join the Methodists, encouraged the affiliation with the Texas Synod, and so the congregation was received into membership in May of 1860.
For the short nine years that the congregation was in existence, they remained a “little flock;” in 1865, the congregation only had forty-five communicant members and seven voting members (when the congregation was established in 1858, there had been forty-five communicant members and fifteen voting members). Although the congregation was small, it still had the honor of serving as host congregation to the 1866 meeting of the Texas Synod.
St. Peter’s was first served by Rev. George Lieb of Round Top until he took a call to Austin in 1864. Following that, Karl Christian Rudi served the congregation, first as a catechist and later as a licensed candidate. At the end of 1866, Rudi took a call to East Navidad.
After Rudi’s departure, St. Peter’s was unable to procure a pastor from the Texas Synod, and the leadership of the congregation began to consider their options. On January 15, 1867, they officially expressed interest in reconciling with Kilian’s congregation.
Kilian’s congregation received the request enthusiastically, and immediately allowed for the members of St. Peter’s to be treated as guests until things could be finalized, and for Kilian to commune them. He was even granted permission to hold occasional services at the St. Peter’s building.
That February, the leadership of St. Peter’s sent a letter to the president of the Texas Synod requesting release from membership. Interestingly enough, their letter stated that they no longer believed that the Texas Synod was truly Lutheran since it was affiliated with the unionistic General Synod. This, of course, had been the very reason Kilian was unwilling to affiliate with the Texas Synod in the first place, despite his friendship with its founder, the Rev. Caspar Braun of Houston!
Later that year the Texas Synod met in Meyersville, where they granted St. Peter’s request.
Oh, and the building in the photo? That’s the second building to serve St. John’s Lutheran Church of Meyersville, which hosted that 1867 meeting of the Texas Synod. Construction on the building began in 1866, and it was dedicated in 1867– which might well be why the congregation hosted the synodical meeting that year. It served the congregation until their third building was dedicated in 1921. The “Old Stone Church” is open to visitors – so if you’re in the area (Meyersville is just off US 183 between Cuero and Goliad) stop in and have a look!
If you’d like to learn more about Pr. Kilian and the early history of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Serbin (as well as the first and second St. Peter’s Lutheran Churches), George Nielsen’s book “Johann Kilian, Pastor” is a fantastic resource! Several used copies are available on Amazon (https://amzn.to/2XSZlaF) and it can also be purchased at the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum in Serbin.
In addition to Nielson’s book, much of the information in this article was gleaned from “St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s Lutheran Churches, Serbin, Texas, 1855-1905” by Arthur C. Repp. That article is available (broken up into four parts) on the Texas Wendish Heritage Society’s web site:
You can learn more about the history of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Meyersville here: