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Welcome to David Jay Webber’s

Lutheran Heritage Web Site

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. (Deuteronomy 32:7, NIV)

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings... (Hebrews 13:7-9, NASB)

For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5, NKJV)

“... I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14, NKJV)

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Hello! Thank you for visiting my Lutheran Heritage Web Site. This site reflects, in an admittedly personal way, my overlapping interests in theology, history, and genealogy. It also gives me an opportunity to share some thoughts about those things that are most important to me. Whether your reasons for visiting this site are theological, historical, or genealogical -- or a combination of all three -- I hope that you find something useful here.

New Amsterdam, New Netherland (ca. 1630)

I graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1988, and in that same year I was ordained to the Office of the Holy Ministry and became a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I served as a Lutheran parish pastor in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (1988-90), and in Brewster, Massachusetts (1990-97), and then as the Rector of Saint Sophia Ukrainian Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil’, Ukraine (1997-2005). I am now back in the parish, serving as the Pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Albany, New York (late 18th century)

By the grace of God I am a Lutheran -- a Confessional Lutheran -- as a matter of personal conviction, and not simply through inheritance. I am nevertheless thankful for and proud of my Lutheran heritage. My Lutheran ancestors include several settlers in the New Netherland Colony in the seventeenth century, who had originally come from various places in Scandinavia and northwestern Germany. My earliest Lutheran forebears in America were Jan Jansen Van Breestede, his wife Engeltje Jans, and their daughter Elsie Janse. They were natives of Bredstedt in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark (now a part of Germany), and arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City) around 1636.

Husum, Schleswig-Holstein (late 16th century)

I am also a descendant of Tjerck Claessen De Witt, the lay leader who conducted the first known worship service for the Lutheran congregation in Beverwyck, New Netherland (Albany, New York), in 1656. He was a Frisian, from the vicinity of Esens in northwestern Germany. De Witt was fined for having conducted this service (in the home of another Lutheran layman), since the only worship services permitted in the colony were those of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Lutherans in New Netherland were granted legal toleration only when the English took over the colony, and renamed it New York, in 1664.

St. Petri Church in Hamburg, as it appeared in the late 17th century (left),
and as it appeared in the early 19th century (before it was severely damaged by fire in 1842)

Other prominent Lutheran ancestors of mine in seventeenth-century New Netherland and New York were Christian Pieterszen Van Doorn, from Husum in Schleswig-Holstein, and Andreas Rees, a native of Lippstadt, Germany. Rees had been hired as a soldier by the Dutch West India Company, and was probably a veteran of the Thirty Years’ War. I also descend from Andries Luycaszen, originally of Fredrikstad, Norway (who had lived for a time in Amsterdam in the Netherlands); Joachim Schumacher and his son Hendrick Jochemsz Schoonmaker, originally of Hamburg, Germany; and Andries Hansen Scharp, originally of Sweden.

A Lutheran Communion Service in 17th-century Hamburg

In 1710 several hundred Palatine families from the Rhine Valley and surrounding regions in southwestern Germany were settled by the British government along New York’s Hudson River, in “West Camp” (now a part of the town of Saugerties) and “East Camp” (now the town of Germantown). As refugees from the War of the Spanish Succession, and from other privations and hardships, they had fled to England the previous year.

Auerbach, Hesse (Lutheran Church in background)

About half of the Palatines were Lutheran (including some who had recently converted to Lutheranism from Roman Catholicism). Their acknowledged leader was the Lutheran pastor Joshua (Harrsch) von Kocherthal. The church register that he kept until his death in 1719 is an invaluable source of information about the Palatines. I descend from several of these families, and from a few others who left Germany to join them in succeeding years.

Lutheran Church in Höchstenbach, Palatinate

The home churches of my Palatine Lutheran ancestors who left Germany in 1709 were in Auerbach / Bergstrasse, Hesse; Erbenheim, Hesse; Framersheim, Palatinate; Grävenwiesbach, Hesse; Hanau, Hesse; Neu-Bamberg, Palatinate; Nieder-Gründau, Hesse; Ostheim, Hesse; Rod-on-the-Weil, Hesse (where the oldest parish house in Germany is located); St. Julien, Palatinate; Steinweiler, Palatinate; Wattenheim, Palatinate; and Wiesbaden / Kloppenheim, Hesse. Later arrivals had originated in Höchstenbach, Palatinate; Obermendig, Treves (now Rhineland); and Saxony.

View of the Hudson River Valley from Olana (Frederic Edwin Church)

Within a couple decades of their original settlement the Palatines had spread up and down the Hudson Valley and into the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys. My Palatine Lutheran ancestors at this time included people living in all three of these regions.

The Rev. William Edwin Traver, a native of the Hudson Valley and for many years the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Germantown, New York, wrote these words in 1917: “One of the most picturesque rivers of the world is the mighty Hudson. Into the Valley of the Hudson the followers of Luther penetrated early in colonial times. They left their footprints here and there in the valley and on down the Mohawk. Some of the landmarks of these colonial Lutherans survive today. They are reminders of the oppression and hardship encountered by our forebears and tell the story of their heroic endurance for the sake of the faith once delivered to the saints. Because of their heroism we have a splendid inheritance and the rich legacy of their deeds and achievements is part of our treasure today.”

Lutheran Church in Germantown (East Camp), New York
(first building, in use from the first half of the 18th century to 1812)

Ancestors of mine have been a part of the congregation at Germantown since it was first organized by the Palatines in 1710. I myself was raised in that church, and was baptized and confirmed there.

Christ Lutheran Church in Germantown, New York
(second building, in use from 1812 to 1868)

Among the pastors who served the Germantown congregation in the eighteenth century was Justus Falckner, who in 1703 had been the first Lutheran minister to be regularly ordained in America. Falckner also wrote the hymn Auf, ihr Christen, Christi Glieder (Rise, Ye Children of Salvation).

Former Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Brezová pod Bradlom, Slovakia
(built by the Lutherans in 1590; permanently taken from them in 1733)

In 1748 another of the congregation’s pastors, John Christopher Hartwig, participated in the organization of the Ministerium of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (under the leadership of Henry Melchior Mühlenberg). Hartwig’s name (in an Anglicized form) is perpetuated by Hartwick College, which traces its roots to the seminary that was established in 1797 through a bequest in his will. Augustus Wackerhagen was a well-known and influential pastor of the congregation in the nineteenth century.

Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Košariská, Slovakia
(in use since 1878)

One of my great-grandmothers (Suzanna Gabriž) was a Slovak Lutheran -- a member of the “Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession-- from the region of the Little Carpathian Mountains in western Slovakia. She grew up in the congregation at Košariská. My Lutheran ancestors in Slovakia also attended churches in Brezová pod Bradlom and Krajné.

Košariská, Slovakia

My great-grandmother immigrated to New York in 1896. Together with several other Slovak Lutherans from the same region of Slovakia, who like her and her husband had settled in the Germantown area in the closing years of the nineteenth century, she joined the historic Lutheran congregation there. In later years, after she and her husband had moved to Stuyvesant Falls, New York, she attended Emanuel Lutheran Church in that community.

Former Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession
in Krajné, Slovakia
(built by the Lutherans in 1595; permanently taken from them in 1733)

My wife was not raised in the Lutheran Church, but she too is now a Lutheran by personal conviction, and not simply through marriage. She also has Lutheran ancestry. Her Lutheran ancestors lived mostly in Sweden, although one of them lived in the New Netherland Colony in the seventeenth century (Hans Carelsen Toll, originally from Langesund, Norway), and a couple others lived in the Schoharie Valley region in the early nineteenth century. My wife’s father is also now a Lutheran.

Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession
in Krajné, Slovakia
(in use since 1784)

The Lutheran heritage that is respectfully honored here is a relevant, contemporary, and living heritage, because the Savior it confesses and embraces is a relevant, contemporary, and living Savior. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, is still present and active among us in his Word and Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Through these Means of Grace God continually renews to the Christian Church the gift of his Holy Spirit; he creates and sustains the faith of his people; he delivers them from sin, death, and the devil; and he graciously bestows on them his heavenly blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Krajné, Slovakia

The leader of the sixteenth-century Reformation movement was Martin Luther, who in many respects was a very imperfect man. He was sometimes coarse in his polemics (especially in his later years), and he was not always able to rise above the prejudices of his day. But he was also an extremely gifted pastor and theologian, and a bold and courageous confessor of God’s timeless truth.

Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Prietrž, Slovakia
(in use from 1733 to 1906)

Luther and the other Lutheran Reformers did not set out to create a new church. They worked instead for a reformation of the church, in reverent submission to the supreme authority of Holy Scripture, and with an unswerving zeal for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The essential message of the Lutheran Reformation is best summarized in Luther’s Kleiner Katechismus (Small Catechism), appreciated for centuries as an excellent compendium of basic Biblical teachings. The Small Catechism is also one of the official Confessions of the Lutheran Church, as contained in the Book of Concord.

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
(Acts 20:27, NKJV)

The spiritual blessings of the Lutheran Reformation were never intended only for those individuals who had the good fortune of being raised as Lutherans. Since the sixteenth century the preaching of the pure Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments as instituted by Christ have drawn many people -- from various religious backgrounds -- into the fellowship of the Lutheran Church. But sadly, many Lutherans have not always fully appreciated the great spiritual legacy that has been passed down to them through their Catechism and the other Confessions of their church. Due to misunderstanding or indifference they have sometimes been willing to compromise or ignore this legacy. They have sometimes had a distorted understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran, perceiving their religious affiliation as a relatively unimportant expression of culture or family tradition rather than as a testimony of faith in the fullness of Christ’s saving Gospel.

But there have also been many times of trial in the history of the Lutheran Church when its members have remained true to their church and to its distinctive beliefs, even when they were strongly tempted or pressured to abandon them. For example, the Lutherans in New Netherland persisted in their attempts to worship and organize congregations according to their own confession of faith, in spite of the continuing efforts of the Dutch Reformed to obstruct these plans; and the Palatine Lutherans, after their arrival in New York, resisted the proselytizing efforts of the Anglican Church. In what is now Slovakia, before the “Edict of Toleration” was issued by the Austrian Emperor in 1781, the Lutherans endured many decades of opposition from imperial and regional government officials. Their church buildings were often confiscated, their worship services were often proscribed, and during those times of severest persecution they were sometimes imprisoned, sold into slavery, and even killed because of their beliefs. Lutherans at other times and places have also been willing to suffer greatly, even to the point of martyrdom, for the sake of remaining true to their consciences.

Such examples of steadfastness on the part of our fathers and mothers in the faith can and should serve as an inspiration for the Lutherans of today. May God mercifully grant to us, in the midst of the uncertainties and confusion of our age, a much-needed renewal in faithfulness to his Word, and to all that it teaches.

Christ Lutheran Church in Germantown, New York
(third building, in use since 1868)

If you would like to share any thoughts about this web site with me, or if you would like to contact me for any other reason, I would love to hear from you!

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Certainly we should not wish to put our own souls and consciences in grave peril before God by misusing his name or Word, nor should we wish to bequeath to our children and posterity any other teaching than that which agrees with the pure Word of God and Christian truth. (Augsburg Confession, epilogue to XXI,1, Tappert)

Therefore, in the presence of God and of all Christendom among both our contemporaries and our posterity, we wish to have testified that the present explanation of all the foregoing controverted articles here explained, and none other, is our teaching, belief, and confession in which by God’s grace we shall appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ and for which we shall give an account. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration XII:40, Tappert)


Web Sites Maintained by David Jay Webber

Lutheran Heritage Web Site [] Lutheran Ancestors of David Jay Webber [] Descent from Tjerck Claessen De Witt [] Lutherans in New Netherland [] The Palatines [] A Contemporary Description of the Palatines [] Conversions from Catholicism to Lutheranism [] Palatine Lutheran Ancestors: Links [] Another Important Anniversary [] Slovak Lutheran History [] Lutheran Ancestors of Carol Ruth Wimble (Webber) [] The Lutheran Reformation [] Dutch Lutheran Worship [] Reformed Obstruction [] Anglican Proselytizing [] Germantown Lutheran History

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