The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Muhlenberg tradition

Celebrating North American Lutheran roots

Partee Boliek traveled from Phoenix, Md., to Allentown, Pa., on a Saturday morning because he knew his ancestors seven generations back took communion from the hand of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg.

Boliek made the trip to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first Lutheran synod in North America, a gathering Muhlenberg organized in 1748.

The festivities, which attracted more than 235 people from both seacoasts to Muhlenberg College Aug. 7-9, used lectures, music and drama to recast Muhlenberg's credo "the church must be planted" to "roots for new plantings." A new day was punctuated by the gospel choir of Calvary Lutheran Church, West Philadelphia, which led the music at the closing service.

The symposium commemorated Aug. 14-15, 1748, when Muhlenberg called together representatives and pastors of 10 congregations in southeastern Pennsylvania to form the "Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States." It was a controversial gathering because some pastors and members decried bureaucracy, but Muhlenberg believed congregations needed to band together for strength and support. "A twisted cord of many threads will not easily break," he often said. Members representing the 10 congregations led the procession at the anniversary's final worship.

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