It was in 1910, when I was transferred from Crossen on the Oder to Danzig, that I really found out what preaching meant.
I had gone to Danzig very reluctantly. The Reformed congregation to which I was assigned numbered barely 2,000 souls, scattered throughout the city and its suburbs. Of “reform” there was not a trace. People were prosperous and worldly, that was all. And the small congregation was lost in the huge church of SS. Peter and Paul. A magnificent musician, Professor Fuchs, sat at the powerful organ. But he was not interested in the service. During the sermon he read his Schopenhauer.
From the first day I realized that everything depended on the sermon. The members of the Reformed congregation were not to be counted upon—with a few exceptions, of course. Those who came to church did not come to take part in the religious life of the congregation. As for the non-Reformed, they would not so much as set foot in a Reformed church. They did not want to have their children confirmed there, and they definitely did not want to attend the Communion service. Those who came, came exclusively for the sermon. There were no workers among them, or members of the lower middle class, who went to their own parish churches. The only people who came were the well-educated, for whom membership in a congregation meant nothing, but who were looking for a preacher who had something to offer them. It was sheer coincidence if one of them happened to belong to the Reformed congregation.
I made few personal contacts. I had no idea who was at service. Some wrote to me after my sermons, and such letters occasionally led to contacts. But basically I was thrown back upon myself. I tried to put my time to good use. I began to learn to preach.
I always ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more