Confirmation Rites on Palm Sunday

Gerard Fiehler and I were hanging out at the museum yesterday. I had just finished posting yesterday’s story and decided to begin looking for who could be the subject of today’s post. My usual routine is to open up the digital version of our German Family Tree and search its contents for special dates. I look for events that took place 200 years ago, 175 years ago, 150 years ago, and 125 years ago. When I searched for events that took place on April 3, 1898 (125years ago), I saw what is displayed in the image below.

95 results!!! A lot of times, when I put in a date for a certain year, I get no results. A typical set of results would be a one-digit number. When I saw that this date returned 95 results, I turned to Gerard and just smiled. When I pointed out that I got almost 100 results, he simply said, “Confirmation”, and I responded, “Bingo!” Then, I proceeded to scroll through the records that contained that date and year. I saw a confirmation record for Trinity, Altenburg, followed by ones from Concordia, Frohna, Grace, Uniontown, Salem, Farrar, etc. I muttered out loud, “Maybe this should be my story.” So, you are not going to be reading one of my typical stories today. I will discussing confirmation and the fact that most Lutheran churches in the Missouri Synod include the rite of confirmation during their Sunday worship service on Palm Sunday. Indeed, it is a fact that Palm Sunday fell on April 3rd in 1898.

The next step was to gather some images of confirmation records found in the records we have in our library for the local Lutheran churches. I was glad that Gerard was there because he was able to assist me in that process. Some of the local churches for which we have records did not get established until after 1898, so we concentrated on just those older congregations. I will be displaying images of those confirmation classes in this post. Perhaps some of our readers will find relatives in some of these lists.

I will begin with the church that I attend. Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg had 16 member in its confirmation class of 1898. I will display that list in 3 images.

Trinity, Altenburg – Confirmation class 1898

When this pastor wrote these records in his church’s books, he listed the members of the class from oldest to youngest, but also listed the boys first and the girls afterward. Amazingly, this class of 16 had just 3 boys.

Next, I will display the largest confirmation class that I found. That was the class from Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. In this case, I am not able to display actual records, but only a transcribed list that has been typed out. This list contains 22 names. The pastor organized his list just like the pastor at Trinity. Out of 22 confirmands, only 7 were girls.

Concordia, Frohna – Confirmation class 1898

I will now show the class from the other Lutheran church in the immediate vicinity to our museum…Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg. There were 7 confirmands at that congregation in 1898.

Immanuel, Altenburg – Confirmation class 1898

I think it would be helpful in this case to show a translation of the names in the above image.

Immanuel, Altenburg – 1898 confirmation class translation

Now, I will spread out to other Lutheran churches found in Perry County and northern Cape Girardeau County. Let’s take a look at the class from Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. This list is once again divided, with the boys being listed and then the girls. They do not seem to be organized by the dates of births. This list of 11 confirmands also includes the child of the pastor, Magdalena Hueschen.

Grace, Uniontown – Confirmation class 1898

Let’s go up the road from Uniontown to look at the class from Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown. This small list is very special to that congregation because it is their very first confirmation class. That church was established in 1897. There were just 2 confirmands. However, this class was not confirmed until the next week on April 11, 1898. Perhaps they did not have regular weekly worship services yet.

Zion, Longtown – Confirmation class 1898

Next, we will look at the confirmation class from Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. I have to display their list in 3 images. The boys are listed first, but there is no order by birth date. Two Aurich youngsters that were in this class were several years older than the others in the list of 15 confirmands.

Salem, Farrar – Confirmation class 1898

Next, we will take a look at a few congregations located in Cape Girardeau County. Trinity Lutheran Church in Friedheim is another congregation that has a history that goes way back. Their church records are not yet included in our German Family Tree, so the records below would not be included in my search that returned 95 results. There were 8 confirmands listed in 1898. The boys are listed before the girls, but it just so happens that the boys were all older than any of the girls, so the list is also in order according to their ages anyway.

Trinity, Friedheim – Confirmation class 1898

Below is the confirmation class of Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells. The boys are listed first, but in this class of 11, there were only two of them. The boys and girls were listed by age from oldest to youngest.

Immanuel, New Wells – Confirmation class 1898

Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas was a relatively new congregation. They had just 2 confirmands, a boy and a girl who had been baptized in New Wells.

Zion, Pocahontas – Confirmation class 1898

Finally, I am going to cross the river to display the confirmation class of Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. The boys and girls are listed separately.

Christ, Jacob – Confirmation class 1898

That makes a list of 10 local churches’ confirmation classes, most of which held their confirmation rites 125 years ago on April 3rd. Altogether, these lists include 102 confirmands. I find that to be an amazing number.

Now, I want to make a few comments about Lutheran confirmations and some of the traditions accompanying them.

  • The most common day for Lutheran congregations to hold their confirmations is Palm Sunday, although that is not always the case. I was confirmed back in 1964, and my confirmation took place on Pentecost Sunday.
  • Most congregations conduct their confirmations during a Sunday morning worship service, but that is also not always the case. My confirmation class was so large that I was confirmed during a special afternoon service on Pentecost Sunday.
  • There are several traditions surrounding confirmation rites. One is that many confirmands wear white robes as part of the ceremony, often with a small flower pinned on it.
  • Our congregation here in Altenburg has a tradition of tolling a bell after the pastor reads the student’s confirmation verse. Our choir also sings a very short blessing, “So Help You God.” I was told yesterday that particular singing has probably been going on for over 60 years.
  • Pastors around here often contact our museum to find out what a person’s confirmation verse was for one of their members who has died. Often, they preach the funeral sermon using that text.
  • I know some congregations have special stoles made for each confirmand to wear. I know of another church that had a member who made a special banner for each confirmand including their confirmation verse.
  • A church at which I served would have each confirmand have their photo taken in front of that church’s Good Shepherd window.
  • Most churches in this area continue to have a “questioning” of the confirmands in front of the congregation prior to their confirmation day.
  • Back in 1898, it was not unusual for families to have quite a few children. Nowadays, a typical family might have 2 or 3 children. The confirmation classes have gotten considerably smaller. Our church only confirmed one young man yesterday.

My wife had to help me find the photo taken of my confirmation class. There were 28 confirmands and 2 pastors in the photograph. I was confirmed at St. Jacobi Lutheran Church in Jennings, Missouri, a congregation that no longer exists. I’ll let you guess which fellow in the photo is me.

St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, Jennings, MO – 1964 confirmation class

Lutheran churches, for the most part, still consider it to be very important to make sure the children in their congregations not only know their Bible stories, but also the church’s doctrine as expounded in Luther’s Small Catechism. Tomorrow, a men’s Bible class that I lead will be reviewing what we learned in our confirmation classes as we open our catechisms.

In closing, let me tell you that I looked at one more congregation’s confirmation records for 1898. That congregation was Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Their books list 63 confirmands in that year’s class. That is truly amazing. I wonder how that church handled such a large group that would have taken up quite a few pews without even considering the family members that would have wanted to attend such a special event. What a wonderful problem to have to solve…having too many confirmands.

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