May 1723: J.S. Bach Hired as Cantor in Leipzig

Johann Sebastian Bach served as cantor at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, a role which included leading worship music, directing choirs, playing organ, and composing original pieces. In this 2002 essay, Robin Leaver studies Bach as both a “musical theologian” and “theological musician” in the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy.

Essay: “Johann Sebastian Bach and the Lutheran Understanding of Music” by Robin Leaver, LQ 16 (2002), 21-47.

Image: Statue of J.S. Bach outside the Thomaskirche, Leipzig. Photo by Martin Lohrmann, used by permission. 


Early 1700s: Pietism as Folk Religion and Popular Protest

Unlike the Prussian government’s support of pietist efforts in Halle, pietism in Sweden largely grew as a popular movement and included elements of social protest. Although historical sources about how regular people experienced faith are often challenging to uncover, this essay examines how pietism developed “from below” in early eighteenth-century Sweden.

Essay: “Swedish Pietism (1700-1727) as Resistance and Popular Religion” by Todd Green, LQ 21 (2007), 59-77.

“Poltava” by Pierre-Denis Martin (1725)

Image: Many Swedish soldiers who survived the 1709 Battle of Poltava between Sweden and Russia came to support Pietism; “Poltava” by Pierre-Denis Martin (1725). 


December 1733: Ordination of First Indian Lutheran Pastor

The establishment of the Danish East India company in Tranquebar led to the formation of a Lutheran Church in southern India. To better serve local populations, Catechist Aaron was the first Indian to be ordained as a Lutheran pastor in the area. This essay describes positive and negative aspects of how that mission church started and grew.

Essay: “Lutheran Churches in Eighteenth-Century India” by P. Daniel Jeyaraj, LQ 17 (Spring 2003), 77-97.

Page from the New Testament in Tamil, translated by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg.

Image: Page from the New Testament in Tamil, translated by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg. 


March 12, 1734: Lutheran Refugees from Salzburg Land in Georgia

Though Lutherans and Catholics had lived together in Salzburg since the Reformation, an intolerant archbishop sent the Lutherans into exile in 1731. Many people around Europe—including Jewish groups, as told in this essay—aided these religious refugees. With assistance from the English government, 300 Salzburgers were resettled near Savannah, Georgia. There the Salzburgers established the Ebenezer colony, which became an important early center for Lutheranism in North America.

Essay: “Jewish Support of the Salzburg Lutheran Refugees in 1732-33” by Wolfgang Splitter, LQ 27 (2013), 143-166.

Map of New Ebenezer, Georgia

Image: Map of New Ebenezer, Georgia



1739: Zinzendorf Visits the West Indies

In 1722, Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf hosted Moravian refugees on his estate in Herrnhut. A Lutheran pastor influenced by pietism, Zinzendorf became a patron and leader among the Moravians, encouraging their mission work with native and enslaved peoples in the Americas. In 1739 he visited the Virgin Islands and then spent time with Moravians in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Though often in conflict with Lutheran officials in Europe and America in his lifetime, Zinzendorf remains an important figure for both the Moravian and Lutheran communities.

Essay: "Zizendorf's 'Litany of the Wounds'" by Craig D. Atwood, LQ 11 (1997), 189-214.

Zinzendorf Preaching to People from Many Nations.

Image: Zinzendorf Preaching to People from Many Nations. 


August 1748: Ministerium of Pennsylvania Founded

Responding to a call for a pastor from three congregations in Pennsylvania, Henry Muhlenberg arrived in Philadelphia in 1742. He helped organized scattered German Lutheran communities into the first American Lutheran church body, the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of North America, more commonly known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.

Essay: “The Ministerium of Pennsylvania, From 1748” by George E. Handley, LQ 10 (1996), 363-384.

Interior of the old Trappe church (taken in 1919), where Henry Muhlenberg preached.

Image: Interior of the old Trappe church (taken in 1919), where Henry Muhlenberg preached. 


December 1784: Kant Publishes Essay on “What Is Enlightenment?”

Immanuel Kant expressed the goals of the Enlightenment with the words sapere aude, dare to become wise! Dedicated to education, freedom, and reason, the Enlightenment dramatically reshaped politics, art, science, and religion. In the field of theology, contemporaries like Johann Georg Hamann proposed alternatives to Kant’s strict rationalism as he considered the relationship between faith and reason. 

Essay: “Language and Reason in the Thought of Johann Georg Hamann” by James O’Flaherty, LQ 2 (1988), 457-476.

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788)

Iamge: Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788)


April 1, 1789: Frederick Muhlenberg Becomes the First Speaker of the US House of Representatives

The Muhlenberg family provided early examples of Lutheran involvement in American public life, especially as seen in two sons of Henry and Anna Maria (Weiser) Muhlenberg, Peter and Frederick. Peter Muhlenberg became a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and later held many public offices. Frederick Muhlenberg represented Pennsylvania as a member of the Continental Congress and was the first speaker of the House of Representatives under the new US constitution.

Essay: “The Muhlenbergs Become Americans” by Paul A. Baglyos, LQ 19 (2005), 43-62.

Frederick Muhlenburg (1750-1801)

Image: Frederick Muhlenburg (1750-1801)

Peter Muhlenburg's Robe


1799: Schleiermacher Publishes “On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers”

An important figure in the development of liberal Protestantism, Friedrich Schleiermacher combined elements of romanticism, pietism, and enlightenment philosophy. He supported the union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia for both practical and theological reasons. Whether as a controversial or sympathetic figure, Schleiermacher shaped much of the religious discourse for the decades that followed. In this essay, Christine Helmer presents “Schleiermacher for Lutherans” by focusing on his view of faith.

Essay: “Schleiermacher for Lutherans” by Christine Helmer, LQ 29 (2015), 162-183.

Title page of the first edition of On Religion (1799)

Image: Title page of the first edition of On Religion (1799)


Early 1800s: Women’s Leadership in the Hauge Movement

After a mystical experience as a young man, the itinerant lay preacher Hans Nielson Hauge launched a pietist revival among Norwegian Lutherans. He was often imprisoned for his unauthorized preaching and organizing. As this essay by Inger Furseth shows, his work also invited women into new leadership roles.

Essay: “The Role of Women in the Hauge Movement” by Inger Furseth, LQ 13 (1999), 395-422.

“Haugianerne” by Adolph Tidemand (1847)

Image: “Haugianerne” by Adolph Tidemand (1847)


October 31, 1817: The Prussian Union Begins

On the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, King Frederick Wilhelm III decreed that Lutheran and Reformed communities would belong to a single protestant church in Prussia. This decision grew from both Enlightenment ideals and administrative realities. Opposition to this top-down decree, however, resulted in increased confessional awareness, as demonstrated—on the Lutheran side—in the following essay about “worship wars” around the year 1830. 

Essay: “German ‘Worship Wars’ and the 1830 Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession” by Stan M. Landry, LQ 26 (2012), 373-394. 

Picture of Pastor Claus Harms (1778-1855), an outspoken critic of the Prussian Union.

Image: Picture of Pastor Claus Harms (1778-1855), an outspoken critic of the Prussian Union.