German Lutherans in the prairie provinces before the First World War : their church background, emigration and new beginning in Canada
Cobb, John M.
In this dissertation, the author examines the development of German Lutherans in the prairie provinces against the background of their historical experience in Europe. The evidence indicates that a large majority of the immigrants originated in Russia, especially Volhynia, and in Austria-Hungary especially, Galicia. Here they generally lived in cohesive communities (Gemeinden) centered on church and confessional school. In both Russia and Austria-Hungary their Gemeinden formed, as is it were, "Germanic islands in a Slavic sea.” Only a minority of German Lutherans came from Germany itself. However, the influence of this minority, which included many pastors and writers in the German-language press, was great as German Lutheran church life developed in western Canada. German Lutherans in western Canada, as they are identified from the census, were about twice the number which Lutheran church bodies claimed as members. To the question: why did so many religious people not rejoin the Lutheran church? The study answers: the original pastors who answered the call, to western Canada attempted to guide the settlement of Lutherans back into cohesive Gemeinden such as the latter had experienced in Europe. However, conflict occurred within their parent church body over the question of German missions in Canada. The resulting weakness from this conflict led to the entrance of competing Lutheran church bodies. After 1895 German Lutheran church Life was marked, not only by a weakness in shepherding a large number of immigrants scattered over a huge territory but also by energy robbing and demoralizing ecclesiastical conflict. A consequence of this conflict was that, although all held to an ideology which had gained strength in the minority context of eastern Europe, the Lutheran church bodies in western Canada had but partial success in setting up the parochial schools on which the churches believed their future would depend.