On this day, Lutherans remember their earliest pastors in the Americas.
In 1619, King Christian IV of Norway and Denmark sent two ships and 64 men to search for the Northwest Passage to India. They got as far as the site of Churchill, Manitoba, on the western shore of Hudson Bay. There, locked in by ice, they spent the winter, and were ravaged by scurvy. Their captain was Jens Munk, a thoroughly experienced naval officer. Their chaplain was Pastor Rasmus Jensen, of whose previous life little is known. The captain's journal relatess:
The Holy Christmas day, we all celebrated and observed Solemnly, as a Christian's duty is. We had a sermon and Mass.... On the 23rd of January... the priest sat up in his berth and gave the people a sermon, which sermon was the last he delivered in this world.... On the 20th of February, in the evening, died the priest, Mr Rasmus Jensen as aforesaid, who had been ill and kept his bed a long time.... Only four, besides myself, had strength enough to sit up in the berth and listen to the homily for Good Friday. [Note: the homily would have been read from a book of sermons for the various days of the Christian year.]
In July, Captain Munk sailed for home with the only two surviving members of his crew. They reached Norway in September. The Captain's Journal has been published by the Hakluyt Society.
The next Lutheran pastors in the Americas were Magister Lauritz Anderson Rhodius, who was preaching in the West Indies by 1656, and Kjeld Jensen Slagelse, who was a pastor on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands from 1665 till his death in 1672.
Delaware was originally a Swedish colony. Reorus Torkillus arrived there in 1639, organized a congregation, and died 7 September 1643. John Campanius (1601-1683) arrived in 1643 and remained five years, working with the Delaware Indians, for whom he translated Luther's Small Catechism. Justus Falckner (1672-1723) was ordained in South Philadelphia 24 November 1703, the first Lutheran pastor ordained in the Americas.
written by James Kiefer
Most gracious God, we thank you for your servants Rasmus Jensen and all other ministers who have accompanied Christians travelling to distant, desolate, or perilous places, seeking to minister to those they accompanied and to those they met, sharing their hardships in the name of him who humbled himself to share ours, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.