On this day, Lutherans remember their earliest pastors in the Americas. (There are two entries for 20 Feb and none for 21 Feb. Some may wish to postpone one commemoration by a day.)
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 prevous life little is known. The captain's journal relates:
The Holy Christmas day, we all celebrated and observed
Solemnly, as a Christian's duty is. We had a sermon and
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.
Most gracious God, we thank thee for thy 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, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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.