More than a third of Volume 2 run has shipped

MORE than a third of the 984 copies of Volume 2 that were printed have now been shipped. The two bookstores that carry it have steadily increased the number of copies they order over time as they place new orders. The bookstore of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis has ordered a total of 17. The bookstore of Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne has ordered a total of 38, most of them to have on hand for the Symposium. A dozen seminarians and vicars have ordered copies directly from the ACP Center. No ELCA seminary bookstores carry it yet. Can you help to correct that? If so, please do so, and let me know what you have done. Phil Secker

Director was the presenter for the December 1-2, 2008, New England Chapter retreat of the Society for the Holy Trinity, Ender’s Island, CT. 
Because we continued to discuss Piepkorn during the “Continuing the Conversation” period, I was up for about five hours. I have decided to become a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity. http://www.societyholytrinity.org/

Piepkorn fans may wish to eat some of their meals together, and perhaps get together sometime when the schedule allows. If you will attend either symposium and want to be included, please let me know as soon as you can, so I can make arrangements.

Joyful anticipation vs. weary resignation

In the fall of 1936, Arthur Carl Piepkorn wrote “Missionary Miseries By One Who Had Them” about his experiences as missionary-at-large in Chisholm, Minnesota, from 1933-36. Although he never published the document, at one point he wrote: “If this screed is ever published, I fear it will be misunderstood.” So he clearly knew that it might be published some day.

The document was published with an introduction and notes by me in the Una Sancta/Fall issue of Lutheran Forum/Forum Letter package. This fascinating account alone is worth the modest price of a subscription to Lutheran Forum. If you are a Piepkorn fan, you must not miss it. Here are some of the details:

In April of 1933, after completing a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and most of a post-doctoral fellowship in Iraq and Palestine, Piepkorn applied for an assignment to “foreign missions or some domestic appointment.”

In early August when he was in London, he learned that he had been assigned as missionary-at-large in Chisholm, canceled a short vacation that he had planned, and left the next day for the U.S. He was installed on August 27th. The powers that be in the Missouri Synod must have thought he was “safe” there.

Chisholm is located on the Mesabi Iron Range, 75 miles northwest of Duluth and five miles north of Hibbing (Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and grew up in Hibbing.) Unemployment was 24.9% in 1932 and may have been double or triple that in this mining town on the Mesabi Iron Range, which had shrunk from about eight and a half to six thousand during the preceding decade. The worst years of the Depression lay yet ahead.

The church building of Grace Church had no basement, was heated by a wood stove in the nave and was apparently covered with black painted sheets of metal, a construction material I recall seeing when I was a child (see the only photo I have, in the Photos page of this website). He had it moved back to partially hide the walls from passersby.

Piepkorn’s parish was 900 square miles. In addition to serving Grace Lutheran Church in Chisholm, he served four preaching stations and several Civilian Conservation Corps camps (he joined the Army reserves to have easier access to the latter).

The temperature dropped as low as 54 degrees below zero absolute while Piepkorn was there. He had breakdowns of various kinds with his second hand 1930 Ford up to 26 miles from the nearest town, usually in the winter. Once he had to trundle a flaccid tire 11 miles. Another time his car tipped over in a blinding snowstorm four miles from the nearest telephone.

He arrived in debt and had to pay his own office expenses, postage, advertising, etc., and still owed more than $1000.00 when he wrote this document. He wore a Roman collar as street garb because it was inexpensive and practical, and because the Methodist minister in town did and his congregation expected him to look as professional as the Methodist minister.

His congregation in Chisholm increased by nine-fold during the three years. Part way through his tenure the per communicant giving average of his congregation was higher than the Minnesota District average.

For a number of months in the summer of 1936, bachelor mission pastors did not receive their salary because the Home Mission Board did not have the funds. He had met Miriam Soedergren, who worked as a nurse in southern Minnesota, and they wanted to marry, but he could not afford to on his meager salary.

He closes the document by saying he is not complaining but, like St. Paul, is endeavoring “in whatsoever condition I am therewith to be content…. As long as my Lord wants me to remain in [Chisholm], I am content to remain. If it is His will that I should not marry, I am content, and I anticipate that I shall be as successful in living chastely in the future as I have been in the past…. And in all these things I am not wearily resigned, but I shall accept the indications of His will with joyful anticipation.”


Shortly after he wrote this “screed,” he received a call to work once again for the Lutheran Laymen’s League and the Lutheran Hour, at a salary nearly three times his salary in Chisholm. He accepted and he and Miriam were united in Holy Matrimony four months later on St. Stepen’s Day.

The outdoor scences for North Country (staring Charlieze Theron) were filmed in Eveleth, ten miles east of Chisholm and give a good idea of what the region looks like on bleak winter days.

A personal connection: Piepkorn often attended circuit meetings at my home congregation in the more propserous lake country town of Grand Rapids, 35 miles west of Chisholm. I experienced 56 degrees below absolute and walked to school once when it was 40 below, absolute. The pastor of my home congregation often invited Piepkorn for meals, and the congregation gave mission offerings to Grace Church at least twice while he was there. The pastor’s wife liked to brag that she had been born in the same delivery room as Judy Garland (I was born in the same small hospital but don’t know if the same delivery room was still in use.) Garland first performed on a stage in Grand Rapids, but was gone before Piepkorn arrived in Chisholm and was not famous yet. See the Pipekorn Anecdotes page for some anecdotes from the son of that pastor. Frederick von Heusen, the first pastor I have a memory of, was a very good friend of Piepkorn and served my congregation before and after WWII, and as an Army chaplain in the Pacific during the War.

If you do not subscribe to the The Lutheran Forum/Forum Letter package or have let your subscription lapse, now is a good time to subscribe or resubscribe at alpb.org or by calling Donna at 607-746-7511. The editors of both publications are members of the ELCA; the associate editors are both members of the LCMS.