Erwin Weber's 1997 Christmas Letter

Melanchthon House

Melanchthon's Study

Melanchthon Statue

December 1, 1997, marked the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the German Department at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, and the establishment of the Erwin Weber Scholarship Fund. Since many of you have made contributions to the fund in the past, I would like to bring you up to date as to my latest activities. Although I'll be seventy-seven (77) years of age next April, I am still traveling to Germany each year (twice this year) gathering material for Lutheran publications, especially The Lutheran Journal published in Minneapolis for approximately 150,000 subscribers.

At the moment, I am completing a five-part article dealing with Philip Melanchthon for the journal. The first article was published in October of this year. The next issue is at the printers and should appear in a few days. In the center above is a photograph of Melanchthon's study which I took in his home in Wittenberg a few weeks ago. The furnishings are not original. However, the building, shown at the left, was constructed for Melanchthon and his family in 1536. It essentially remains the same as it did 450 years ago. It was renovated completely in 1997 for the 500th anniversary of Melanchthon's birth. I have prepared a history and description of the building for the 1998 Spring issue of The Lutheran Journal.

Melanchthon was Luther's closest friend and companion for almost three decades. He was the author of three documents in the Book of Concord: The Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Melanchthon is buried next to Luther in Castle Church in Wittenberg. Both graves are the same size and design, signifying the importance of both reformers. In 1863, a bronze statue of Melanchthon (shown at the right) holding a scroll of The Augsburg Confession was erected in the Market Square in Wittenberg next to a statue of Martin Luther with the Bible in his hand. The Luther statue was dedicated in 1821. Both figures have the same height and design emphasizing again the equal importance of both reformers. Yet, many Lutherans today have little or no knowledge of the great scholar who was the father of the German school system and earned the title Praeceptor Germania or Teacher of Germany.

Melanchthon was a man of peace and compromise. Like Luther, he wanted to reform the old church. He did not want a new church but rather a church built on the foundation of the old. Therefore, he emphasized that which unites us and not that which divides us. He might be called the first advocate of the ecumenical movement. For this reason a video, dramatizing the life and work of Melanchthon, was produced in Germany. I have received permission to translate the video for English-speaking audiences. Dr. Ralph Radloff, professor emeritus of Religion at Augustana College helped me over the rough spots, clarifying the various religious controversies in the video.

Special people who make and have made my life more enjoyable; such as my friends in Michigan, Don, whom I have known for more than 60 years, and Millie Mercier, in the Grand Rapids area, and Jerome in the Detroit area. Jerome is in the process of selling his home in Wyandotte and moving into the Henry Ford Retirement Village in Dearborn. And closer to home, there is Gwen, my next-door neighbor and friend, and companion for the last 18 years. She accompanies me on my trips to Europe and occasionally visits her distant relatives in Weimar. Then there are my golfing partners: Dr. Ralph Radloff, and Tom Wiese, a retired director of Buildings and Grounds at Augustana College. And last but not least, there is Dr. David Renneke, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Augustana College. He is a computer genius. If there are questions, he finds answers. Yes, I am very happy. My son Walter, his wife, Diana, and my grandson, Ryan, have purchased a lovely home with a great flower garden in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My son Kurt has been promoted to salesman for Yale Materials Handling a division of Torrance Electric Co., Inc., Rock Island. I am very proud of my sons and their families.

And now I hope, you, too, are as happy as I am during this holiday season and I wish you many more to come. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!  Write me a note when you can find the time.

Erwin Weber

December, 1997

The Nativity by Cranach the Younger 1564

This painting (oil on wood) is a memorial to Caspar Niemegk and his wife. They are shown kneeling in the foreground. The Niemegks were prominent citizens in Wittenberg. Anton Niemegk was mayor of Wittenberg from 1521-1525.

The painting is located behind the altar in the City Church in Wittenberg, which Luther called his own. The characters in the painting are portrayed as well-to-do 16th century citizens in Wittenberg. The stable is typical of the surrounding area of Wittenberg.

The inscription reads, "Glory to God in the highest, Peace on Earth and Good Will toward Men."