Erwin Weber's Christmas Letter 2000

"Grey Wolf"

"Here I stand"
Worms Cathedral

Conrad Bergendoff
Portrait by Cloy Kent

Uppsala, Sweden

As I'm writing this Christmas Letter, another winter storm is on its way to the Quad Cities.  This is the second storm in less than a week.  That's about the way it has been from the beginning of the year.  One storm after the other.  It began in January, when Gwen's mother died in Glenwood, Minnesota, located thirty miles from Sauk Centre, the birth place of her mother in 1905.  We realize, that life is unthinkable without death.  Nevertheless, it is a shock, especially, when it happens to be your mother.  Soon after the funeral, Gwen went to California to spend three weeks with her daughters and I went with her.

During the course of the year, I usually work in the morning on PowerPoint slide presentations dealing with the lives of Zwingli, a contemporary of Martin Luther and father of the Reformed tradition, Philip Melanchthon, Luther's closest friend and collaborator, and Lucas Cranach, an admirer of Luther and Painter of the Reformation.  In the afternoon, I play golf, not very well. However, the scenery is great, and the exercise is not boring.  I only rent a cart when my partner wants to ride, otherwise I walk and pull my cart behind me up and down those hills on Indian Bluff. 

I normally go to Europe in the Spring to gather material for my slide shows and for articles to be published in the Lutheran Journal. This year, Gwen and I went in September, for on the 2nd of October, the Grey Wolf Restaurant in Wittenberg celebrated its 200th anniversary.  I have gone to this restaurant, located in former East Germany, since 1964.  Christians used to meet there to discuss their problems living under their Socialist-Communist regime until the wall came down in 1989 and the country was subsequently united.  The birthday celebration in October lasted for three days.  In attendance was the mayor, the chief of police, and honored guests from around the world.  Everyone enjoyed the free food and drink.

During the trip to Europe, I gathered additional material to improve my slide presentation.  Aside from Wittenberg, we went  to Worms, where on April 17, 1521, four hundred years before I was born,  Luther stood before the emperor Charles V and refused to recant his writings.  We also went to Bretten, near the Black Forest, Melanchthon's place of birth; Kronach, Cranach's place of birth in northern Bavaria; and Antwerp, Belgium, where Lucas Cranach made a sketch of Emperor Charles V when the emperor was a small boy.  This act saved Cranach's life, when the Protestant forces were defeated at the battle of Mühlberg in 1547.  

When we visited Bad Godesberg on the Rhine River, where I went to school when I was a boy, Gwen's cold got worse and I took her to the hospital.  It turned out to be pneumonia.  She feels better know.  In the meantime, I gave PowerPoint slide presentations at the college and various churches in the area, including my church, St. John's Lutheran in Rock Island.  After the show Dr. Roald Tweet, recipient of the Conrad Bergendoff Chair in the Humanities at Augustana College, and Betsey Brodahl, former Dean of Women at the college, asked me to prepare a PowerPoint slide presentation on the life and work of  Dr. Bergendoff, widely recognized theologian, historian and former president of Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois who died on December 23, 1997 at age 102.

For this reason, I'm planning a trip to Sweden in the Spring in order to walk in the footsteps of his father, who was born in Tofteryd, Småland, was inspired by a revival meeting in Jönköping to serve the Church, came to Augustana College and Theological Seminary as a 21-year old young man, was ordained a pastor in the Augustana Synod and served it faithfully for 47 years, which included two years in Shickley, Nebraska, where Conrad Bergendoff was born on December 3, 1895. 

Thus the year 2000 ends on a high note, for I was thrilled when I was asked to get involved in this project.  It  will be fun returning to the library at Uppsala University, and the Royal Library in Stockholm researching the project and walking in the footsteps of Conrad Bergendoff.  He asked me to join the faculty in the German Department at Augustana in 1962 and he became my  friend.  As we approach the days before Christmas, I'm reminded of December 23, the day before Christmas eve, when Conrad John Immanuel Bergendoff passed away after serving the Augustana Synod and the community at large for 76 years.

And now I wish you and your friends Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Don't forget to keep in touch.

Erwin Weber
December 2000