Pathways Parishes Moderator/Chaplain
The place was Eilenburg, Saxony (in what is now Germany), and the time, the beginning of the horrific Thirty Years’ War. The people were the good folk of that town and its churches and so many people who entered it — soldiers who came to invade and human beings who were fugitives and refugees from the violence that surrounded them. What accompanied them was plague, pestilence, and a virulent pandemic. Things got worse and worse for the people and for the pastor, Martin Rinkart.
Pastor Rinkart was a faithful pastor and a theological son of the Lutheran tradition. He was confronted by his surroundings and all the sickness in stark ways. He prayed, led, and visited his flock, but the moment called upon him to do so much more: burial upon burial upon burial, sometimes 50 a day. In the worst year, the parish register shows that – as the only pastor still living in the city – he did more than 4,000 burials, including that of his own beloved spouse.
What could Pastor Rinkart do? How could he continue on his pathway of faith and ministry? Where was his strength to be found?
An important part of his spirituality was writing the texts for hymns as a way of expressing what was most solid, enduring, and hopeful in his faith and in his life. So that is what he did. He wrote a hymn. It was a hymn of thanksgiving – of all things – and deep gratitude.