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German and Scandinavian Protestantism 1700-1918$

Nicholas Hope

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269946

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198269943.001.0001

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(p.400) 16 Charity
German and Scandinavian Protestantism 1700-1918

Nicholas Hope

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Deals with the related theme of charity caused by the gradual end of home‐parish benevolence. A mix of enlightened and Moravian forms of charity, the idea and practice of saving children, the Protestant German use of New Testament and early Church ‘diacony’, particularly women ‘deaconesses’, to care for the poor and the sick, and Wichern's home mission based on the Christian family principle of ‘works of saving love’ are examined.

Keywords:   charity, Christian family, diacony, home mission, saving children, Wichern, works of saving love

I. The Gradual End of Home‐Parish Benevolence

The loosening hold of the old dependent communal order during a long unsettling period of wartime crisis (1790–1815) added significant numbers to an already large vagrant poor: as high as 10 per cent in provinces (Ch. 12). How to pay for the poor in parishes unable to provide for them became a public issue. An enlightened middle‐class ‘public’ organized in a network of many new Patriotic and Agricultural Societies realized that the early modern Protestant state—particularly the plurality of little German states with their puny mercantilist economies—and its many different charitable agencies (home‐town and country parishes, remnants of Catholic religious foundations, guild fraternities, and manor households), simply could not cope with large numbers of beggars, and an increasing new rural poor of cottars and day‐labourers who did not fit into home‐parish poor provision. A new distinction in a new money economy between an able‐bodied poor who should work and the indigent in need of local charity, coupled with the new idea of honorary poor provision, raised the issues of whether poverty was a matter for the church and home parish, or the state and local government, and, as the parish changed its social shape, whether the average parishioner had a say about these matters in the parish vestry. Management of the poor raised the question of parish democracy also.

Hamburg struck a new path with the General Poor House Board (Allgemeine Armenanstalt, 1788) established by a far‐sighted local businessman, Caspar Voght (1752–1839). Division of the city into five main district poor boards, each with twelve subdistricts, and governed by a college (Armenkollegium) composed of honorific overseers, made poor relief (which distinguished the able‐bodied spinning and sewing in workhouses from the indigent cared for by house visits—both were provided with some elementary schooling) (p.401) a civil matter for the first time. Within the first decade, begging was almost stopped. Similar provision was already established in Bremen (1779), Lübeck copied Hamburg (1801), and Voght was called to Vienna (1801) and Berlin (1803). The state took notice also. The Danish Poor Commission (1787), part of the great Danish state reform programme (1784), introduced the Hamburg model to Copenhagen in 1799 (twelve main poor boards were established). A series of poor law acts (1802–3) in conjunction with the new system of obligatory education (1806, 1814) were passed for Danish home‐town and country parishes. These acts put poor provision in the hands of honorary commissioners (the parish clergyman, one or more of the biggest landowners, and some of the better‐off farmers). These parish commissions were the forerunners of the first provisional parish boards (sogneforstanderskaber, 1841), the model for elective parish councils (sogneråd, 1855)—the highest‐taxed fifth elected the majority, other taxpayers the rest—which formed the basis of Danish municipal government after 1867.

This development implied the beginning of the slow retreat of Reformation Lutheran parish benevolence exercised by parishioners as a merciful Christian home congregation (Gemeinde). Pastoral care became, whether parish clergy liked it or not, in the period of the awakening (c.1790–1840) more and more a matter for local government and its inert social contract, though a degree of modern professionalism even in local government really began only after 1860. This development brought into relief a possible distinction between the German adjectives, heil (spiritual redemption) and wohl (public welfare), and between the nouns, Fürbitte (intercessory prayer) and Fürsorge (intercession by public relief), although owing to the pervasive hold of custom, and anxiety in unsettled times about what too much parish democracy in vestries might bring, pastoral‐minded Lutheran clergy and awakened laymen who established the first voluntary charitable agencies still thought more in terms of a Reformation church's ‘cure of souls’ (Seelsorge), sanctification: the eternal welfare of the soul beyond the present welfare of the body. New social thinking was therefore very difficult to introduce to poor parishes during a long period of wartime and post‐war want, and in a parishscape where clergy and parishioners still saw poverty as a matter of Christian conscience and mercy (Mildtätigkeit, Barmherzigheit).

In Sweden, the idea of the home parish feeding and caring for its (p.402) own unfortunates, written into Sweden's Vagrancy Act (1642) and Church Law, and reinforced by state legislation which allowed the home parish to expel non‐residential vagrants (hemortsrätt, 1788) at a time of land reform, lasted with little modification until the first Poor Relief Act (1847).1 Many clergy, despite their serious concern about a rising parish poor evidenced by a draft poor law (1811) and its debate in the parliaments of 1823, 1835, and 1840–1, saw charity still as the parish clergyman's responsibility to exhort his parishioners to give, and not a concern of the state. Few wished to divide church and state competence. Poverty, until the liberal humanitarian climate of the 1840s—the clergy in parliament petitioned the king on 29 July 1840 to end the flogging of vagrants without passports decreed in 1748–was bracketed with parish management of vagrancy by the parish clergyman and his vestry, which met (Clergy Privileges 1723, § 23) usually twice a year in St Philip and St James (1 May) and at St Michael (29 September). Also in most Protestant German states in the Vormärz, especially in gentrified Lutheran provinces such as Pomerania, the Mecklenburgs, Livonia, and Estonia, the home‐parish principle (Heimatrecht in the Gemeinde), enshrined in the parish residence requirement giving entitlement to poor relief, was often sharpened by the influential squire in order to prevent a rise in the cost of provision for an increasing vagrant poor.2 The major questions in poor parishes which were being changed by the new money economy, of what kind of charitable provision should replace the old Reformation parish order of communal and dependent relationships, and of how it was to be paid for, therefore received no adequate answer either amongst parish clergy or amongst the awakened pioneers of the first Protestant voluntary charity initiatives, until the first municipal and better‐funded poor legislation after 1860.

(p.403) II. A Mix of Enlightened and Moravian Charity

It was more than just a mere coincidence that Moravian fellowship, the small, caring, agricultural and craft Christian community, whose ethos found expression in Schleiermacher's charitable saying in the second of his Speeches (1799), ‘in order to comprehend the world and have religion, [an individual] must find humanity [which is] expressed in love, and by [works of] love’, became popular amongst Lutheran parish clergy reformers—Pietist and enlightened pastoral assumptions were no barrier in practice—and awakened laymen just as the old communal parish order broke down.3 At Riga, the Saxon, Sonntag, as senior of St James (1791–1803), and Livonia's general superintendent thereafter, preached a Moravian‐coloured homiletics (owing to his caring eye for servile Latvian and Estonian parishioners and their awakening by the Brethren), in conjunction with his civic mission of better Christian schooling and support of British Bible mission. Like Schleiermacher, Sonntag, inspired by this Moravian climate, argued that Christianity is a religion of love and deeds, and not ‘vague expressions of gentleness and enthusiasm, or nice, sweet words; but [fellowship expressed] in eating, drinking, comforting, teaching, remembrance: sharing suffering and joy (Mitleiden und Mitfreuen)’.4 He amplified this message in his well‐publicized sermon ‘Ermunterung zum Gemeingeiste’ preached at the service in St James at the opening of the 1795 baronial Landtag, and in frequent sermons afterwards, as a way of exhorting German barons to move with public‐minded times, emancipate their poor ethnic peasantry, and provide them with adequate schooling so they could help themselves find a better life.5 Likewise, in a sermon preached at the service celebrating peasant emancipation (6 January 1820), he expressed gratitude to the Brethren for refreshing the Christian life of the Estonian and Latvian peasantry with Bibles and devotional books printed in their own languages. However, this was a time before Moravianism was perceived as a religious threat by a Neo‐Lutheran German parish clergy generation.

(p.404) Contemporary Berlin provided a similar Moravian charitable message, one which, in the person of Goβner as Jänicke's successor (1829–46) to the Moravian Bethlehemskirche in Rixdorf, linked up with Catholic Bavarian caritas preached by Sailer and his pupils, and the post‐war southern German biblical awakening.

The pious Silesian nobleman, Hans Ernst Freiherr von Kottwitz (1757–1843), Tholuck's Vater Abraham to Berlin's awakened upper class, introduced a form of poor relief inspired by a visit to Matthias Claudius in Reinbeck and reforming Hamburg (1780–1), and to the Moravian settlement of Gnadenfrei, which was situated close to his estate, Ober‐Perlau, which he had bought when he married in 1783. Kottwitz (an admirer of Spangenberg) saw that not enough was being done to help poor urban parishioners at an unsettled time when it was necessary to have faith (Luke 22: 31): an active Moravian Christology unifying faith and fellowship was the best way to deal with parish destitution when a sense of a common Protestant ‘church’ was lacking, as he put it in a published confession of faith written for his friends (1824). Kottwitz's philanthropic voluntary employment agency (Freiwillige Beschäftigunsanstalt, 1808–9), which employed 450 people spinning and weaving, and a further 500 on home work (he established similar establishments in 1817 in Silesia—later managed by the Silesian Old Lutherans), was linked to daily evening prayers (Abendsegen) led by himself and like‐minded teachers, and common prayer on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, which involved awakened city clergy such as Jänicke, Tholuck, Otto von Gerlach, and Goβner. Kottwitz linked Moravian fellowship (combining sanctification of daily tasks with advice, Beratung), with the newer notion of self‐help, or occupation (Beschäftigung) in the workplace, the evangelism of the Prussian Bible Society (1814; he was one of its directors), and Berlin's mission to the Jews. The same tone, but enriched by Catholic caritas, was struck by Goβner as a pastor. This tone would become equally influential in Berlin after 1830, though its weak voluntary institutional base was to be exposed by Berlin's rapid industrial pauperization. Goβner organized voluntary sick visitation, Krankenbesuchsvereine (1833), founded a hospital, the Elisabeth‐Krankenhaus, in 1837, and a new foreign mission (Missionsverein, 1842), which he linked to the Moravian notion of waiting for a calling and living ‘by faith’ rather than having a formal theological training and salary.

Another prominent contemporary was the Strasburger, Johann (p.405) Friedrich Oberlin (1740–1826), who chose in 1767 to be parish clergyman of the extremely poor upland (‘Steinthal’) parish of Waldersbach in the Vosges mountains. Oberlin can be seen as a typical example of the enlightened clergyman. He was an amateur physician; a farmer (Louis XVIII's Agricultural Society awarded him a gold medal in 1818; the following year saw his election to the Legion of Honour); a mechanic who helped blast rocks and level roads; an engineer who threw the Pont de Charité over the local river Bruche; an educator who valued Basedow's pedagogy; and for a while (until the Terror), like Zschokke, an admirer of the neighbouring French Republic as a political system which allowed all to share in the common good.6 On 9 April 1794, he therefore decided to stop conducting Lutheran public worship; he discarded his cassock and for a short time until 1795 called himself a ‘citizen’. On the other hand, Oberlin's civic and practical‐minded pastorate was in essence one inspired by the warm Christocentric preaching of the Strasburg city clergyman (thirty years in office) and university professor (since 1769), Siegmund Friedrich Lorenz (d. 1783), a disciple of Rambach, and a man open to Strasburg's small Moravian congregation which blossomed after 1770 in a milder religious environment in which it was seen by enlightened city clergy as a useful ally against Lutheran Orthodoxy, and by the Lutheran Orthodox as an ally against their more enlightened colleagues.7 Oberlin thus warmed to awakened visitors such as Madame Krudener or the Nassau Pietist Johann Heinrich Jung‐Stilling (1740–1817), supported the British Bible Society, setting up with his son a local branch at Waldersbach in 1805, and sponsored the first small weaving enterprises and children's homes. Oberlin saw the Lutheran pastor as an imitator of Christ; as a man who acted from the heart, voluntarily exercising faith. He possessed confidence in God's guidance (Führung), sought sanctification (Heiligung), preached (p.406) a fellowship of love, emphasized the need for intercessory prayer for each individual parishioner, and sponsored free‐will offerings. Welfare and poor relief needed a religious sanction. Oberlin even established, using Zinzendorf's example, a Société Chrétienne (1781), but was forced to abolish it in 1783 when he began to fear schism at a restless time. Oberlin's charity, like that practised at Riga and Berlin, was expressive of an awakening with ecumenical overtones before 1830.

III. Saving Children

Active Lutheran voluntary charitable work began—in contrast to the industrial and urban Anglican north of England and Calvinist Scotland—in the pre‐industrial landscape of Vormärz Protestant Germany, with the many orphaned and homeless children left by the long period of war (1790–1815) and the failure of home‐parish care. Saving children had partly to do with the pious educational legacy of Francke's institutes, though their barracks atmosphere and mercantilist teaching received less emphasis; partly because of the influence of the views on childhood promulgated by the Swiss educator, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), upon the Lutheran and Reformed family; partly because of the still‐influential Moravian view of the child; and partly owing to the notion of self‐help in a new market fashioned by Political Economy. Children began to be valued for their own sake, the relationship between child and educator became warmer, a Christian upbringing became less a matter of restraining sinful hearts and more of a caring modern soteriology nurtured by the recent availability of handy and cheap New Testaments, and children were to be gainfully occupied in both a moral and economic sense: the German noun for ‘occupation’ (Beschäftigung) was a keyword used by organizers of many private pious initiatives.

The response, in wartime Thuringia, by the poor Weimar bookseller, Johannes Daniel Falk (1768–1828), was exemplary. In his middle age he served the French briefly as an adviser with sound local knowledge by collecting a war‐tax before and after the battles of Jena (1806) and Leipzig (1813). Falk was appalled by the way the mass of beggars, and the even greater number of orphans left by fathers in the army and abandoned by mothers, that he saw roaming the streets of Saxon and Thuringian towns and country roads (p.407) mocked his training in enlightened and idealistic Hallesian theology (1787–90), and his second‐rate attempt at participation in Weimar's Life and Letters.8 Also he had lost four of his own children within a few months, so, when homeless children knocked at his door, he took them in. But the flow did not stop, and he was forced, together with a local pastor, to found at Weimar the Gesellschaft der Freunde in der Not (1813), which for the first time involved Weimar's Lutheran burghers in voluntary care. Falk settled the orphans in the private homes of Weimar's tiny middle class, amongst its craftsmen and local farmers, who acted simultaneously as foster‐parents and teachers training their charges as apprentices, or domestics. Falk also built a home, the Lutherhof (1823), where the children (some even helped build it) came together every Sunday to be looked after and have their progress recorded. Falk sang hymns, read and explained the New Testament, taught his children something about everyday affairs, and played with them. There was little system in Falk's family circle, at the heart of which was the happy Pestalozzian personality of the individual child and a Christian Franckean upbringing lacking the stick. Falk was one of the pioneers of the modern congregational hymn and liturgy. A Moravian upbringing by his mother in musical Danzig gave Falk a strong sense of song bonding a congregational liturgy. His Sunday school children sang not only his own hymns such as the touching children's Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun hymn—popular still today—‘O du fröhliche, o du selige’ (1816; arranged c.1850 to a Sicilian Marian hymn tune which Herder brought back from his Italian trip, 1789), but Falk also let his children sing a cappella responses by Palestrina and other older liturgical settings during his explanation of the Lord's Prayer.9 This charitable response and liturgical initiative, a ‘mission in our midst’ as Falk put it, inspired Wichern (see below) and congregational singing in his Rauhes Haus at Horn close by Hamburg.

On the other hand, Falk's care could only function if need was not too great, and if there were enough Christian parents about who could share and foster the idea of inward sanctity as a guide in an amoral post‐war world. This was true of other early individual (p.408) charitable initiatives, such as the school for orphaned girls in Hamburg founded in the same year as Falk's Society by Amalie Sieveking (1794–1859), the daughter of the Hamburg syndic Karl Sieveking (1787–1847), Wichern's patron, or the children's home or asylum (1822) founded by Count Adalbert von der Recke‐Volmerstein (1791–1878), which he called—using English precedent—a Rettungshaus, in the secularized Trappist monastery on his estate at Düsselthal near Düsseldorf.

Awakened Württembergers, though, influenced by a neighbouring Swiss Pestalozzian and religious awakening, established their own type of children's care in the 1820s. Its success almost overshadowed Württemberg's Bible and tract mission: the politician, Robert von Mohl, counted some twenty‐two children's homes in 1845: more than anywhere else at the time, if Switzerland was excepted.10

The pioneers were the Zeller brothers, the educators Christian Heinrich (1779–1860), and Karl August (1774–1840): two pious sons of a Württemberg clergy dynasty who introduced Pestalozzian principles to children's homes and primary schools in their native land. Karl August was also appointed to introduce this pedagogy to Königsberg's royal orphanage and East Prussian schools (1809–22). He worked subsequently (1822–34) in the Prussian Rhineland at Cologne, Kreuznach, Wetzlar, and Bonn, before retiring to help his brother in Württemberg.

Both were critics of the way their parents had seen only the future grown‐up in the child—neither had there been any need for canings to be commensurate with the mistakes both made in Latin grammar—and under Pestalozzi's kind eye, and with voluntary contributions by like‐minded burghers, had made a start at St Gallen (1805–6) with a little charity school providing a Christian education for ‘spiritual orphans’: a term which included children from better‐off homes lacking a Christian upbringing. They also argued that the new interest in foreign mission was not enough: it was just as important to train Christian schoolteachers for the many poor and orphaned children in the impoverished parishes of Württemberg and Baden; every piece of happy missionary news was a stab in the heart for Christian Heinrich, when he thought about the plight of ‘so‐called Christian children’ back at home: where need was great, therefore, a Christian institutional home had to be provided.

(p.409) The restoration of a happy Christian family thus became the basic principle of the first southern German co‐educational charity school and training centre for charity schoolteachers at home, and the new southern German Protestant diaspora in Russia and the United States (Freiwillige Armenschullehrer‐ und Armenkinderanstalt, 1820). It was housed by Christian Heinrich, its first lifelong director, in the old Teutonic castle of Beuggen in Baden, rented cheaply from the grand duke, maintained solely by freewill offerings, and kept by Christian Heinrich—who, like Falk and Wichern, disliked theology—at a polite distance from liberal Württemberg's church establishment. Working on the notion that small is beautiful and easier to supervise—there were never more than seventy‐five inmates at any one time—children were gathered into ‘families’ led by lay men and women who combined in their teaching Pestalozzi's and Falk's ‘mission in our midst’ (Wohnstube) and a Franckean message of the need to change one's disposition and mind by prayer and work: as Christian Heinrich put it, prayer without work leads to the monastery, work without prayer leads to revolution. In this sense, Beuggen and its institutional offspring provided a conservative education which complemented that of evangelical Swabian clergy. Notwithstanding the reaction of the Zellers to their strict parental upbringing, Beuggen was a school with strict house rules and fixed hours of worship, teaching, work, and recreation. Occupation was found in the Swabian crafts of spinning, knitting, basket‐ and straw‐weaving. Theatre and pub were out of bounds; closed institutional festivals consisting of founders' day, Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, and those of the agricultural autumn calendar—the harvest festival and the potato harvest—were cherished. Beuggen thus pleased Württemberg's court, which, in founding the Paulinenpflege at Stuttgart in the same year, and in financial support of many new homes—usually named Wilhelmshilfe or Wilhelmspflege—encouraged in turn devotion towards the royal house amongst a new generation of Württemberg Pietists.

IV. Diacony

New Testament ‘diacony’, use of women ‘deaconesses’ by the Early Church to care for the poor and the sick, was rediscovered by Protestant lay men and women in the bleak wartime and post‐war homeless landscape fashioned by the chance course of the revolutionary (p.410) and Napoleonic wars. There were too many men, women, and children who could not be reached by an overstretched official poor relief, and by primitive hospitals which frequently mistreated patients, given the practice of hiring untrained nurses. Many women who, as untrained nurses in patriotic associations (Frauenvereine), cared for the dying, wounded, and homeless, began to sense an urgent need for more effective Protestant charitable organization outside home parishes, particularly in the Rhineland and Westphalia. As travel became easier after the peace of Vienna, this became possible in Rhenish provinces which, like Basle, were open to British and Dutch evangelical social work (the Christian rehabilitation of Newgate's female prisoners and the provision of evening shelter for the London homeless by the saintly Quaker, Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845), became well‐known in this way), and in provinces where Catholic caritas was exercised by reinstated Catholic orders before and after 1814, such as the French Sisters of Charity and St Charles Borromeo, or a German copy, the Clemens‐Schwestern founded in 1808 by wartime Münster's caring coadjutor, Clemens August Droste zu Vischering. Establishing such charities was also easier in provinces where Reformed and Lutheran congregations began to sink their doctrinal differences—more quickly amidst a local Catholic revival—and turned to a Protestant home mission propagating handy and cheap British Bibles and Testaments.

A luminary in this field was Theodor Fliedner (1800–64), a young Lutheran ordinand with an eye open to these hard times, who rebelled, as had the Zellers, against the enlightened moral values of his Lutheran father, the vicar of impoverished upland Eppstein in Nassau, and, as had Falk, against enlightened moral theology which he learnt as a student at Giessen and Göttingen (1817–20). Appointed in 1822 to a tiny and under‐endowed Union parish in Catholic Kaiserswerth on the Lower Rhine, which comprised some fifty Lutheran and seventy Reformed cloth‐workers, a destitute Fliedner was confronted, as had been his predecessor, with the need to collect money to augment his paltry stipend in order to exist, to run the parish school, and to attend to parishioners. As an observant, pious soul interested in a revival of personal pastoral care, Fliedner learnt that he could combine expeditions to collect money in nearby wealthier Elberfeld and Barmen, and down the Rhine to the Netherlands and England (1823–4)—the interest from 21,000 thalers that he raised was invested in Dutch government bonds at (p.411) Amsterdam and provided Kaiserswerth with a secure financial base—with learning from what he called the ‘apostolic simplicity’ (apostolische Einfachheit) of voluntary urban charity apparent in the hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the elderly in Amsterdam and other Dutch towns maintained by the Dutch Reformed Church and Réveil, and that practised in London by English Evangelical lay preachers, and by Quaker institutions for sick, poor, and homeless children, as a way of making good a pastoral failure to address these hard times by an over‐academic German Protestant pastorate. But Fliedner was more in sympathy with neighbouring Dutch Reformed culture—he liked in particular the quiet Sunday in Evangelical Amsterdam, where throughout the city, fifty preachers shared the preaching at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m., in contrast to the ‘unholy’ bustle of German towns—than English culture from which he was separated by his poor mastery of English, and by distance.11 Fliedner's English sojourn strengthened his ‘purely evangelical and Christian’ interpretation of Prussia's Union, and lay churchmanship. He rejected the Anglican liturgy, whose language he probably misunderstood, as being too Catholic, thinking that its ritual weakened the homiletic nature of the sermon in the mind of the congregation, and strengthened the idea of a performance of an opus operatum amongst average churchgoers. He thought the liturgy too long: many rubrics misled the officiating clergyman into simple recitation, bored the congregation, and diminished the sense of fellowship given by a congregational hymn. He also strongly disapproved of Oxford University's emphasis on the Classics alone; that students were not required to learn Hebrew; that the New Testament was sometimes read fortuitously—only because it happened to be written in one of the Classical languages. This experience provided the material for a tract for the times which he published the following year as a member of the ‘Evangelical Party’ of Frederick William III's ‘High Church’ Prussian rite (1822), and his subsequent active publicity for Rhineland‐Westphalian Lutheran and Reformed church order.12

Five further visits to England after 1824, notably a trip of 1832 where Fliedner met Thomas Chalmers, Robert Owen, and (p.412) Elizabeth Fry, coupled with his local experience of Catholic nursing by Strasburg's Sisters of Mercy, and the first German society for the rehabilitation of prisoners, the local Rheinisch‐westfälische Gefängnisgesellschaft (1827, visited by Elizabeth Fry during 1831–2), convinced him of the need to extend the evangelical voluntary principle beyond his home parish. The outcome was the little ‘asylum’, or refuge, for female discharged prisoners (Evangelische Asyl, 1833) established by Fliedner and his wife, Friederike (1800–42) in their garden, and shortly afterwards, Kaiserswerth's female nursing college (Bildungsanstalt für evangelische Krankenpflegerinnen, 1836) under the directorship of Friederike until her untimely death; Fliedner believed that a nursing diaconate which also looked after children was best served by women. Kaiserswerth, in contrast to Rhenish Catholic sisterhoods and nunneries, was run by ‘sisters’, dressed in apostolic blue with a white cowl, who took no vows but promised to serve for five years. It also acted as a mother‐house for Evangelical mission by deaconesses in Fliedner's early‐Church sense (wie zu der Apostel Zeiten), though in the male‐dominated officialdom of the Prussian world the title ‘deaconess’ was first recognized only in 1844.

Florence Nightingale heard about Kaiserswerth through Bunsen in 1842, and noted in her diary, on 31 July 1850 while returning to England from Egypt, her feeling (seeing the river Rhine, ‘dearer to me than the Nile’, at Kaiserswerth) of being like the pilgrim who first sets eyes on the Kedron, and that she found Fliedner's community to be a rich source of refreshment. A two‐week stay led to a longer stay the following year in an institution whose routine she described in a letter to her mother (July 1851):

I never had time even to send my things to the wash. We have ten minutes for each of our meals, of which we have four. We get up at 5; breakfast ¼ before 6. The patients dine at 11; the Sisters at 12. We drink tea (i.e. a drink made of ground rye) between 2 and 3, broths at 12 and 7; bread in the two former, vegetables at 12. Several evenings in the week we collect in the Great Hall for a bible lesson. . . . I find the deepest interest in everything here and am so well in body and mind. This is life. Now I know what it is to live and to love life, and really I should be sorry now to leave life. . . . I wish for no other earth, no other world than this.13

(p.413) Florence warmed to this spartan little Christian community of faith, life, and work (in 1851, 116 deaconesses: twenty‐seven resident, sixty‐seven travellers) in which, as Fliedner taught, anyone could pray aloud extempore before the whole community whenever it was called for, and children were fêted, especially on their birthdays, as was Moravian custom. But she despaired of the hospital (about 100 beds) as the worst part of Kaiserswerth—though she had never met a higher tone and greater devotion in a hospital, which should serve as a model for emancipated English ladies living in ‘busy idleness’—its nursing by deaconesses who were ‘mostly of peasant stock’ was unprofessional, and its hygiene was ‘horrible’.14

Also important, as apostolic Kaiserswerth grew, were its printing press and bookshop, which complemented similar enterprises at Calw, Düsselthal, and Wichern's Rauhes Haus, as part of a new missionary press producing cheap school Bibles, hymn‐books, religious tracts, annual reports, and calendars. This awakened salesmanship coloured the first foreign daughter foundations: Pittsburgh (1849), Jerusalem (1851), and Constantinople (1852).

V. Innere Mission

The Christian family principle of ‘works of saving love’ covering all Protestant German and, after the mid‐century, Scandinavian, voluntary, charitable, and social work, expanded in the home mission of Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–81), son of a Hamburg notary.

In the long run, Wichern was possibly the most important figure amongst German and Scandinavian pioneers of Protestant social work, because he founded the first central organization at the first Protestant German national Kirchentag at Wittenberg (1848). The Central Committee of the Innere Mission co‐ordinated the many new local Protestant charitable initiatives nationally. Wichern was politically significant too in his capacity as a co‐ordinator who, because of his close mid‐century connection with Frederick William IV and like‐minded Prussian upper‐class circles who hoped to restore a ‘Christian state’, fashioned, more by circumstance than by intention (he had little time for an established Landeskirche), a Protestant and conservative‐minded Christian social politics which kept a distance from the worlds associated with the emergent liberal and socialist (p.414) ‘secular city’ after 1850. In this way Wichern organized nationally and articulated politically an awakened Protestant subculture (to borrow the Dutch notion of Verzuiling) of Christian social work, already visible in Württemberg, the Rhineland, and Westphalia before 1848, which reached out to the unfortunate of the world before the advent of modern urban industry.

However, there was a limit to what could be done at this time. Voluntary organization of charity was looked on with extremely suspicious eyes by rulers in Protestant and Catholic Germany (in absolute Denmark too before 1849). For instance, Ludwig I of Bavaria commented for instance in the margin of the application for a charter by Munich's first Vinzenzverein (1845), that the association was a very praiseworthy undertaking as long as it followed its charitable purpose, but care should be taken to ensure that it did not turn out otherwise at a time when it was fashionable for associations to be used for ‘political agitation’. British Nonconformity also, once it began mission (Baptists in Hamburg after 1823, Methodists in Württemberg and Baden after 1831, and the more successful Irvingites in both after 1836), therefore lost its initial ‘social’ appeal in this churchscape of early Protestant social work.15

In contrast to Fliedner, Wichern brought the mix of the festive, enlightened, and pious which one could expect from an upbringing in a big, open‐minded, seaport city with a long conservative Reformation liturgical tradition (Wichern was educated in the Johanneum), and in the period c.1780–1820, amongst an enlightened upper‐class citizenry who began to warm to philanthropy and a subsequent charitable awakening. Wichern was different too in the way he linked the idea of Evangelical Catholicity with Christian social work run on a national basis, given the influence of a north German apostolically minded awakening. He loved Goβner's little tract, Weg zur Seligkeit (1826), lent to him by his friend, Amalie Sieveking; also Thomas à Kempis's Imitation, and Fénelon's religious writings translated by Matthias Claudius (three volumes, 1803–11), which he read with Claudius's eldest son, Johannes (1783–1859), vicar of Sahms near Schwarzenbeck, who acquainted him too with Düsselthal and Elberfeld's charity. Wichern learnt much from (p.415) helping out in Hamburg's first Sunday schools initiated by the saintly pastor, Johann Wilhelm Rautenberg (1791–1865), in Hamburg's new poor suburban underworld; much too at Göttingen (1828–30) under Friedrich Lücke (1791–1855), a pupil of Neander and Schleiermacher who taught a pastoral New Testament and wrote a commentary on the pastoral in St John (1820–5); even more at Berlin (1830–2) as a devoted student of Neander and his rediscovery of the loving apostolic period, of Schleiermacher as a practical theologian who emphasized Moravian fellowship (Gemeinschaft) and a Protestant church free of meddlesome royal hands, and of Kottwitz, Otto von Gerlach, and Goβner as the pioneers of a new city mission to Berlin's poor modern suburbs.

Wichern's home mission began in 1833, the same year as Fliedner's little asylum, with his children's home and training school which he housed in an unkempt cottage known as Das rauhe Haus, and on land at Horn donated by his patron, Karl Sieveking. If the Rauhes Haus was similar to Beuggen and Düsselthal as a family settlement of children, it differed in taking mainly illegitimate or orphaned boys (a few girls) between the ages of 5 and 14 from Hamburg's underworld, whose grim face Wichern had seen while working in the Sunday schools. Wichern's enterprise could be likened to Herrnhut (Wichern was aware of Moravian Neuwied), but also to contemporary charitable mission practised by the Vincentians, and to Adolf Kolping's (1813–65) Catholic Gesellenvereine at Elberfeld in the 1840s. The Rauhes Haus community was an offspring of ecumenical times: of a popular ‘catholicity’ expressed by Wichern's Zinzendorfian saying, ‘We believe in a core of Christian conviction in all confessions because all Christians believe in the living Christ.’16 Wichern insisted on a new family life free of any links with ugly, confined, back‐alley Hamburg housing and the barracks atmosphere of urban orphanages, and the Rauhes Haus grew quickly into a garden village consisting of many small houses—known in Catholic parlance as hostels (Konvikte)—containing about a dozen children each. Lay brothers without theological qualifications combined religious instruction with training their charges as craftsmen and artisans: but the word ‘deacon’, favoured by Fliedner, was avoided, since Wichern disliked its association with ecclesiastical office. Worship in a central chapel (Betsaal) had a touch (p.416) of the Moravian. Wichern attached great importance to the sacramental in baptism and communion as symbolizing victory over the Devil and his works. Children, within their ‘families’, were not allowed to remain passive; the Bible was hallowed and they took turns as readers (Vorleser) within a common act of prayer. Pauline advice (Philippians 3: 13, 14) to forget the past (dahinter) and aspire to a better future (da vorne), and a Pietist emphasis (as at Düsselthal and Beuggen) on the need to renew one's mind, was central. As Wichern put it, to save (retten) children meant the same as the verb, selig zu machen, used in the German Bible and by Pietists. New arrivals were allowed to speak only with Wichern about their past experience, and they were given new Christian names in a community which tried to build confidence in a home, ‘without walls, fences, keys, bars, and spies’.17 There they would learn afresh a Christian Alltag of family warmth, work, play, and the festive expressed by common birthday celebrations. Christian youth mattered, and Wichern, like Fliedner, exercised personal supervision, with a file on each pupil, a house chronicle, and progress conferences. Wichern's work ethic was almost Moravian as well: each child was provided with a little pocket‐book of sayings (Spruche); rural crafts were fostered; Horn's children were not allowed to be factory workers. The festive was emphasized with services on commemoration days (Gedenktage), the day of arrival, birthday, baptism, the day of departure, or the day youths went out on mission, and there were many institutional festivals such as those which celebrated a house's foundation stone or new roof, or recounted the history of the settlement, or consisted of an annual Midsummer walk, accompanied by flag and trumpets, in the nearby beechwood. The Rauhes Haus was a fellowship of the juvenile world before assuming adult responsibility in which everyone had his allotted place and craft task.

Christian publicity became as important as it had been at Calw and Kaiserswerth, if not more so. A printing press and publishing house (Agentur des rauhen Hauses) were established in 1842. A mission periodical, Fliegende Blätter—a name evoking the post‐coach—which published a mixture of Gospel and charity news, followed in 1844. Wichern knew how to sell himself as a worthy recipient of Hamburg's commercial wealth. His new press, the (p.417) introduction of annual reports (Jahresberichte) on his enterprise, and his large number of fund‐raising tours after 1837, which targeted both urban wealth in cities such as Hamburg and Berlin and awakened noble and court patronage, established what became known from the first published reference (1843) as Innere Mission.18 At this time too, branches were established at Robye near Lund in Sweden (1839; Charles XIV bestowed Wichern with his first order the following September: a gold medal for ‘laudable achievements’); near Christiania in Norway (1841); and at Reval (1843).19 Wichern received active sponsorship too from the Danish Queen Caroline Amalie (1796–1881), who had visited Horn officially in 1840 after a previous visit in 1838 as consort to Crown Prince Christian (VIII). She was loved for her work amongst young children, as the patron of asylums at Copenhagen (1819; a school run on Grundtvigian pedagogic principles was added in 1841) and Odense (1839), and as a woman inspired by Elizabeth Fry and Amalie Sieveking, who sponsored the first Danish female association for the poor and the sick (Kvindelig plejeforening, 1843).20

Wichern's ecclesiology was political. This was novel. Wichern used Evangelical Catholicity as the principle in an associational mission reaching out to baptized Christians beyond the local parish. He had in mind the first national gatherings of Protestant churchmen such as Berlin's 1846 Synod, which he hoped to influence. His Volkskirche, based on the saving quality of active Christian love (Liebestatigkeit) learnt from a family New Testament and Luther's Little Catechism, as the way to heal modern social distress, was informed by both a theological view of mankind, hence its innate conservative tendency in social policy, and an ecumenical view informed by the rediscovery of the Apostolic Age by his romantically inclined generation, which rejected Protestant German unity as a ‘union’ of Germany's two major denominations, or as a confederation of Landeskirchen. A voluntary lay priesthood could help the divinely instituted clergy office, and so also overcome the fragmentation of Protestant Germany and its isolation from Protestant Europe.

But Wichern was a child of an order which, despite the gathering pace of change, was still pre‐industrial and one sanctioned by the Christian family, church, and state; one, so Wichern believed, where (p.418) natural inequalities arose from inherited privilege and wealth. Wichern lived at a distance from the modern notion of their being an imbalance between man and the environment in which he lived and worked. The idea of the inert state and its social legislation as an instrument of social reform was as alien to him as it was to his like‐minded Catholic contemporaries who saw the working man's moral Christian character, and not the circumstance of employment, as the issue of the age; Wichern defined the issue, in his report to the 1848 Wittenberg Kirchentag, as ‘the alienation of the masses from God’. Within his Volkskirche in which a lay priesthood was not a right but a duty of service, intercession, and sacrifice exercised by all baptized Christians, rich and poor, the Innere Mission was so much more than church provision of poor relief. ‘Christian‐social work’ and ‘city‐mission’ meant Christian fellowship combined with social responsibility.21 This in turn implied that all forms of early socialism—Saint‐Simonian, democratic, proto‐communist—were condemned as irreligious, as was a new urban factory proletariat in Berlin or Elberfeld. However, Wichern did possess a knowledge of the urban social issues of his day which was exceptional amongst these Protestant German pioneers of a Christian social gospel. He had read Lorenz vom Stein's book on socialism and communism in contemporary France (1842), though he passed over vom Stein's point about inert public government and how political programmes could multiply wealth and happiness; had become aware of Owen through Karl Sieveking; possessed a firsthand knowledge of English industrial conditions and factory legislation via his close friend, Victor Aimé Huber (1800–69), who had visited industrial northern England in the summer of 1844; had read Engel's account (1845) of working conditions in Manchester; and had translated, with Otto von Gerlach (1847), Chalmers's account of religious charity based on self‐help in distressed early‐industrial Glasgow; and had supported its chequered introduction four years earlier by Gerlach as ‘diacony’ to his poor suburban Berlin parish. But Wichern's reading of this new urban literature served to strengthen his idea of Christian moral regeneration in his People's Church.22

(p.419) Wichern's ecclesiology was defined, unfortunately, at a time when Neo‐Lutherans began to emphasize the sacerdotal nature of the clergy office—voluntary churchmanship, however well‐intentioned, was seen as a threat—and when liberal theologians and clergy were more concerned with a free Protestant church, and with freedom of learning and self‐expression. Wichern's friendship with Frederick William IV, who seemed, in the 1840s, to become open to Protestant social mission, was unfortunate in the long run.23 If it made the social diacony of Wichern's, Fliedner's, and Huber's officially respectable—Horn and Kaiserswerth brothers and deaconesses began to be employed in Prussian asylums, orphanages, and prisons—the subsequent charge of collusion with Frederick William's conservative and hierarchic ‘Christian State’ was easily made, despite Wichern and Fliedner's misgivings about royal charity, which, to choose one prominent example, that of Berlin's royal hospital ‘Bethania’ (Diakonissenkrankenhaus, 1845–7), mixed romantic notions of knightly honour and medieval orders. Collusion with the establishment was a political stigma which German and Scandinavian home mission found subsequently very hard to shrug off.

Much later, the Saxon, Friedrich Naumann (1860–1919), a senior brother at Horn (1883–5), thereafter pastor of Langenberg near industrial Zwickau (1886–90) and a founder there of one of the first Protestant Workingmen's Associations (1890), realized that already in 1848 Wichern's People's Church and Christian Socialism were doomed to failure. Germany's Protestant social order was already too divided. A gracious name, money, and a little voluntary (usually female) support was all one could really expect from courts and nobles; a new liberal, urban middle‐class was not interested; and given Wichern's anathema on Socialism, a rising new urban proletariat, condemned to solving the conditions of its workplace and poor suburban housing, would be hostile to Protestant moral renewal.


(1) ‘Hvart Härad och Sochn, skal föda sina Fattige,’ etc., Kyrkolag (1686), ch. 28, § 5; Arner, Svenska kyrkans ställning till frågan om de fattigas vård, 10–11, 20–1. The Anglican clergyman, Edward Clarke, on his journey to Torneå (he and Malthus parted ways at Vänersborg during their Scandinavian tour, 1799), noticed alms‐boxes everywhere—a sign of honesty he thought—and very few beggars, Travels in Various countries, pt. III. Scandinavia, (1819), i. 142–3, 577.

(2) Notably in Estonia and Livonia after only partial emancipation (1802–19).

(3) ‘Denn um die Welt anzuschauen und um Religion zu haben, muβ der Mensch erst die Menschheit gefunden haben, und er findet sie in Liebe und durch Liebe’, R. Otto (ed.), Über die Religion, 56.

(4) Cited B. Hollander, ‘Karl Gottlob Sonntag’, Jahrbuch des baltischen Deutschtums für 1928, 123. Amongst Sonntag's many sermons, Über Menschenleben, Christenthum und Umgang mit Menschen (Riga, 1794–1802), 4 vols.

(5) R. Wittram, ‘Politische Landtagspredigten’, in, B. Moeller and G. Ruhbach (eds.), Bleibendes im Wandel der Kirchengeschichte, (Tübingen, 1973), 335–8.

(6) Oberlin was a friend and admirer of the Gallican and republican Abbé Henri Baptiste Grégoire (1750–1831). As the ‘constitutional’ bishop of Blois (1791–1801), he argued for the reconciliation of the Catholic church with political liberty, and opposed Napoleon's concordat.

(7) Adam, Kirchengeschichte der Stadt Strassburg, 464–6, 485–6. Lorenz's two‐volume cycle of sermons on the Gospel, Gottgeheiligte Sonntags‐Ruhe (Tübingen, 1783), 3,000 copies, one of several collections possessing Evangelical brevity, clarity, and warmth, distributed to the poor free of charge by awakened urban circles in Altona, Frankfurt, Strasburg, Nuremberg, and Basle, was disposed of in six months; another two‐volume cycle on the Epistles, Sonntägliche Gottgeheiligte Abendruhe (Tübingen 1784), was still popular in Alsatian homes after 1918.

(8) ‘Ich war ein Lump mit tausend anderen Lumpen in der deutschen Literatur, die dachten, wenn sie an ihren Schreibtisch säβen, so sei der Welt geholfen’, RE, s.v. ‘Falk’.

(9) Johann Falk, Der Vaterunser (Weimar, 1822); Leupold, Die liturgischen Gesänge, 73–4, 88. It was still customary for the congregation to quietly accompany the priest's intoned prayers.

(10) Lehmann, Pietismus . . . Württemberg, 204–5.

(11) Fliedner, Collektenreise (1831), i. 387 passim.

(12) Fliedner, Liturgische Mitteilungen aus Holland und England mit Bezug auf die neue preuβische Agende (1825); Gerhardt, Fliedner, i. 382 passim; Schnabel, Deutsche Geschichte, iv. 334–5, 345.

(13) C. Woodham‐Smith, Florence Nightingale 18201910 (London, 1950), 90; M. Vicinus and B. Nergaard (eds.), Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters (London, 1989), 43.

(14) Woodham‐Smith, 82, 91.

(15) Shanahan, German Protestants Face the Social Question, i. 67; Ludwig I, ‘Daβ Vereine zu politischen Umtrieben angewendet werden, ist heute zu Tage gang und gäbe’, B. Kühle, Der Münchener Vinzenzverein; eine typische Laienorganisation katholischer Caritas (Wuppertal‐Elberfeld, 1935), 28; Schnabel, Deutsche Geschichte, iv. 211–12.

(16) Cited ibid. 434; Wichern's openness to the Catholic church: Gerhardt, Wichern, ii. 69, 191, 285–6, 345; iii. 254.

(17) Cited Schnabel, Deutsche Geschichte, iv. 431.

(18) Shanahan, 82.

(19) ‘För berömliga gärningär’, Gerhardt, Wichern, i. 265.

(20) Harald Jørgensen, Omsorgen for børn og unge i København gennem 250 år (1970).

(21) ‘Christlicher Sozialismus’, ‘Stadtmission’: Gerhardt, Wichern, ii. 46, 109; Schnabel, Deutsche Geschichte, iv. 437–9 passim.

(22) O. Gerlach, Die kirchliche Armenpflege, nach dem englischen des Dr. Chalmers bearbeitet (Berlin, 1847); Shanahan, 88 passim; Holl, ‘Chalmers und die Anfänge der kirchlich‐sozialen Bewegung’, Gesammelte Aufsätze iii. 431–3.

(23) Bunsen introduced Frederick William IV to Matthew Arnold, Frederick Denison Maurice, and Thomas Carlyle during his English visit to attend the marriage of the Prince of Wales (1842). Gerlach, with the architect Stüler and two ministers prompted by the king, assessed the Anglican church's pastoral work in the same summer: Amtliche Berichte über die in neuerer Zeit in England erwachte Thätigkeit für die Vermehrung und Erweiterung der kirchlichen Anstalten von O. von Gerlach, Uhden, Sydow, Stüler (Potsdam, 1845) cited Holl, iii. 429 passim.