The Augsburg-Evangelical Church in Poland is heir to the old religious tradition dating back to the beginning of the Reformation in the 16th century. The teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin were adopted in our country first by scholars and townsmen and afterwards by countrymen on a large scale. The fact that many noblemen converted to Protestantism was of political importance. In 1573, the Warsaw Confederation resolutions established the equality of denominations and thereby peace between them. Under the impact of the Reformation Polish culture flourished. For the needs of our Church the great composer of the Renaissance epoch, Wacław of Szamotuły composed songs. After the Warsaw Confederation had been anathematized the Counter–Reformation began. However, despite religious persecution, Protestantism endured. In the 19th century, after Poland had been partitioned, Protestant craftsmen and farmers from all over Europe immigrated to Poland. This immigration stimulated the growth of Lutheranism, as well as national industry and agriculture. World War II interrupted the process of the stabilization of the Church. About 30% of the Polish Protestant clergy died in concentration camps and prisons. As a result of the policy of the post-war authorities, the number of confessors and parishes further diminished. However, owing to the efforts of believers, the life of the Church was stabilized and is constantly developing.
Faith solely rooted in the Holy Scripture is the basic religious rule of Lutheran Evangelicism. Anything that is in disagreement with this tenet is rejected as contradictory to the apostolic tradition. An accurate explication of the Bible is given by the so called Symbolic Books: Small Catechism (1529), Large Catechism (1529), Augsburg Confession (1530), The Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1530/31), The Smalcald Articles (1537), The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (1537) and The Formula of Concord (1577). These books contain explications of Lutheran principles which can be summarised as fundamental religious rules:
– Scripture alone (sola scriptura): the Holy Scripture is the basis for Christian life and the Church,
– the Word alone (solum verbum): the Holy Spirit gives salvation through the Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist,
– Christ alone (solus Christus): God revealed himself in Christ perfectly and definitively,
– grace alone (sola gratia), thanks to which God justifies and redeems everyone,
– faith alone (sola fide), understood as God’s gift, bestowed by the Holy Spirit.
The justification of man is possible by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The testimony of Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and people, occupies a special place in the teaching of our Church. The cross of Jesus Christ is the only path to redemption and salvation: one cannot please God without faith in Christ.
The above mentioned rules of the Lutheran faith contribute to Lutheran teaching on justification. That is, justification is given to individuals by God’s grace. The idea of justification was one of the most important revelations of the Reformer, Martin Luther. The Lutheran Church recognizes two Sacraments: Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar (the Eucharist). External manifestations of Lutheran identity are a very important issue. They include respect for work, responsibility and education. Lutherans who wish to live in agreement with the Reformer’s teaching, must live not only piously, but also judiciously because God requires this from them. Their life runs simultaneously in two dimensions, the religious and the secular, since, being human, they belong to two orders – that of salvation and the secular order. Such thinking has had a positive impact on the development of culture, civilization, education, science, art and economy. It is of great importance that after several hundred years of the existence of the Churches originating from the Reformation, there is nothing in the Lutheran identity hostile to Catholicism or the Orthodox rite. On the contrary, the Lutheran Church cooperates with other Christian churches in many areas of life, which is a sign of its reliability.
The Lutheran community in Lublin was founded in the middle of the 16th century. At the time, services were held in private homes. In 1627, after Counter-Reformation riots, the parish was moved to Piaski, situated about 20 km away from Lublin. Later the name of the settlement was changed to Piaski Luterskie vel Wielkie. This town belonged to the Orzechowski and Suchodolski magnate families, who supported the Reformation. Near the residence of Adam Suchodolski, a supporter of Calvinism and Socinius teaching, Reformed Evangelicals received in 1649 a wooden church in which, under the terms of the Bełżycki Synod of the same year, services for both Calvinists and Lutherans were held.
In 1662, Lutherans received a church dedicated to them in Piaski. One of the eminent clergymen of the Evangelical-Augsburg community was Marcin Olaff (died 1715). In 1725, local Lutherans were affected by a restriction forbidding the sound of bells in public services and maintenance work in church buildings. The church was saved by a parliament bill preserving sacral buildings built early enough.
In 1784, King Stanisław August granted Lublin Lutherans the privilege of building a church in Lublin. The church was built an appropriate distance from the existent Catholic churches. The cornerstone of the altar was laid in 1787. Four documents, including a copy of the royal privilege, were immured in it. Paweł Stryjeński from Stryjno and his wife Zofia née Suchodolska donated the church bells in 1784. In 1787, the first burials started in the church graveyard. Lublin Lutherans played an important role during the time of the Four Years Sejm. One of them, Krzysztof Korn de Legert, was the Vice Mayor of the town in 1792. In the 19th and 20th centuries, until 1939, the church served both Lutherans and Reformed Evangelicals.
In 1898, the Lublin Protestant community numbered c. 6000, and shortly before the first world war there were as many as 8857 members in Lublin. During the war the church was damaged and the number of parishioners dropped to 519. In the period between the two world wars, the revival of the parish was so fast that by 1919 there were 5051 parishioners in the Lublin community. It was at that time that the long-time parson Rev. Dr. Aleksander Schoeneich was decorated For the Fight For the Polish School. He died in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of World War II after many years serving the parish.
In September 1939, the head of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in the Republic of Poland, Bishop Juliusz Bursche, arrived in Lublin from Warsaw. In spite of suggestions made by the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Education, he decided not to leave the country. On 3rd October he was arrested on the premises of the Lublin church for his pro-Polish activities and anti-Hitler ideas. Afterwards he was imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camp. He died in a police hospital in Berlin in 1942. Contrary to official German claims and documents from the time, all evidence indicates that he was murdered by the Nazis. At the beginning of 1940, the position of parson was taken by the Rev. Gerhard Richter, who transferred from Chełm. During the war an inscription reading Deutsche Evangelische Gemeinde was placed on the church at the initiative of the German authorities.
The first Polish Lutheran service after the war was held in Lublin by the Rev. Ryszard Trenkler, a visiting clergyman in December 1944. In autumn 1945, the Rev. Waldemar Lucer, freed from the camp in Dachau, was appointed the first parson after the war. The war and the difficult post-war years brought the parish to the brink of collapse. At the beginning of the seventies few people participated in the service. But in the eighties this declining tendency reversed. The parish council greatly contributed to the restoration of parish life. Parsons Waldemar Lucer, Rudolf Mrowiec, Bogusław Wittenberg, Jan Hause, Jan Szklorz and Roman Pracki had an important role in the process of the revival.
At present, the Rev. Dr. Dariusz Chwastek conducts pastoral duties for nearly 200 parishioners. The Ecumenical Commission of Christian Women plays a significant role in the work of the parish. In the years 1985–2001, Sylwia Irga née Pajong was a distinguished curator of the parish. She is an outstanding and active organiser of social activities. The parish is also home to a branch of the Polish Evangelical Society which organises both academic and popular science meetings and concerts, which are well attended. The chairman of the Lublin branch is Dariusz Paszewski. In the church, partial maintenance works have been carried out and are continuing. In 2005, a columbarium for urns contaninig the ashes of the departed was built in the cemetery at Lipowa Street. Designed by the architect Jadwiga Jamiołkowska, it is the first construction of this type in the Lublin region.
The Lublin Lutheran church was built in the Classical style with clear elements of Baroque by the architect Zilchert. A graveyard was laid out by the church on its south side. The rectory is based on Adam Łaskarzewski’s mansion, rebuilt in 1784–1785. The original church building complex included a hospital and a school (non-existent now), which functioned under the auspices of the parish. The oldest preserved gravestone dates back to 1787. Burials stopped in the graveyard in 1831 and were finally moved to the evangelical cemetery belonging to the necropolis at what is now Lipowa Street.
The ascetic interior of the church is dominated by the early Baroque altar, which was moved from the church in Piaski at the end of the 18th century. It was designed by the unknown sculptor Flagler. The Baroque pulpit was probably made in the first half of the 18th century. In the centre of the nave there is an old picture, painted around 1628 and recently renovated.
The Lutheran cemetery at Lipowa Street adjacent to the Catholic one has been in use since 1826. Around 1840 an Orthodox cemetery was laid out within the boundaries of the same necropolis in close vicinity of the Lutheran cemetery. Since the middle of the 19th century it has been a tradition to put the gravestones of Lutheran-Catholic married couples in between the Lutheran and the Catholic part of the necropolis. In the Lutheran cemetery there are gravestones of prominent Lublin families, including the distinctive marble tomb of the famous manufacturer and philanthropist Juliusz Vetter. The family gravestones of the Lublin industrialists the Plages and well-known Lutherans the Semadeni also claim attention.
Lublin Lutherans played an important role in the history of the city from the 18th to the 20th century. In the 18th century, Lublin city citizens and numerous landowners were members of the community. Among the Lublin citizens were prominent merchants and industrialists, including the Vetter, Plage, Krausse and Hesse families. Patriotic Lutherans from Lublin participated in the Kościuszko, November and January uprisings. As a result of a parish meeting resolution of 27 March 1883, Polish became the official language of prayers and services in the Holy Trinity church, which demonstrated their full identification with Poland.
In this book there are profiles of distinguished members of the Evangelical-Augsburg parish in Lublin: booksellers Stanisław and Michał Arct (1818–1900 and 1840– 1916), the Semadeni confectioners, the industrialist Ferdynand Braun, parson Aleksander Schoeneich (1861–1939) and professor of veterinary science Edmund Prost (born 1921, former rector of the Agriculture Academy in Lublin, now the chairman of the Lublin Science Society). The book also presents a list of the clergymen of the Holy Trinity parish, including Simon Pusch (parson from 1749– 1776), Tobiasz Bauch (1777–1795), Jakub Glass (1795–1820), Jan Jerzy Karge (1821– 1837), Karol Józef Jonscher (1838–1884), Edmund Schultz (1884–1888), Dr. Aleksander Schoeneich (1888–1939, also the head of the Lublin diocese), Juliusz Deiter (vicar in 1914–1915), Serwacy Albert Froelich (parson–deacon 1933–1939), Juliusz Bursche (8 September–3 October 1939), Gerhard Richter (1939–22 July 1944), Waldemar Lucer (1945–1955), Rudolf Mrowiec (1955– 1957), Bogusław Wittenberg (1957–1967), Jan Hause (1967–1976), Jan Szklorz (1976–1996), Roman Pracki (1996–2004) and Dr. Dariusz Chwastek (rector-administrator of the Lublin parish since 2004 and administrator of branch in Kuzawka).
The book is supplemented with a register of some of the inscription plates to be found in the church together with the full Latin, Polish and German texts. These include plates commemorating the late Henryk Jan Krausse and parsons Simon Pusch, Tobiasz Bauch and Aleksander Schoeneich. At the end of the book there is a list of sources: archival documents stocked among others in library collections, manuscripts, academic as well as popular scientific monographs.
Translated by Barbara Gauze-Gwóźdź