400 years of the Lutheran Reformation: records and celebrations in 1917
The four-hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, celebrated in 1917, had very different connotations and circumstances from the present days, in 2017, when the 500 years are remembered worldwide.
It was World War I, countries of Europe and the Middle East were in a state of belligerence, and Germany was the enemy of most of the contenders. In March 1917, the Brazilian ship Paraná was sunk by German submarines; on April 11 of the same year, Brazil breaks diplomatic ties with Germany, which had a direct influence on the state of siege decreed in October 26 of that year.
At the same time, Protestantism in Brazil had about 1% of the churchgoers linked to Christian churches, while Catholicism had more than 98%. The Protestants of that time – as they were called, including the Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil (Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana do Brasil - IECLB), and the Lutherans (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil - Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil - IELB) – had their origins and sources originated in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and came from Germany and the United States. Since they had little statistical presence, it can be concluded that the Germanic immigrants and their descendants, mostly Protestant / Evangelical, had little socio-political influence, when compared to the Roman Catholic church. However, in the economic field, they were in steady and forthright evolution.
The official newsletter of the Lutheran Church was in German, reaching even the small religious mission in Argentina, and was denominated Evangelisch-Lutherisches Kirchenblatt für Süd-Amerika. Its circulation had begun on November 1st, 1903, even before the foundation of the church on June 24, 1904. The number of readers in 1917 was around 15.000, and the publication of the newsletter was suspended by the Brazilian government after the fateful state of siege: precisely in October, when the 400 years of the Reformation were celebrated. Nevertheless, the 3 editions of October of 1917 could be printed and distributed. After two years, the Kirchenblatt was again published, lasting until 1990, with an interruption during the period of World War II.
The Lutheran Church, IELB, in Porto Alegre, was located since 1902 in the Navegantes neighborhood (now São Geraldo), with a predominant population of German and Polish origins. In the area constituted by the Pátria, President Roosevelt and Maranhão avenues, a Congregation, an Elementary School, a Seminary and the very National Headquarters of the Lutheran Church (coming from the Missouri Synod, in the United States) were then concentrated. In other cities of the south and center regions of Rio Grande do Sul, around 20 Missourian pastors served more than 100 locations. In fact, the first Lutheran congregation was founded on July 1, 1900, called "São Pedro", in the southern region of Rio Grande do Sul, in the city of Morro Redondo.
In Porto Alegre, both the school and the seminary, as well as the congregation, were involved in a wide array of events during the celebrations of the 400 years of the Lutheran Reformation. A significant part of the population of the city were present in those festivities. The brochure "PROGRAMM für die Feier des 400 - jährigen Reformationsjubiläums" shows, in its 16 pages, the intensity of the festivities agenda, which began on October 28 and lasted until November 10, 1917, day in which the birthdays of both Luther and Professor Johannes F. Kunstmann, director of the Concordia Seminary, were celebrated.
Some curious facts stand out in the program, which was fully printed in German. The graphic design types were predominantly of the Gothic style, interspersed with Latin types. There were nine different programs during the 14 days of events. The two highlights took place - naturally - on October 31: during the afternoon, at 12:15 PM, right in front of the temple, students and teachers of the school and from the Seminary, as well as people from the neighborhood, all formed a large semicircle and sang the hymn of the Reformation, A Mighty Fortress is Our God; During the night, at 8:00 PM, there was the Main Memorial Service, brightened by both mixed and male choirs, as well as by the participation of the congregation in several hymns. The preacher of the sermon was Professor and Pastor Kunstmann. As previously said, the entire program was printed in German language, and the festivities extended beyond the date of the prohibition of the circulation of the Kirchenblatt newsletter. Therefore, we assume that the governmental authorities were condescending, showing good faith in the important and laborious German community in the celebrations of this important date.
Paulo Udo W. Kunstmann, Historical Institute - IELB, October 2, 2017