With the help of guests from far and wide, the descendants of the Ebenezer settlement celebrated 280 years of life in the New World.
The Georgia Salzburger Society members welcomed the president of their sister group in Germany, Jurgen Schroeter, along with members of the Euchee Indian tribe and Thomas Mueller-Bahlke to the annual Heritage Day festival, held every Labor Day at the Jerusalem Lutheran Church.
“Welcome to a place of worship and history,” said Rev. Dave Rasmussen. “We are here to celebrate 280 years.”
The original Salzburgers who settled at Ebenezer were forced from their homes in 1731, when Archbishop Firmian of Salzburger expelled thousands of people who refused to cede their Lutheran practices.
“It is difficult to conceive of the hardships that preceded them,” said Mueller-Bahlke, director of the Francke Foundation in Halle, Germany. “They had to leave the places where their traditions were rooted.”
Rev. Rasmussen read from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and discussed what he meant by community.
“In the text that was just read, the word community was used,” Rev. Rasmussen said. “But what does it mean? It implies a relationship of some sort. In other translations, you would read the word ‘brother.’ But when Paul wrote that, he wasn’t talking about male family members. He was talking about a community of believers.
“They had a sense of relationship through religion and through that common support of each other,” Rev. Rasmussen said. “This place, 280 years ago, was frontier land. You needed each other to survive.”
The original settlers, who traveled across Europe and left from England under the auspices of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, befriended local Indians after their arrival. Many Euchees were later displaced to Oklahoma, and other Euchees also were taken into slavery.
Members of the Euchee tribe from Oklahoma and from South Carolina brought greetings to the Salzburger descendants.
While some Salzburgers made the arduous journey across Europe to Holland and eventually to England, others relocated to Prussia, Schroeter noted.
“I am happy to congratulate you for 280 years active and still alive,” he said to his Georgia Salzburger brethren.
Schroeter presented Georgia Salzburger Society President Gary Nizzi with a book on Hanoverian kings on the British throne, which included passages on the Salzburger settlement in Georgia.
Mueller-Bahlke pointed out the Francke Foundation’s role in the Ebenezer settlement and in its continued support of Revs. Johann Martin Boltzius and Israel Gronau, the two religious leaders sent to pastor and direct the immigrants.
“You are a community of fellowship and friends and a community of heritage,” Rev. Rasmussen said. “Let us celebrate that. Let us celebrate that heritage you have with each other.”
Salzburgers are in every state, Nizzi said, and “it makes me happy to see the church full of people who have come here to visit.”