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Pavilion dedication highlight of Landing Day observance
Allen Kieffer
Allen Kieffer (left) and Dan Wilson III work together to mount a plaque inside the Dan Wilson Jr. Pavilion during Saturday’s annual meeting of the Georgia Salzburger Society. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
Dan Wilson III
Dan Wilson III speaks during the dedication of the Dan Wilson Jr. Memorial Pavilion on Saturday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — The future joined the past in the Landing Day spotlight at New Ebenezer on Saturday.

On a day designed to commemorate and give thanks for the 286th anniversary of the arrival of the first Salzburgers in Georgia, a new structure for their descendants and others to enjoy was dedicated. It is called the Dan Wilson Jr. Memorial Pavilion and sits between Jerusalem Lutheran Church and the Georgia Salzburger Society Museum near a beautiful bend in the Savannah River.

“I think it looks awesome. I hope you all do, too,” said Dan Wilson III, the building namesake’s son. “A lot of work went into it — a lot of effort.”

Funds for pavilion materials, including local lumber, came from Wilson Jr.’s memorial fund and Jerusalem Lutheran Church donations. Allen Kieffer led the construction, performed by volunteers, at no cost.

The Georgia Salzburger Society, which celebrates the heritage of Salzburgers who emigrated to Georgia after being expelled from their native land for religious reasons, had wanted to erect an outdoor facility for several years. It achieved its goal when Wilson III’s goal of honoring his father merged with the Georgia Salzurger Society’s need.

Wilson Jr. was a proud member of the society’s Atlanta chapter.

“I want this place to be on the map in an even bigger way than it has been,” Wilson III said. “... I think this is our small contribution so, as I said, we are honored to be able to help out with that.”

Earlier, the Rev. Kirk Bridgers’ offered a sermon while standing inside the 20x20 structure. He focused on the high level of faith that the Salzburgers displayed. 

“... but they came here with a deep conviction that God was in their midst and they heard the voice of God leading them out for the freedom to worship, to speak the truth, to gather in assembly, to worship God without repraisal and censorship, and they endured so much to arrive on these shores,” Bridgers said. “And upon arriving, the real struggle would just begin.”

Perhaps as many as 4,000 exiles died while seeking refuge following their refusal to adhre to the religious beliefs of Count Leopold von Firmian, the Catholic archbishop and price of Salzburg. Instead, they focused on the teachings of Martin Luther.

“And we are recipents of so great a legacy,” Bridgers said. “What did they bring? They brought an understanding that Christianity is to be translated into the way that we live out our lives, the way that we educate our children, the way that we care for those who are sick, the way that we care for those who are orphaned, the way in which they cared for one another attempting to build a thriving silk industry here on this very site.

“They brought confidence, they brought talent, they brought abilities but they also brought their sentiments, and they learned how to say the most divine words of all — ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I was wrong,’ Will you forgive me?’ That was the narrative that sustained this community — a mindfulness that grace and mercy, God’s presence, are the foundation of whatever would be built in generations yet aborn. So above all, they brought the gift of faith.”