The Early Years of Douglas’s Ministry

by Ronald R Johnson (www.ronaldrjohnson.com)

Lloyd Douglas attended seminary at Hamma Divinity School, Wittenberg College, in Springfield, Ohio (USA). During his final year of study (1902-1903), he was Associate Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Des Moines, Iowa.

Before he graduated from seminary in Spring, 1903, he already had his first job lined up: in January, Zion Lutheran Church of North Manchester, Indiana, extended a call to him, asking him to begin his ministry with them in May. He had come to guest preach in October of the previous year. Here is a flyer about his upcoming visit, from his earliest scrapbook, p. 15, in the Lloyd C Douglas Papers, Box 5. A note in his handwriting says, “Found the town of N. Manchester full of these things when I came to apply once while in school.”

North Manchester was virtually home for Douglas. He was born in Columbia City, just 23 miles away, and his father and mother, Rev. and Mrs. A. J. Douglas, were currently living in Columbia City. A. J., who had been an educator and a judge before becoming a minister, was so well respected in that region that a section of the Columbia City Library was dedicated to him. This was not just a homecoming for Lloyd Douglas; he was coming back as a favored son.

The map below shows these two towns and their proximity to Fort Wayne:

While homecomings can be good, they can also be bad, especially for an ambitious young man like Douglas. He wanted to break loose from both his rural background and his upbringing, and he hoped to become known out in the world.

He was pastor at Zion Lutheran for two years, leaving in August, 1905, to serve the English Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Ohio. It was in Lancaster, over the next four years, that young Lloyd Douglas made a name for himself within his denomination.

He distinguished himself in three ways: as a pastor, as a speaker, and as a writer.

As a pastor: He spread his wings as a minister, building a following that extended beyond the doors of his church to the community at large.

As a speaker: Douglas traveled by train to other cities and established a reputation as an orator, especially popular with young people.

As a writer: He became a frequent contributor to The Lutheran Observer, submitting pieces that were relevant, provocative, and quotable.

His rise was so quick, in fact, that in the summer of 1909, after being a minister for only six years, he was offered the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to be Senior Minister at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC.

Over the next several months, I will talk in more detail about the steps that led him so quickly to such an exalted position within his denomination. But I will begin with those first two years in a small town in Indiana.

Here is an interior shot of Zion Lutheran Church as it appeared in 1903, also from p. 15 of his first scrapbook. The upper left corner shows the church’s exterior:

For a free PDF copy of the booklet, The Secret Investment of Lloyd C Douglas, fill in the form below:

Author: Ronald R Johnson

I am a Christian author and philosophy professor who speaks and writes about everyday spirituality. I also write funny, suspenseful novels that aren't philosophical or religious... or are they? Learn more at www.ronaldrjohnson.com.

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