Unity Of The Brethren

Rev. Adolf Chlumsky

Reverend Chlumsky

 

Father of the Unity of the Brethren in Texas

by Rev. Daniel J. Marek

published in The Brethren Journal for January/February 1999

There are several reasons why it seems justified to refer to the Rev. Adolf Chlumsky as the father of the Unity of the Brethren Church here in Texas. Being one of the pioneer pastors, it was his vision, dedication, and special organizational abilities which were largely responsible for laying the foundation stones for the ultimate rebirth of the Ancient Unity of the Brethren on Texas soil.
His Creations
Such designation, of course, does not mean that he was the first pastor to arrive to minister to the steadily increasing number of Czech speaking evangelical immigrants beginning to settle here in 1850’s. (He came to Texas in 1886.) This honor belongs to the Rev. Ernest Bergman, who arrived in 1849, followed by Rev. John Zvolonek and Rev. Josef Opocensky.

Neither does it mean that he was solely responsible for organizing the scattered congregations in Central Texas into one church body. Those sharing in this achievement were such pastors as Rev. Henry Juren, Rev. Bohumil Kubricht and others.

Yet, it was Rev. Chlumsky’s guiding influence, his energy, motivation and leadership which led, not only to actual creation of this denomination, but to the establishment of the necessary organizations within it which continue to serve the Unity to this day.

The first of these was the publication of the Brethren Journal in 1902, which continues to serve as the official organ of communication for our denomination. Although at first only an informal newsletter, it quickly became a vital connecting link between the scattered congregations which were rapidly developing throughout Central Texas. In fact, after only about one year of publication, it served the important function of bringing together delegates from 11 congregations in Granger, December 29, 1903, to officially establish the Unity here in Texas. Delegates from several of the 11 congregations present at this gathering were actually from congregations for which Rev. Chlumsky had served as organizing pastor. These were: Snook (originally Sebesta), 1891; West, 1892; Granger, 1892; New Tabor, 1893; Ennis, 1896 (since dissolved).

One year later in 1904, Rev. Chlumsky was selected as chairman of a committee to formulate the structure for what is still known as the Mutual Aid Society. Officially organized in a special convention at the Shiner Brethren Church in 1905, its special purpose was to help alleviate the financial burden of Brethren families in time of the death of a loved one. Its organization was inspired by a sincere desire to express, in specific action, a spirit of mutual compassion and concern among Brethren, rooted in the admonition of the Apostle Paul: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

It was also Rev. Chlumsky who laid the foundation for what is still today called the Hus School. By inviting talented young ladies to temporarily live in their home, he and his wife would take time to share with them the rudiments of Christian education including organ and piano lessons. These became some of the first organists and Sunday School teachers in the various congregations. His meager, but dedicated efforts, along these lines ultimately led to the establishment of the Sunday School Union in 1909 and even the development of the whole summer camp program as we know it today.

His Early Years
Rev. Chlumsky had already spent 20 years in the pastoral ministry in his native land before coming here to this country in 1886. But it’s somewhat surprising that he spent the first four years farming the land he had purchased near Brenham, Texas. On that farm, he and his wife reared four children who survived him. But in due time, he began visiting the various established congregations and became the organizing pastor of several new ones. He, in fact, preached the first sermon in the newly established Czech settlement on the blacklands at Snook, Texas. This service was held at the schoolhouse in Merle, which was then the Cultural Center of the community. The schoolhouse continued to serve as a place of worship for the congregation until 1913, when a church was built.

His Dedication
Throughout his ministry, Rev. Chlumsky seemed always to radiate a sincere shepherd’s heart. His primary concern seemed to be that none of the descendants of the Ancient Unity of the Brethren would be lost, spiritually speaking, on the prairies of Central Texas. To that end, he was willing to travel far and wide, day and night to do what he could in this regard. Although he seemed to have no interest in the pursuit of personal power, position or status, yet because of his dedication and commitment, he was frequently entrusted with positions of leadership and responsibility as noted above.

His natural inclination seemed to dictate an expression of a kind of “tough love” which was often misunderstood. As a consequence, he seems to have often angered those he was sincerely trying to help.. However, those who knew him best, saw him as a man of keen insight and true wisdom whose advice, when followed, usually proved to be correct in the end. He was an excellent judge of character who was able to instinctively recognize a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

His Love of Children
One of Rev. Chlumsky’s special qualities was his love for children and young people. Although the very young seemed at times to be afraid of him perhaps mostly because of his beard, he nevertheless, did not spare any effort to reach out an minister to them. Rev. Henry Juren once wrote this about him in this regard: “He loved young people; he had full confidence in them; he was a real friend of children”(1). The incident below seems to illustrate that very well.

In December of 1910, he was preparing to go to West for a worship service on Sunday. It was a week in which his work had especially piled up on him. Among other things, he was faced with the deadline for finishing the Brethren Journal for publication. But to further complicate the situation, he received a telegram from someone from Chriesman (which was on the rail line to West) asking him to please stop over and help them better establish their Sunday School, and especially the confirmation class. He was keenly aware that he could hardly spare the extra day this would require but he agreed to do it anyway. His response was: “Since I would hardly ignore a plea from the youth when I’m six feet underground, how can I do it now?”

His Commitment
This experience on Rev. Chlumsky’s part also illustrates some of the problems, difficulties and self-denial faced by pastors in that day and time. Their travel from congregation to congregation was entirely limited by the schedules of passenger trains.

Accordingly, when Rev. Chlumsky arrived at Chriesman at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, the young people were waiting for him in a family home. After helping them and their teacher with catechism instruction, they joined in hymn-singing until 10:00 p.m. In the meantime, Rev. Chlumsky received a telegram from West informing him that the worship service was canceled, because of rain. He was kind of glad to learn this, because it would give him some extra time to catch up with his work. The only problem was that he had to wait several hours for the train back to Brenham. Upon arrival at Brenham, he received another telegram from West, asking him to come for the worship on Sunday anyway, as had been scheduled, because the weather had cleared. But the problem he encountered was that the next train for West was not until midnight. This, of course, required that he would spend most of Saturday night on the train.

Yes, the life of Rev. Chlumsky was entirely dedicated to the service of mankind. He devoted his whole being, not only to the care of souls, but the care of bodies as well to the extent that his limited training in this regard allowed. Nevertheless, the help he proved along these lines was greatly appreciated throughout the state. Even after he was physically unable to render such care personally, he continued to extend it by mail.

His Recognition
Such stress of work and travel, finally took its toll. In addition to the responsibility of the regular publication of the Brethren Journal, as well as his pastoral duties, he had also written and published a history of the Unity. “He was always busy,” Rev. Juren observed. “The constant stress of his work, night travel, loss of sleep, in addition to being frequently misunderstood and unappreciated, weighted heavily on his heart.”(2)

Although he temporarily recovered from a slight stroke, he lost his hearing and finally died peacefully in his home, February 1, 1919 at the age of 76. By his request he was buried at the Granger Brethren Cemetery after having served the congregation for twenty years, and where he felt his ministry was especially well received.

“He was born poor” (son of a minister) and he died poor” wrote Rev. Juren. “He was always compassionate to the poor, ministered to the sick, loved his friends and remained faithful to the end.(3)

Rev. Josef Barton wrote of him: “Although in failing health for a number of years, and fully aware that his earthly life would soon come to an end, he increasingly made a point of saying farewell to his friends, yet the news of his death seemed to come as a surprise to many, because it seemed as if Rev. Chlumsky was not supposed to die.”(4)

In death, he was no doubt welcomed into his heavenly home by the Lord himself saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matt.25:23)

Bibliography
1. Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), April 1919, issue 4, pg. 4
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), February 1919, issue 2, pg. 4

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