Unity Of The Brethren

Rev. Antonin Motycka

Rev. Antonin Motycka

He Died Singing

by Rev. Daniel J. Marek

published in The Brethren Journal for April 1999

It was to be an ordinary Confirmation Service at the Industry Brethren Church.  The confirmands had just entered the sanctuary in procession following their pastor, the Rev. Antonin Motycka.  After announcing the first hymn, he took his usual seat in the front for the singing to begin.  The hymn was-“All Creatures That on Earth Do Dwell.”(Doxology Tune)  During the singing of the first verse, someone noticed that the hands of Rev. Motycka began to tremble rather abnormally,  Almost instantly, he fell forward, collapsed on the floor in death, ending his faithful service to the Lord.  He died singing.His Coming to Texas
The Rev. Motycka (Mo-tit ch-ka), came to Texas in 1892.  He did not come in response to a specific call to serve a congregation as pastor.  In fact, he was not even ordained as yet, even though he had completed his seminary studies.  He came as a teacher.

Apparently it just so happened (coincidence or God’s intervention?) that there was an opening for a teacher in the public school at Nelsonville for the fall term.  The Rev. Motycka was selected.  This proved to be the beginning of his long stay as a pastor in the Unity of the Brethren in Texas.

His Early Years
Soon after becoming a teacher at Nelsonville, the news quickly spread that the young teacher was not only qualified to teach, but was also a seminary graduate.  His pleasing personality and ready smile soon won him the admiration and respect of all who came to know him.

The first congregation to call this young, personable, teacher to preach was Industry.  Although some distance from Nelsonville in that day and time of very poor roads, Rev. Motycka responded favorably to this request, and preached his first sermon there on November 11, 1892.  However, even though the congregation was without a pastor at the time and ready to call Rev. Motycka to serve as their pastor, this was not actually possible at the time because he had not been ordained.  However, in response to their constant prodding, the young teacher was finally persuaded to be ordained on November 1, 1893.  This ordination was conducted by the Rev. F.T. Bastel from Iowa, and the Rev. John Schiller, a Czech Presbyterian pastor from George West.

Rev. Motycka grew up on a farm about nine miles from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  His father’s name was also Antonin and his mother’s maiden name was Anna Kusy.  It was a family of tough, loving discipline and deep and sincere Christian faith.  Being the eldest of five children, he became quite familiar with responsibility and hard work at an early age.  it was to such experiences that he frequently referred in his preaching, especially in his effort to convince young people of the value of honest, hard work in shaping character.

From all indications, even as a youth, Rev. Motycka apparently proved to be an intelligent and diligent student.  It was because of this quality that his early teachers encouraged his parents to consider opportunities of higher education for their son.  This ultimately led him to Oberlin College and seminary.  His thirst for knowledge and diligence in study soon came to the attention of his professors, particularly at the seminary.  One of these, a Professor Bosworth, especially remembered him for his tenacity and perseverance in pursuit of learning, together with his rhetorical skills.  In due time, these qualities made him an effective preacher.  He was also an independent thinker which became evident in his character, value system and goals.

Early Influences on His Life
In addition to the very positive influence of his parents, the one person who was perhaps the most influential and who definitely shaped Rev. Motycka’s thinking, was the Rev. Frank Kun.  Rev. Kun was not only his first pastor, but also a very dear friend of the family.  He was one of those early pioneer pastors who was a very strong advocate of the importance of preserving the Czech language, even here in America, together with maintaining the Brethren tradition-completely separate and apart from other denominations already on the scene.

It was this emphasis which led him to become instrumental in establishing several independent congregations in the mid-west.  However, after his death, all of these eventually merged with churches of other denominations who included the term “Evangelical” or Brethren in their names.

His Later Years
It is not surprising, then, that with such influence in his background, the Rev. Motycka saw no real need at the outset, for congregations which he helped to organize, or in which he served as pastor, to seek union with others-even the Evangelical Union of the Bohemian-Moravian Brethren-now known as the Unity of the Brethren in Texas.  However, in due time, he did come to see the value of the five congregations in which he was highly influential, to join together in establishing the Independent Evangelical Unity of the Czech Moravian Brethren in America.  The congregations which were part of this union were Nelsonville, New Tabor, Seaton, Rosebud and Shiner.

Finally at a special convention called for the purpose in 1919, the two Unities of the Czech Moravian Brethren, who had labored side by side in Central Texas for a number of years, became one.  There is no doubt that Rev. Motycka had much to do with this union coming to fruition, because he was president of that Independent Unity at the time.

At the special convention which created the union of these two sister denominations, Rev. Motycka was elected secretary of the newly elected Synodical Committee.  Then at the next convention in 1921, he was elected president.  This action certainly was an indication of the trust and respect he had attained among all the Brethren.  Except for the years of 1929-31, he continued to serve in this capacity until his death in 1935.

During the years of his ministry in Texas, Rev. Motycka, at times, served a total of 18 congregations,  Among these was the congregation at Nelsonville.  This was the first congregation for which he served as pastor, and he remained such for the remaining 44 years of his life.  During all these years, he made his contributions in other ways as well.  In addition to serving as president of the Synodical Committee for many years, he also served as assistant editor of the Brethren Journal at times and contributed sermons and articles to its publication.

His Memorable Funeral
Rev. Motycka was born November 11, 1866 and died September 17, 1935 attaining a total life span just short of 69 years.  He had been failing health for sometime.  Consequently, one day in conversation with his brother, Joseph, who lived with him for 24 years, he revealed that, upon his death, he wanted to be buried beside his parents in the Anderson Cemetery at Shueyville, Iowa.  This, of course, made his funeral arrangement somewhat complex, but also more memorable.  Many of the congregations in which he served, and where he was respected and loved, would have liked very much for him to be buried in their midst.  However, in the end, the only remains that he left behind were the memorieds of his long faithful service.

The funeral service began at the parsonage at Nelsonville.  People came by the hundreds from virtually every congregation.  It was estimated that only about a tenth of those who attended could be seated in the church for the service.  Afterward many of the mourners accompanied the casket to the train depot at Bellville, for the final journey to Iowa.  In addition to the family, only three people accompanied the body to its final resting place.  One of these was the Rev. Jos. Barton, now representing the Unity as president of the Synodical Committee, following the death of the president.  Another was the Rev. F.J. Kostohryz whom Rev. Motycka had baptized and confirmed.  The third was Frank Sebesta, representing the Nelsonville congregation.

Yes, Rev. Motycka died singing.  “What a way for a pastor to die,” observed the Rev. Joseph Hegar in his final tribute to this deceased servant of the Lord.  While in a church, dressed in his robe, in the midst of a Confirmation Service, leading a beloved congregation in the singing of praises to the Almighty God, he was already listening in to the songs of the heavenly hosts.  While leading a worship service as he had done for so long, he left to begin a higher service at the very throne of God, and to receive from the hand of his Lord and Master the crown of eternal life.”(1)

1.  Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), October, 1935, issue pg. 1
Ibid. pg. 1-5
Unity of the Brethren in Texas (1855-1966) Relevant Sections

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