Unity Of The Brethren

Rev. Frank H. Horak

Rev. Frank H. Horak

The First Home-Grown Brethren Pastor

by Rev. Daniel J. Marek published in The Brethren Journal for January/February 2000

 

The Rev. F.H. Horak had the unique distinction of being the first native son of the Unity of the Brethren in Texas to be ordained as its pastor.  Those who preceded him in such full time service to the Lord all were born in the Austro-Hungarian empire of that day.As a personal note, he was my only pastor until I was a teenager.  From his frequent visits to our family home at Snook, Texas, I remember him as one who was very personable and outgoing-a real people person.

His Ordination
Rev. Horak’s ordination was held in his home church, the West Brethren Church.  But it was unusual in the sense that he was the third young man from that congregation to be ordained.  As those before him, he too was ordained at the Church Convention, the 16th of the Unity of the Brethren, July 6, 1918.  The original plan was for him to be ordained by the same pastor who baptized and confirmed him, the Rev. Adolf Chlumsky.  However, due to his advanced age and increasing infirmity, Rev. Chlumsky was not even able to attend the Convention at all.  Consequently, he was unable to place his hand on the head of Frank Horak for the third time-this time as a symbol of the coming of the Holy Spirit to equip this new pastor for the task for which he was being ordained.

Therefore, it was Rev. Henry Juren who led the ordination, assisted by Rev. Jos. Barton with the other ministers present sharing in the laying on of hands.  Included in this group was Dr. Samuel Press, who had come from the Eden Theological Seminary to participate in the event.

A special feature of this Convention, in addition to the ordination, was the demonstration of the congregation’s new organ about which it was said that there was none other like it in any other Brethren congregation at that time.  Another notable difference was the relatively small attendance at this Convention due to the effects of World War I and the various restrictions it placed on life and travel.

His Schooling
Rev. Horak was born May 26, 1892.  He grew up on a farm near West.  His parents were Frank R. Horak and Anna (Janek) Horak.  He began his education at the Gerald grammar school in the area and continued his studies at Robinson Academy in Robinson, Texas.  He received his college education at Elmhurst College in Illinois, graduating in 1915.  He then went on to Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis where he completed his studies in 1918.

His Brethren Ministry
Immediately after ordination, Rev. Horak was called to serve three congregations in the Caldwell, Texas area.  These were Cooks Point, Dime Box and Snook.

Just a little over a year later, Rev. Horak returned to St. Louis briefly and brought back his bride to Caldwell to share the remainder of his life and ministry.  She was the former Katherine Wirtel whom he had married at the Bethlehem Congregational Church in St. Louis, September 17, 1919.  Dr. Samuel D. Press conducted the marriage ceremony.  The couple made their home in a newly acquired parsonage which had been purchased jointly by the three congregations he had been called to serve.

However, it was not long before his ministry expanded in service to several other congregations as well.  This, of course, was not unusual because of the shortage of Brethren ministers at the time.  He was instrumental in establishing new congregations in Alief and Rosenberg and also the congregation in his home town of Caldwell.  This congregation actually came into being as a result of the special, mutual interest and efforts of the Brethren women in the surrounding congregations who successfully inspired the organization of a Revival series under the direction of Rev. Horak with Rev. Jos. Barton preaching.  The outcome was the birth of the congregation in Caldwell.  Later he was instrumental in promoting the construction of a church building there as well.  He was also successful in promoting new churches at Dime Box and Rosenberg, and the renovation of the Cooks Point and Shiner churches.  Through the years he also served the congregations Buckholts, Rosebud, Blessing, Danbury, Crosby and Houston.

Soon after being ordained, he was elected president of the Sunday School Union and served in that capacity for  a number of years.  In 1926, he helped to establish the Christian Sisters Society.  In 1927, he was elected Financial Secretary of the Synodical Committee and remained in that office for the remainder of his ministry.  He also served on the Business Committee of the Brethren Journal for many years.

But perhaps one of the most significant contributions to the long term well being of the Unity was his diligent efforts in leading the effort to purchase the Wedmeyer Adademy in Temple.  It was this building which served for many years as the home of the denomination’s Hus School until the camp program was established near Caldwell.

All in all, Rev. Horak was a popular minister and a capable leader.  Unfortunately, due to a personal problem which developed in his life, he came to the conclusion that it was best for him to resign from all duties and responsibilities in the Unity.  This he did on February 14, 1936.

His Continuing Ministry
Soon after leaving the Brethren Church, he resumed his pastoral ministry in the fellowship of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (now the United Church of Christ).  He first served as an interim pastor in LaGrange and Robinson.  In the fall of 1948, he became the pastor of the Cego-Cottonwood E&R Church.  Then in December 1951, he accepted a call to serve as pastor of the Redeemer E&R Church at Zuehle.  There he remained until his death on April 29, 1953.

His life and ministry were honored even in death in the presence of a number of his fellow-pastors from the E&R Church at his funeral.  In addition there were several Brethren pastors who attended.  The Rev. John Baletka shared expressions of sympathy and comfort at the grave site.  Others who were present were, Rev. Henry Beseda, Rev. Gordon Hejl and Rev. F.D. Svoboda.

A Final Tribute
Although the Rev. Josef A. Barton was unable to attend the funeral due to illness, he wrote a rather lengthy tribute to Rev. Horak and his ministry in the Brethren Church.  An excerpt from that tribute, which was read in its entirety during the funeral service, and later published in the Texas Synod Herald (a U.C.C. publication), follows.

“As the first young man coming from the membership of the renewed Brethren Church in Texas into its ministry, the tasks given to him were extensive and difficult.  It is hardly a wonder that he suffered a breakdown under the terrific load.”

“It is with thanksgiving to God’s great mercy and glory that he once again was able to serve in the ministry of His Word.  My wife and I were deeply moved to see the wonderful work he and his faithful wife were doing in the new charge to which he had been called…May the Lord repay this laborer in His Kingdom more generously than we mortals”.

Bibliography
Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), July 1918, pgs. 1-2
Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), June 1920, pgs. 3-4
Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), March 1936, pg. 6
Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), June 1936, pg. 13
Bratrske Listy (Brethren Journal), September 1936. pg. 8
Unity of the Brethren in Texas 1855-1966 pg. 37

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