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The First Parsonage

The world’s first Protestant Parsonage.  Johannes, Martha and Sara--the Bugenhagan kids--grew up there, pioneering the role of the PK, while their dad, Johannes Buganhagen joined his colleagues Martin Luther, Philip Melancthon and others in shaping the theology and message of the Reformation.  

Among the tens of people who may stumble across this blog post over the years, my guess is that some of them will also carry the distinction, “PK.”  Heck, in this day and age, some of you dear readers may be “double PK’s.” And it all started here, in this lovely house near the town square in Wittenberg, Germany.  Johannes The Younger, even became a teacher of theology. Has it ever happened since then, that the children of pastors become pastors?  I have to say I’ve seen it around. These days, of course, not every Pastor’s family, and not every PK, lives in an actual parsonage.  Some just live in town, or nearby, like everyone else. But for those who’ve grown up clergy kids, and for those reared in the Parsonage, there is something unique.

How did this place come to be?  Well, Johannes Bugenhagen, among the very first Protestant Doctors of Theology (he was one of three to receive the degree on the same day, the three first ones), was born in Pomerania in 1485.  Martin Luther affectionately called him Dr. Pommer for years.  He was ordained in 1507 and came to Wittenberg, as a supporter of the Reformation, in 1521 while Luther was in the protection of the Wartburg. In 1522 he married, and was elected Pastor of St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg in 1523.  A married pastor!  Things were different under the new theology of The Reformation, and there were implications.  If pastors could be married, they might also have children.  He and Walpurga had three: Johnnes, Martha and Sara.

Of course, they would need a place to live and raise a family. And the parsonage at St. Mary’s, now generally known as “The Bugenhagen House,” the recognized earliest surviving parsonage in the world, was the place for the family. If you get to Wittenberg, you can have a look at it. Here, the Bugenhagens reared three children.  And if it’s true that Bugenhagen helped shape the theology of the Reformation, it’s likely also true that in shaping their dad, as all kids do, these three PK’s helped to shape the theology of the Reformation.

This small blog, making no claims to sit in for a scholarly journal, is unencumbered by citations of sources. So although I can’t recall where I read this comment, I’m willing to tell you that I recall reading this: historians have suggested over the years that a disproportionate number of German writers, scholars and artists were the children of Protestant pastors. Today, even the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is known to have grown up a PK, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, at Perleberg.  

Why would the Lutheran Parsonage have such an impact?  This might be an interesting topic for further research. In Germany, the parsonage remains more than a residence. It is also a center for communication and pastoral care for a congregation. Architecturally, one can observe the semi-public character of the parsonage. What, one might wonder, is the specific impact on the kids who have the good fortune to grow up in a parsonage? For now, an interesting experience would be to have a visit to Wittenberg, The City of The Reformation, and check it out.

Come to the Luther500 Festival, June 16-22, 2019, enjoy a lovely family-friendly vacation in Germany, and see how Reformation theology affected church architecture and gave rise to a place and concept we’ve known for nearly 500 years, the Lutheran Parsonage.