Neglect the Catechism? Pay a fine and do the time!
Many pastors have begun a new year of catechism instruction in their congregations. One of the crosses our faithful pastors have to bear is putting up with the whining and complaining they get from parents who just don’t understand why their little ones have to memorize the catechism or go to instruction classes at all. "Oh, pastor, we are so busy and have so much to do and school is so hard for our children." And on and on and on the complaints go. A big thank you to all parents who do not so burden their pastors with these complaints. And to all parents: please support your pastor as he carries out his holy preaching office and helps you do what it is your duty: teaching your children God’s Word.
Consider how things used to be in some parts of the Lutheran Church. I’ve been reading the Church Order prepared by Martin Chemnitz for Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, published in 1569. Fascinating! I was struck by these regulations concerning how city officials were to deal with parents who did not make sure to send their children to catechism instructions.
"When children are caught in the streets or in the meadows during the time when the catechism is preached, their parents will be punished. The money from the fines levelled against the parents as punishment shall go into the treasury for the poor, because the children have not been disciplined seriously as is fitting."
But what if fines against the parents did not correct the situation?
"The officials and city council is authorized to punish them with confinement in the dungeon, according to each situation, so that the children are not despicably and stiff-neckedly hindered by their parents regarding the correct pure doctrine and honorable Christian discipline in their blossoming youth."*
We may well regard such measures today as extreme, but such historic practices underscore just how seriously instruction in God’s Word is. What a blessing these opportunities are. Thanks for supporting your pastors.
Church Order of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
Unpublished translation by A. Smith and M. Harrison