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Reviewed by:
  • Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches in Pennsylvania, Volume 5: The Parlin Years, 1750–1759, and Volume 6–A and 6–B: The Wrangel Years, 1759–1766 ed. by Peter Stebbins Craig, et al.
  • Mark Granquist
Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches in Pennsylvania, Volume 5: The Parlin Years, 1750–1759,and Volume 6–A and 6–B: The Wrangel Years, 1759–1766. Edited by Peter Stebbins Craig et al. Philadelphia: Swedish Colonial Society, 2009–2015. Vol. 5, 286pp. Vol. 6, 704pp.

These volumes are the latest additions to an ambitious publishing project which will eventually bring the translation of these records to the year 1786. Since previous volumes of this series have already been reviewed in Lutheran Quarterly, this review will only concentrate on volumes 5 and 6. This is an extremely valuable series and one that certainly sheds a great deal of light on colonial American Lutheranism. [End Page 476]

Covering the years 1750 to 1766, these three volumes show these colonial Swedish Lutheran churches at a time of interesting transition ahead of the American Revolutionary War. The Swedish colonial experience along the Delaware was fleeting at best, only a couple of decades in the middle of the seventeenth century, and by 1750 no new Swedish settlers had come to North America for one hundred years. That some remnant of Swedish identity remained among this small group of settlers is rather amazing. But by 1750 the identity of these settlers had begun to merge into that of the population around them. Certainly Swedish as an everyday language was mostly dead among them, and intermarriage had further clouded their identity. They were Lutherans, served by pastors from Sweden, but this, too, was becoming less distinct.

These records show a fascinating story of the Americanization of these colonial settlers, and their relations with the Swedish pastors sent to minister to them, as well as their relations with Church and Royal officials in Sweden. Volume 5 recounts the ministry of Rev. Olof Parlin, from his arrival in 1750 to his death in 1757. Often these Swedish pastors were diligent in their ministry, but few of them stayed in colonial American very long, either dying in the New World, or being recalled to Sweden, leaving long gaps for the congregations. Volume 6 covers the American ministry of Rev. Carl Magnus Wrangel, who was by all rights a fascinating figure; a member of the Swedish nobility, he was fluent in German and English, besides Swedish, and was a very effective colleague of colonial Lutheran leader, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. Wrangel’s ability in English was a rarity among Swedish pastors, and he founded several new congregations that were primarily in English, the first Lutheran congregations to be so formulated. He was very popular among his people, though he was resented by some of the other Swedish pastors. One wonders what the course of colonial American Lutheranism would have been like had Wrangel stayed in America, but after seven years he, too, returned to Sweden.

Volume 6–A also includes facsimile reproductions of the first two editions of Luther’s Small Catechism in English, one of 1749 and the other of 1769, the first real attempts to do Lutheran theology in [End Page 477] the English language. The rest of the volumes in this series will be eagerly awaited, especially as they deal with the period of the American Revolution.

Mark Granquist
Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota


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