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REVEREND HERMANN HERLITZ, LUTHERAN PASTOR in MELBOURNE

This New South Wales postcard has the 1d ‘Shield’ impression cancelled with a faint barred numeral ‘1529' of Pleasant Hills and an even fainter reception postmark of Melbourne. It is addressed to Rev. H. Herlitz, Gisborne Str, East Melbourne, Vic (Figure 1).

The manuscript is written in German, it is dated Pleasant Hills, 12 Nov 05 and the greeting commences as Dear H Herlitz. The writer is identified as E. Baumann and there is a transit postmark for HENTY/ NO 13/ 1905/ N.S.W (Figure 2).

There was a Lutheran Church, St. John’s on the Henty-Pleasant Hills Road, as early as 1883 in Pleasant Hills (blue arrow) set up by a German Congregation and Henty (red arrow) was a logical transit point from Pleasant Hills, for Henty connected to the bordertown of Albury (green arrow) N.S.W., on the direct way to Melbourne (Figure 3).

Hermann Herlitz, Lutheran pastor, was born on 10 June 1834 at Neisse, Silesia, Prussia, of Jewish parents. In London about 1859 he became a Christian and soon afterwards entered the Missionary Seminary at Basel, Switzerland. On 17 August 1862 he was ordained a Lutheran pastor at Durlach, Baden, and he received a call from Matthias Goethe to serve as pastor at Germantown (Grovedale) near Geelong. When Herlitz arrived there later that year he found a temporary Lutheran preacher in possession of the church and rectory. The community split and Herlitz had to conduct his services in a schoolhouse. With administrative skill he kept records of the community, managed its financial affairs, and marshalled its few educated members to help with its schooling needs, even recruiting his wife Wilhelmine, née Feldmann, whom he married in 1864, and they had 4 children. He also ministered to near-by districts and visited Melbourne and Ballarat. In 1868 he was called to succeed Goethe as pastor of Melbourne, which till 1876 included care of the Doncaster, Thomastown and Berwick communities.

As president of the Victorian Synod in 1868-1914 Herlitz worked for Australia-wide unity of the Lutheran Church, but was only successful in part for he insisted on calling ministers from the Basel Seminary which had unionistic tendencies and emphasized the nonconfessional, Protestant nature of the Church; he also exercised his right to give communion to non-Lutherans. Although these issues prevented union with most of the South Australian congregations, the General Synod was formed, including the communities of New South Wales in 1876 and Queensland in 1890. Herlitz was president of this synod and in 1884, at his insistence, it joined the Melbourne Council of Churches.

Almost as well known in South Australia and New South Wales as in Melbourne, he dedicated the Sydney Church in 1883, inducted new pastors, and visited Germany to recruit ministers for Australia. Yet he was still active as a pastor and took pride in the many religious services he had personally conducted. Herlitz formed a church choir which gave performances under his direction at synodal meetings, and his daughter Marie was church organist for twenty years. In 1867-1910 Herlitz edited Der Australische Christenbote, an official monthly. In 1907 he also edited Festschrift which commemorated the jubilee of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Victoria.

Keenly interested in social welfare, Herlitz was cofounder in 1873 of the Hospital Sunday Fund, and in 1887 formed the Immigration and City Mission to help newcomers and to minister to the sick and aged in hospitals. In 1900 he served on the royal commission on religious instruction in state schools. He retired in 1914 and lived with his son Hermann who was the medical superintendent of the Cheltenham Hospital for the aged. Reverend Herlitz died at Melbourne on 9 June 1920 and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery. A picture of pastor Hermann Herlitz is seen in Figure 4.

This paper is largely extracted from the on-line edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


 
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