Holy Trinity Lutheran Church : The Rev. Dr. Ralph W. Loew

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The Rev. Dr. Ralph W. Loew
Former Senior Pastor Dr. Henry Flum’s resignation (1927-1943) put the congregation in the position of having to call a new Pastor from outside it ranks, a process last done in 1884. After nearly a year’s vacancy, the congregation called a “promising young man” who was serving as Associate Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. under the legendary Rev. Oscar Blackwelder. Quoting a passage from the 100th anniversary booklet, This Faith Tremendous: “Amid the numbering agonies of global war, the congregation sensed that it had acquired (in the person of the Rev. Dr. Ralph W. Loew) a leader whose outstanding sermons, whose innovative planning, whose constant diligence and social awareness would propel Holy Trinity into a period of tremendous growth and prominence both in Buffalo and throughout the religious world.”
Under Dr. Loew’s faithful shepherding, the parish grew and prospered. During his tenure as Senior Pastor the congregation built the Mansperger Chapel and Fellowship Room complex; envisioned and built Trinity Tower, an 88 bed residential facility for senior citizens; acquired the Linwood Avenue property and the site at 1092 Main Street, which over the years has housed many ministries and programs of the church; added the magnificent Willet Studio stained glass in the chancel of the main church; was instrumental in the establishing of a host of many other worthwhile ministries here and in Western New York, not the least of which include Habitat for Humanity, Literacy Volunteers, Hospice, Lutheran Foundation, The Lutheran Church Home and others. Dr. Loew was one of the founding trustees of the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. Dr. Loew retired from the active ministry in 1975 and became the Director of the Religion Department of the Chautauqua Institution for the ten years following his retirement. He was elected Pastor Emeritus of Holy Trinity in 1976 and joined the Church triumphant in 1996.

For almost 30 years Dr. Loew’s weekly column, “From My Window,” appeared on Mondays in the Buffalo Courier Express.  In 1998, Maxine Uhl Loew compiled a sampling of these columns in a book,
“This Faith Tremendous: Words of Ralph W. Loew”
Below is sampling of these reflections as they first appeared in the paper.

Beyond The Tomb
is the assurance that life is more than a battle for survival,
Wars occur, truth is degraded, hopes are destroyed, and yet
something else is happening:
This is the assurance that there is a life and truth which
cannot be destroyed.
 Is the knowledge that God is always dealing with our situation.
Just when we think that the tombs are permanent, there is the
rush of new life.   Just when we had centered all of our attention
on ourselves and our own acts, His reality astonished us with
His presence.
Is the assurance of new meaning for our present, because there
is REALITY at the end of the road.


The Cross Says: God Loves Me Now

This is the story of a man who used a bent nail to keep his sanity.
During the Nazi madness many people suffered because of their faith, among them a bishop of the Lutheran Church named Hans Lilje.  Dr. Lilje discovered himself in a cell, devoid of every comfort, windowless except for a slit high on one wall.  Not only were the prisoners stripped of their familiar possessions, but their jailers also tortured them with a kind of horror by attempting to confuse their sense of time.  Dates, the days of the week, and the identifying familiarity of time were blotted out. Monday was called Thursday, Tuesday became Saturday.  Yet when Sunday came, even when the jailers denied the day, the bishop would call out verses of scripture and lead his fellow prisoners in singing some ancient chorale.
What the guards had overlooked in their tactics was simply a bent nail.  The bishop had used it to draw a circle on the dirt covered floor.  He had drawn a circle divided into seven sections and when a ray of morning light fought its fitful way through the little slit at the top of the wall, he moved his strange ‘sun dial’ to a new day.  It was a little thing, a method of defiance.   More than this, it became a way by which these prisoners could hang on to a sense of dignity. 
A Cross, high and lifted up, may seem to be a very weak weapon with which to do battle with today’s demonic forces.  It is a lifetime of Lent that this same cross can help man to remember his true worth.  We live in a time when the tactics of the enemy are to strip man of his meaning.  The added problem is that our own gadgets do the same thing.  Our very success poses a threat.  Suppose our economy becomes tied completely to our missiles.  Suppose that our automation strips us of our desire for excellence and craftsmanship.  In such a time as this what can help us discover the time of day?  All too many of us are acquainted with the individual who has come to middle life, has achieved success and yet does not what time it is.  He doubts the very worth of his own achievements.
In such a world, the cross of Christ stands as the reminder of a deliberate choice of one who refused to barter his soul for comfort, or his goals for security.  He wrestled out the problem, for it wasn’t an easy choice.  His was not the choice to die.  It was rather the choice to proclaim the gospel of love.  If that brought him into conflict with the forces of his time, then he would die rather than forsake the kingdom.
Jesus once told the story of a boy, who demanded his inheritance, got, it, and went off to have a time of hilarity.  When his wealth was gone, he had a multitude of jobs ending as the keeper of a pigsty.  There St. Luke states, this boy “came to himself”.  It was at that moment that he decided to go home. He felt he had no right to be his father’s son and his father had to remind him that he had always been his son. 
Many of us may not feel redeemable, yet the cross reminds us that man is worth saving.
Anything that degrades a man strips him of meaning, uses him as a tool, enslaves him to false habits and distorts his image of himself is a nail in a cross.
Anything that reminds man of his essential worth, enables him to express love for his neighbor, calls him to a sense of personal responsibility  and relates him to the fact that God loves him, is a bent nail which reminds him that he is a child of God.  The cross is a fact which may help us to come to ourselves, challenging us to become what we already are, a person made in the image of God.


Advent Reflection 
"With such hope as this, we speak out boldly." 
II Corinthians 3:12


The Christ who was born in Bethlehem came saying “Greater things than these can you do.”  

With such hope we speak boldly.  It is a hope we never completely capture but when we’ve caught something of it, we know the meaning of life.  As a little boy I joined my brothers in planning a trap for sparrows.  We propped up a box with a stick to which we tied a long string.  We placed a trail of crumbs that led under the box.  And we waited.  Sure enough, the sparrows came, they followed the trail and then at the precise moment we pulled they string and we knew from the sound of the beating wings that we’d captured a bird.  So I reached under the box and, grabbed that frightened wildly struggling little bird in my hand.  Now what would I do?  I had never felt a heart beating aganast my fingers before.  I had never known what it was it hold life in my hand this way.  I stood there for a moment – I opened my hand.  The bird flew.  The experiment was over.  I never forgot what is like to feel life.

To have hope is to feel that wildly beating promise of God’s power.  It is to know the coming of Christ is not just the mark on the map of Bethlehem but the imprint on the loves of human beings.  The coming of Christ  is the present faith which bridges those gaps of despair, makes the paths straight, looks for a day that is near, and lives with that serenity that has always marked those who live confidently.  To anticipate the presence of God’s power is to deal effectively and persistently in the whole reconciliation process.  We are not the victims of history; we are members of the kingdom.  We hope; therefore we witness boldly.