Tribute to a US pioneer
J. P. is short for John Peter, and the name Fendt has gone down in American Church history. Today John Peter Fendt would have celebrated his 125th birthday. Here is a portrait in tribute of a pioneer.
His parents had him baptised John Peter. He was born on 3 March 1896 in New York and grew up, as he later wrote, in one of the slums of the city. Poverty and thriftiness were guests in the Fendt home for decades. The parents lived a simple life. They were careful and diligent people, as they had been taught back in Germany, where they had lived and grown-up before emigrating to the New World. In New York the young family lived near Pastor Hoppe’s German Lutheran church. For Mother Fendt it was important that the two boys, Charles and John, receive a good German Sunday School education. Years later they learned that the said pastor, Heinrich Ferdinand Hoppe, had been travelling throughout the country and evangelising as one of the founding Apostles in the early apostolic history of the USA.
A life for the Lord
In 1899 Father Fendt came into contact with some New Apostolic members who encouraged him to attend a divine service. This service obviously impressed him so much that he expressed the wish to become New Apostolic with his whole family. The whole family was sealed on 11 March 1900. Father Fendt was a Priest in the congregation in New York for many years. His son was to follow him soon.
When John Peter was 16 years old, he had made a vow to God. The boys’ mother was seriously ill and, as children often do, the worried son prayed to God and promised that he would dedicate his life to Him if only their mother lived. Their mother recovered and reached the blessed age of 104 years. Her son John kept his promise and faithfully served the Lord. In September 1917 Apostle Friedrich Eduard Mierau ordained him a Deacon for the congregation of New York. Only two years later, he was already a Priest and rector of the newly founded congregation Astoria/New York.
The greatest day
In the meantime, John Peter had gotten married. The couple had two sons and two daughters. One of the sons was John William, who also worked as an Apostle from 1967 to 1996. Until John P. Fendt began to work for the Church full time, he held a senior position at the New York Telephone Company. And then there was his ordination as a Bishop on 17 September 1933 by the then District Apostle John Erb. This day, he reported, was the greatest day of the New Apostolic Church in the USA: about one thousand members had gathered in the Casino Hall at 86th Street. The District Apostle sealed 96 new members and ordained 23 ministers. On the evening of that same day, the District Apostle conducted another service in Philadelphia, which was attended by 300 participants. In that service, 29 souls were sealed and three men were ordained.
Apostle ministry and responsibility
Then came the year 1942: on 22 October 1942 District Apostle John Erb passed away. For the Church in America it was a painful loss. Assistant Chief Apostle Schlaphoff initially took over the reins, but then entrusted the district to Bishop Fendt on 2 July 1944 by mandate of the Chief Apostle. He entrusted him with the Apostle ministry and at the same time appointed him as District Apostle for the Apostle District North America. The months and years to come would prove to be exhausting and involved a great deal of travelling and untiring pastoral care efforts. This would go on for 22 years. He served the Lord faithfully until 1966. He always hoped in God’s help, had true faith in his Sender, and was one with his brothers so that his work was visibly blessed. When he retired on 10 July 1966, he had been a minister in the Church for 49 years. At the time he took over as District Apostle in the USA, the New Apostolic Church counted 6,000 members. At his retirement the membership was 18,000.
A name that will not be forgotten
Twelve years later, on 17 April 1978, the retired District Apostle John P. Fendt passed away after a serious illness. The name Fendt remains unforgettable. John P. Fendt was District Apostle; his son, J. W. Fendt, District Apostle Helper; and his grandson, John W. Fendt Jr., is active as a District Apostle Helper to this day.