at St. Nikolai
|Second Deacon at St. Nikolai in Berlin 1657-1669||
1643 Elector Friedrich Wilhelm moved his residence from Königsberg
to Berlin. Although Friedrich Wilhelm had tried to keep the war away from
Berlin by paying high amounts of money to the soldiers, Berlin was the
victim of plagues, starvation, and misery as well. The pest, in particular,
had killed many people. Many homes were empty.
Johann Crüger was cantor at the Nikolai church and had written the melodies to many of Paul Gerhardt's hymn lyrics, which he had published in Praxis Pietas Melica. Johann Georg Ebeling, who succeeded Crüger after his death in 1662, maintained this tradition. He wrote the melodies for 120 of PG's lyrics.
After 1666 PG became involved in a conflict. Elector Friedrich Wilhelm was interested in having peace between the different religions in his country. He himself and the royal household belonged to the Reformed Church. Therefore, he demanded tolerance from the Lutherans towards those of the Reformed. The main issue of debate was the difference in the theological conception of the sacraments.
However, for the Lutherans, the Reformed did not have "the right faith".
The Elector ordered religious talks between the two groups in the hope that the Lutherans and Reformed would recognize their common beliefs. However, the opposite was the case and the issues of debate became more heated. Now the Elector demanded tolerance from the Lutheran by decree. Every Lutheran theologian now had to confirm with his signature that he would be tolerant of people of the other faith. Paul Gerhardt did not sign this order because of a conflict with his convictions. As a result, he was expelled from his position. Several times, the people of Berlin, as well as the magistrate, asked the Elector to allow him to remain in his position, but the Elector refused. Only when the rich farmers put pressure on him to reinstate Paul Gerhardt in his old position did the Elector agree. Although PG refused to sign the decree, the Elector told him that he expected him to be tolerant of other beliefs. Paul Gerhardt could not accept this and therefore resigned from his position.
But the conflict with the Great Elector was not the only problem facing Paul Gerhardt during this period. After three of his children had died, his wife Anna Maria passed away as well.