Niebuhr Family of Theologians
The marker is located in Lincoln, on the east side of John's United Church of Christ, at 8th Street and Maple Street, facing Maple Street.
St. John United Church of Christ, Friends of the Niebuhrs, and The Illinois State Historical Society
The Niebuhr family, called “The Trapp Family of Theology” by Time magazine, produced four distinguished professors of Christian studies. In 1902, the Rev. Gustav and Lydia Niebuhr came to Lincoln, where he became pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Church and Deaconess Hospital administrator. All four of their children – Hulda, Walter, Reinhold, and Helmut Richard – were confirmed here.
After Gustav’s death, Reinhold (1892-1971) assumed the interim pastorate and was ordained at St. John’s on June 29, 1913. From a Detroit pastorate he moved to New York in 1928 and taught at Union Theological Seminary, exerting wide influence in religion and politics through his doctrine of Christian realism. His works include The Serenity Prayer, used by the military, AA and other personal recovery programs. In 1948 he appeared on the cover of Time magazine and in 1964 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962), an authority on theological ethics and church history, was president of Elmhurst College and taught at Eden Seminary in St. Louis and at Yale for 31 years. His son, Richard R. Niebuhr, taught theology at Harvard from 1956 to 1999. Hulda Niebuhr (1889-1959) taught at Boston University and at McCormick Seminary, Chicago. Lydia’s sister, Adele Hosto, was consecrated a deaconess at St. John’s in 1914 and served in Lincoln beginning in 1942.
During the Niebuhr pastorate, St. John’s Evangelical Church stood at Fifth and Union Streets. St. John United Church of Christ is that church’s descendant. H. Richard Niebuhr spoke at its dedicate in 1925. Gustav, Lydia and Hulda Niebuhr and Adele Hosto are buried in Union Cemetery in Lincoln.
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