A PULPIT WONDER
Astonishing the People of Hoosierdom
He Is a Dunkard of the Amish Sect
—Some Call Him "Deacon Snoozer."
A new pulpit wonder has arisen in Indiana in the person of Rev. John Kauffman, an Amish expounder who preaches only when sound asleep.
Awake, he is incapable of interesting a congregation: slumbering, he holds crowds spellbound by his eloquent exhortations. Elder Kauffman resides in Elkhart county, where the Amish thrive, and has preached there and in neighboring districts for several years, but his peculiar pulpit method has escaped attention outside of his own people because of their exclusiveness and their extreme reticence about matters connected with their church.
He has lately travelled farther from his home and is this month labouring among the Dunkards in Brown county, the most secluded and backward part of Indiana. He is well known among the Amish people of the state, his reputation having spread far and wide among them, and his preaching attracts the attention of the denomination for considerable distances whereever he appears.
This psychological phenomenon when appointed to preach at an evening service, goes to the church during the afternoon, usually about four o'clock, and there retires upon a cot prepared for the purpose and goes to a sound and apparently natural sleep.
The Amish churches are modest, little edifices set in quiet country places and the elder's slumber is not likely to he disturbed. The congregation gathers quietly before seven and at that hour the sleeping preacher rises, enters the pulpit and begins his discourse, speaking in English or German as the occasion may require. Mr. Kauffman never repeats a sermon and he never hesitates or loses himself. He occupies ordinarily between two and three hours, uses well chosen words and finely constructed sentences, and holds his hearers by the eloquent and logical presentation of his subject.
The congregation soon loses its feeling of wonder at the singular spectacle of a somnambulistic exhorter and yields to interest and edification. The Dunkards gather from miles around, fill the church, cling to the windows and crowd about the door, believing fully that the discourse is a message divinely inspired and treasuring in their minds the preacher's words.
People outside of the peculiar sect have doubted the genuineness of Mr. Kauffman's sleep, or have attributed it to some form of trance or stupor. Experienced physicians, however, have examined his condition while talking and declare it to be true somnambulance. They say his mind works while he sleeps and that his sermons are dreams carried in length and comunusual extent in length and completeness. A dream usually is very brief, even momentary, but while it lasts it is the same condition that this man maintains for hours. Often, while preaching, the elder wants water to moisten his throat, and when a cup is placed in his hand he will drink; his attendants perceive the thirst by his dry lips and hardened voice. He has been known in the course of a sermon to hold the right arm full length above his head for half an hour without a quiver of the body. It is said that one time a needle was thrust through his skin and that he did not flinch or pause in his delivery.
Rev. Kauffman is a man of middle and medium size, in good health, educated after the manner of his sect, of average intelligence, deeply religious at all times, but not even a fair preacher when awake. He wears the distinctive garments of his people and follows farming at his home when not engaged in his singular labors. Some profane person has dubbed him “Deacon Snoozer," a term which he regards as contemptuous if not approbious, and the name has of late begun to stick.
From “The Evening Statesman”, Walla Walla, Washington, USA
No 109, July 20, 1903, pg 6.
Edited by Elof Granholm April 9, 2014