Johann Hinrich Wichern

1808-1881. German Protestant minister and founder of the Innere Mission.* Born in Hamburg, where he was influenced by the piety of the Erweckungsbewegung, Wichern studied theology at Göttingen under Lücke (1829-31) and at Berlin under Neander and Schleiermacher.* Returning to Hamburg as a candidate for ordination, Wichern was moved by the plight of underprivileged children in the poorer sections of that city. In 1833 he founded a school for neglected children in the village of Horn near Hamburg and christened it Rauhes Haus (“Rough House”). Under Wichern's strong leadership the school grew and expanded. In 1842 he established a training institute for his assistants and in 1844 began to publish a monthly periodical, Die Fliegenden Blätter aus dem Rauhen Hause. Children in the school were divided into families of approximately twelve, under the guidance of an overseer-generally a candidate for the ministry-and two assistants.

At the First Congress of the Evangelical Churches in Wittenberg in 1848, Wichern called for the coordination of all charitable activities in Germany through a single agency, the Innere Mission. While holding firmly to the confessions of the evangelical churches, Wichern wanted to bind the preaching of the Gospel to active social service and thus give practical expression to the Reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers. Wichern took part in prison reform in Prussia (1857) and in the establishment of the Johannisstift in Spandau (1858). He organized the Felddiakonie to minister to the wounded in the wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-71. In 1872 he returned to the Rauhes Haus, and died in Hamburg.

See J.H. Wichern, Gesämmelte Schriften (ed. J. Wichern and F. Mahling, 6 vols., 1901-8).