Archived Sections, National Lutheran News

New hymnals in the works for ELCA, LCMS

There will be similarities, and notable differences, in the two books.

If everything goes according to schedule, worshipers in both ELCA and LCMS congregations will have brand new hymnals in their pews by late next fall.
A similar driving force has led both denominations to produce new worship books at this time. There seems to be an underlying rhythm in the lives of church bodies that leads to a desire for a fresh look at their basic worship guides every 25-30 years, leaders in both groups say.
For both ELCA and LCMS, that has meant a serious look at the large number of new hymns produced by church composers over the past generation. But the response to that outpouring of new music, as evidenced in the new hymnals, has been quite different.
Martin Seltz, publisher for worship and music at Augsburg Fortress Publish-ers in Minneapolis and a key player in the new ELCA hymnal, speaks of “the explosion of musical styles since 1978 that have been accepted as part of church life.”
The new ELCA worship book attempts to provide a balance between the be-loved, traditional northern European hymnody of the Lutheran church and the best of contemporary and global musical expressions, Seltz said.
The LCMS hymnal, on the other hand, contains 95% traditional hymns and only a handful of non-Western and popular-idiom works, ac-cording to David Mennicke, head of the music department and choir director at Concordia University, St. Paul.
The non-Western and contemporary category is limited to what the editors regarded as truly excellent new compositions, he said.
“The LCMS hymnal is a decidedly conservative hymnal in its liturgy and hym-nody,” Mennicke said. “It’s designed as a resource for congregations that want to do traditional worship and do it well.”
While both synods anticipate delivery of their new worship books in the fall of 2006, the seeds of the LCMS project were planted earlier in the 1990s and the book is almost ready for printing at the synod’s Concordia Pub-lishing House in St. Louis, Missouri.
All that’s left to do, Mennicke said, is some proofreading, final layout work and setting up a marketing program. The book will have a rich burgundy cover and what the synod describes as “a stunning embossed cover design.”
The push for a new LCMS hymnal was launched by the synod’s Commission on Worship and Concordia Publishing House, both in St. Louis, in the 1990s. The idea was approved at a synod convention, and work on the contents, with opportunities for input from congregations, musicians and others in the synod, went forward.
A completed plan for the contents was approved by the synod convention in 2001, subject to a testing of the materials in LCMS congregations. The results of this testing process were incorporated into the final plan, which was approved by the synod’s 2004 convention, giving the green light for publication to begin.
The starting point for the new ELCA book was the synod’s churchwide assembly in 1997, which funded a number of initiatives for the new century including one titled “Deepen Our Worship Life.”
That was followed by an assembly resolution in 2000 which confirmed that new worship materials were needed and set up a Renewing Worship Project to come up with a solution during the next five years. Consideration was given to use of new electronic technologies, but participants in the project soon decided a core worship book was still necessary.
Staff members at ELCA headquarters in Chicago and a large number of editorial teams that were set up went to work putting together materials for a new hymnal and sending them out for review. Over 1,000 congregations were involved in prioritizing hymns for inclusion in the new hymnal, according to Seltz of Augsburg Fortress, a member of the Resource Proposal Group which pulled together the final draft.
With the plan for the content of the new worship book now completed, the ELCA will be asked at its churchwide assembly this month in Orlando, Florida, to direct the office of the presiding bishop to review the content and make a recommendation to the Church Council for its meeting in November. The council will then make the decision on whether to move forward with publication of the new hymnal.
It’s likely that members of ELCA congregations are less aware of what’s been developing in preparation of a new hymnal than their LCMS counterparts and also in contrast to the situation in 1978, when the current Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) was published.
That’s because hot-button issues like human sexuality have dominated discussions in the ELCA in recent years and also because the 1978 hymnal was an inter-synodical project involving the old American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America, their Canadian affiliates and, initially, the LCMS, Seltz said.
But there’s a positive flip side to this situation, he added. The commitment to renewing the worship life of the church is something that everyone in the ELCA can work together on in all their diversity, rather than be divided over, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for people to celebrate being Lutheran,” he asserted.
The new LCMS hymnal, titled Lutheran Service Book, represents “a consolidation and refinement” of previously published worship guides, Mennicke said. It replaces Lutheran Worship, published in 1982 and used in the majority of LCMS churches; The Lutheran Hymnal, dating to 1941 and still used in one-third of synod congregations; and supplements issued in 1969 and 1998.
The new book includes about 600 hymns, compared with only 520 in Lutheran Worship and 660 in The Lutheran Hymnal. Only about 15 of the hymns come from outside the northern European Lutheran tradition and fewer than 10 from the recent popular Christian idiom, Mennicke said.
Most of the hymns and liturgical settings are in standard four-part harmonizations, making them easier for congregation members to sing, according to the Concordia professor. This contrasts with both Lutheran Worship and the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship, in which the harmonizations were designed primarily as alternative ones for use by organists, Mennicke said.
The new LCMS resource contains five liturgical settings, all of them services incorporating Word and Eucharist. Three are very familiar — one taken from the 1941 hymnal and two from the 1982 one, Mennicke said. The fourth is Martin Luther’s Reformation-era chorale service and the fifth is from the 1998 Hymnal Supplement.
There’s also one new non-Eucharist service, a very simple “Service of Prayer and Preaching” intended for use when the congregation includes many visitors.
The new LCMS hymnal returns to the practice of the 1941 book in using scriptural texts to accompany all hymns and liturgy. The Bible translations used throughout the hymnal are from the English Standard Version, which Mennicke described as a conservative revision of the Revised Standard Version. The RSV was published in 1946-52.
Another new twist is the prominence given to the one-year lectionary of Bible texts, although the three-year Common Lectionary, popular since Vatican II, is also included. The number of psalms included in the hymnal has been boosted to 100, instead of 60 used in the 1982 hymnal.
The new ELCA hymnal replaces the Lutheran Book of Worship, published in 1978 and used in 95% of the denomination’s congregations, and With One Voice (WOV), a supplement to LBW published in 1995 as an updating of LBW and used in about half of ELCA congregations.
The new book contains about 600 hymns, up slightly from the 569 in LBW. About half the hymns were taken from LBW, one-fourth from WOV and one-fourth are new ones that did not appear in either of the predecessors.
The key words in the choice of hymns were “balance” and “representation,” Seltz said. There were all kinds of balance considerations — the well-loved and traditional vs. more contemporary expressions that have survived; classical vs. popular; and northern European vs. American and other parts of the world. Representa-tive hymns from the various types were chosen without any attempt to be all-inclusive.
Another type of balance that was sought, Seltz said, was between traditional approaches to language about God and newer ones. There was no attempt to change the language of the hymns to make everything sound the same.
Fifty of the songs appear in both English and another language, Seltz said. For the most part the second language is Spanish, he said, but Chinese and Korean are also used and, in the case of the traditional hymns, Scan-dinavian languages and German.
The switch to standard four-part harmonizations made in the music in the new LCMS hymnal is evident in the ELCA hymnal as well.
While a final decision has not been made, the number of musical settings for Sunday worship will be expanded beyond the three in LBW to as many as seven or eight. The accompaniment will not be exclusively organ-based but will also include instruments like the piano and guitar.
New services for Lent and Holy Week will appear in the new worship book, and the section grouping services aimed at personal life will grow beyond marriage and funerals to include healing, Seltz said. Luther’s Small Catechism will also be included in the hymnal.
Producers of both the LCMS and ELCA hymnals appear to have been very much aware of the new resources for worship available through the internet. Both make provision for electronic access to a wide variety of materials not included in the new books, which are regarded as core sources for worship or, as Seltz puts it, “home pages” on the Worldwide Web, which open the way to an array of additional resources.
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Some Lutheran hymnals predating
soon-to-arrive new ELCA and LCMS worship books
Used in church bodies now included in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
* Hymnal and Order of Service, published 1901 by the Augustana Synod, a Swedish Lutheran body.
* The Lutheran Hymnary, published 1912 for use by three Norwegian American Lutheran bodies — the Norwegian Synod, Hauge’s Synod and the United Synod.
* Common Service Book With Hymnal, published 1917 for the newly-created United Lutheran Church in America, a German body located largely in the eastern U.S.
* Concordia Hymnal, published 1916 for the Norwegian Lutheran Church (later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church), until shortly before it merged with ALC in 1960.
n American Lutheran Hymnal, published in 1930 and used until 1958 by the German American Lutheran Church (ALC).
* Hymnal for Church and Home, published 1927 at Blair, Nebraska, for Danish American Lutherans.
* Service Book and Hymnal, published in 1958 for congregations of the American Lutheran Church (formed in 1960) and the Lutheran Church in America (1964).
* Lutheran Book of Worship, published in 1978 for use in ALC, LCA and LCMS. Most LCMS congregations decided not to use the book they helped prepare. Most ELCA congregations are using it today.
Used in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)
* The Lutheran Hymnal, published in 1941. LCMS congregations universally adopted it for worship use.
* Lutheran Worship, published in 1982. It was a response to Lutheran Book of Worship, which LCMS leadership decided not to endorse. A third of LCMS congregations stayed with The Lutheran Hymnal, and a significant minority adopted Lutheran Book of Worship.
What Other Lutherans Use:
* Christian Worship, A Lutheran Hymnal, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), 1993.
* Ambassador Hymnal, Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC), 1966.
* Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), 1996.