Muhlenberg’s Dream: The Road to the Common Service, 1748-1888   22 comments

148685pv

Above:  St. John’s Lutheran Church, Charleston, South Carolina

Image Created by the Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/sc0169.photos.148685p/)

Reproduction Number = HABS SC,10-CHAR,42–12

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART I

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I.  BACKGROUND

European Lutherans began to settle in the colonies successfully (at New Netherland, to be precise) in the 1620s.  Then there was New Sweden, settled beginning in 1638 at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware.  The first Lutheran church in America dated to 1646 on Tinicum Island in the Delaware River, when about five hundred people lived in the colony.  Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Netherland, conquered New Sweden in 1655.  Then New Netherland became New York in 1664.  The Lutherans (many of them Finns, for Sweden used to encompass much of Finland), cut off from Sweden, waned, and many of their leaders returned to the old country.  King Charles XI of Sweden revived the flagging Lutheran churches in the 1690s by sending ministers, catechisms, Bibles, and other books.  The founding of new congregations (many of them now Episcopalian) commenced.

There was initially much resistance in the territories which did, in time, become the United States of America to worship in English.  Many colonists with heritages in countries with languages other than English preferred the foreign language, at least for church purposes.  Many of those who preferred to worship in English became Anglicans, and many English-language Lutheran congregations abandoned the Lutheran identity for The Church of England or (after 1788) The Episcopal Church.  The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of New-York (formed in 1786) favored German initially.  And, although there was an English-language hymnal and service book in that synod in 1795, the Synod’s official position just two years later was to encourage those who wished to worship in English to become Episcopalians.  Yet, as Lutherans moved into various colonies, many of them wished to worship in English and remain Lutherans.

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II.  HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG AND THE 1748 AND 1786 LITURGIES

The chaos which was American Lutheranism in early colonial times called out for the creation of order.  That task fell to Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and his assistants.  The thirty-one-year-old German arrived in America on November 25, 1742, and began his great and daunting work.  Who was a legitimate Lutheran minister?  Many imposters roamed the landscape, wreaking havoc in their wake.  To make a long story short and a complex story simple, he died in 1787, having done his work faithfully and laid a firm foundation for U.S. Lutheranism.

Muhlenberg and others gathered at St. Michael’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1748 to constitute the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.  At that meeting they also approved the first American Lutheran liturgy, one based on German forms and the service at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church, London, England.  Muhlenberg had worked on the service with the help of two other German pastors, Peter Brunnholtz and John Frederick Handschuh.  This was a compromise liturgy, for there was a variety of Lutheran liturgies in America, and the Swedish rites, with their singing of the Collects, was too “Papist” for many Germans.  The Ministerium vowed to use the 1748 liturgy exclusively, but pastors had to copy out the text, which the Ministerium did not have published.

The 1786 revision did go the printing presses, however.  An English translation of it appeared in the Hymn and Prayer-Book For the Ufe of Fuch Churches as Ufe the Englifh Language (1795) (http://archive.org/details/hymnprayerbo00kunz).  The Reverend John C. Kunze, who had organized the Synod of New-York, wanted to encourage those who preferred to worship in English to remain Lutherans.

The form of the Communion Service is, by 2013 standards, quite sparse.  But the Liturgy of the 1795 book does contain prayers for various settings and for congregations, families, and individuals to use.  And one finds there a catechism (or catechifm), pentitential psalms, and documents explaining Christian history, Lutheran history, and the theology of salvation, aw well as forms for funerals, weddings, and baptisms.  The well-developed lectionary is another nice touch.  Also, the Communion service ends with the Aaronic Blessing (from Numbers 6:23-26) and the Trinitarian formula:

The Lord bless thee, and preferve thee.

The Lord enlighten his countenance upon thee,

and be gracious unto thee!

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee,

and give thee peace.  Amen.

In the name of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The liturgy specifies that members are to celebrate Communion at least on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and Pentecost.

Muhlenberg wanted Lutherans to think beyond their local and provincial interests and to focus on broader goals.  Thus he dreamed of a unified liturgy–one he never saw.  In a letter he wrote on November 5, 1783, the Lutheran Patriarch said:

It would be a most delightful and advantageous thing if all the Evangelical Lutheran congregations in North America were united with one another, if they all used the same order of service.

–Quoted in Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study of the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947), page 181

Yet others kept that dream alive.

Negative liturgical developments occurred as early as 1786.  The revised liturgy of that year omitted the Gloria, the Collect of the Day, and the Nicene Creed, for example.  The 1748 order of worship had specified the following order:

  • Hymn
  • Congregational confession of sins
  • Gloria
  • Collect of the Day
  • Epistle reading
  • Hymn
  • Gospel reading
  • Nicene Creed
  • Sermon
  • General Prayer
  • Announcements
  • Peace
  • Hymn
  • Closing Collect
  • Benediction

But the 1786 revision, in making corporate worship minister-focused, left the congregation with little to do.  This tendency became more prominent as time passed, unfortunately.

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III.  MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION AS SINGING KNOTS ON LOGS

In 1814, for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of New-York (yes, they hyphenated the name then) published A Collection of Hymns and a Liturgy for the Use of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches; To Which are Added Prayers for Families and Individuals (http://archive.org/details/collectionofhymn00evan and http://archive.org/details/cluthe00evan).  The driving force behind this book and its 1814 liturgy (not 1817, as Abdel Ross Wentz says in The Lutheran Church in American History) was Dr. Frederick H. Quitman, D.D., President of the Synod.  This new liturgy was minister-focused.  And gone was the Aaronic Blessing, replaced with a rubric:

The service is concluded with a hymn and one of the usual benedictions.

Dr. Wentz, in his book on American Lutheran history, criticized the Rationalistic tendencies with which Quitman infused the 1814 liturgy and with which he also influenced the 1818 German-language liturgy of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Luther D. Reed, Lutheran liturgical expert extraordinaire, noted the lack of interactvity in the 1818 rite.

Studying the 1814 New York book has revealed some interesting touches.  There is, for example, a prayer for a servant to say on pages 121 and 122.  That prayer reflected its times and the interests of those who had servants, not those of the servants themselves.  And there was a nice portion of the Eucharistic rite:

How can we ever be sufficiently grateful to thee, for preparing such a table for us in the wilderness of this world!  What good thing can we ever want, whilst we have thee for our Shepherd?  What mercy wilt thou refuse to those, whom thou hast redeemed, not with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ!  What consolation and joy are poured into our hearts, whilst we contemplate him crucified and risen again, triumphing over all his fores and ours, seated at thy right hand, and raising his disciples to his own glory and happiness!

–Page 61 of the Liturgy section, 1814

Various synods–Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia and Maryland–covering more states than those names indicate–joined forces in 1820 to form the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America.  This national body did not include the Joint Synod of Ohio or the Tennessee Synod, which formed out of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and the North Carolina Synod respectively.  The General Synod published an enlarged version of the New York 1814 liturgy in an 1837 English-language hymnal.  A 1832 English-language liturgy commissioned by the General Synod and published in a 1834 edition of the New York Collection of Hymns (http://archive.org/details/collectionofhy00evan), was incredible minister-focused, allowing the singing of hymns as the only form of congregational participation.  This restricted role for laypeople continued in the General Synod’s 1842 German-language liturgy (a revision of the 1818 rite) and its 1847 English-language counterpart.  However, the General Synod did publish a revised edition of its 1847 liturgy in 1856, adding the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed to the ritual.  And, in the Creed, the Church was “Catholic.”

In other liturgical news, the Joint Synod of Ohio (1818-1930) published an 1830 English-language liturgy which gave the people little to do.  The Joint Synod worked on the General Synod’s 1847 liturgy.

Frontier conditions made doing proper liturgy difficult.  Thus going to a minister-focused model was practical.  Yet that act constituted bad theology, for “liturgy” means “work of the people.”  The people did not “work” much when all they did was sit, stand, and sing.  To borrow words from  the much-maligned 1814 New York liturgy, Lutherans lived “in the wilderness of this world.”  Breaking away from a frontier mentality was a requirement for doing proper–or at least better–liturgy.

That liturgy was on the way, starting with the Pennsylvania Liturgy of 1860.  A new liturgical age was about to dawn.

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IV.  LITURGICAL RENEWAL

In 1860 the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Other States published A Liturgy for Use of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (http://archive.org/details/liturgyforuseofe00np).  This liturgy, based on Muhlenberg’s 1748 forms and pre-Reformation rituals, laid the foundation for subsequent services in the next few years while appropriating parts of The Book of Common Prayer generously.  One who reads the 1786 and 1860 liturgies carefully then pays close attention to the Common Service of 1888 should recognize the lineage.

Some particulars of the 1860 Liturgy follow:

  • The Nicene Creed is present as an “occasional” substitute for the Apostles’ Creed.  In both Creeds the Church is “Christian,” not “Catholic,” a pattern which repeats for the rest of the century and beyond.
  • The Liturgy keeps the long General Prayer before the sermon not because it works best there but because people have become used to it being there.  Later (by a few years) services move the General Prayer to a spot after the sermon, thereby not interrupting the flow of the service.
  • There is, as in subsequent liturgies influenced by this one, a section of rites for “Ministerial Acts,” such as funerals, weddings, baptisms, and installations.
  • The fixed feasts in the book are Christmas Day (December 25), the Circumcision of Jesus/New Year’s Day (January 1), the Epiphany (January 6), and The Festival of the Reformation (October 31).

The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America (1820-1918) divided twice during the 1860s.  First the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America organized in 1863.  It renamed itself the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1866 then merged with the Holston Synod and the Tennessee Synod to create the United Synod of the South, known simply as the United Synod of the South, in 1866.  The General Synod split again in 1867, when the more conservative General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America constituted itself.  By the way, the antecedents of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) (1918-) helped to form the General Council then left it–one in 1869, another in 1871, and the third in 1888.  Also, the General Synod, the United Synod of the South, and the General Council reunited in 1918 to create The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), which merged into the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in 1962.  The LCA helped to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987.

The Southern Church, called the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1867, published The Book of Worship (http://archive.org/details/bookofworshi00gene) that year.  This book, which owed much to the  1860 Pennsylvania Liturgy, constituted a great liturgical advance.  The order of Morning Service set the General Prayer after the sermon, unlike the 1860 rite.  Hints of the Common Service of 1888 began to become prominent , as in the Confession of Sin.  And the presence of rituals for other occasions, as in the Order of Ministerial Acts, indicated that the liturgy was not an afterthought tacked onto a hymnal.

The Church Book (1868) (http://archive.org/details/chuse00gene) was another great liturgical advance and foreshadowing of things to come.  The 1868 Book, revised over the decades to include music (http://archive.org/details/evanluth00gene), Ministerial Acts (http://archive.org/details/congruse00gene), and more options for Introits and Collects (http://archive.org/details/chuluth00gene), was in English.  Its German-language counterpart debuted in 1877.  The Church Book, owing much to The Book of Common Prayer and the 1860 Liturgy, set the pattern for the Common Service Book (1917).  There were no Matins of Vespers yet, but the lectionary, two forms for Morning Worship, and the prayers were impressive.  Also, the General Prayer followed the sermon and the Aaronic Blessing ended the service.  The Church Book gained slightly wider acceptance in 1872, when the Tennessee Synod accepted it in place of that body’s 1840 liturgy.

The General Synod revised its liturgy further in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s.  The Provisional Liturgy of 1866, never authorized, became the basis of the “Washington Service” of 1869, authorized by the General Synod.  This was the Provisional Liturgy plus the Gloria Patri, the Kyrie, and the Gloria in Excelsis.  It constituted a great advance in recovering a historical Lutheran order of worship.  This Service appeared in the Book of Worship (1871) (http://archive.org/details/bookofworship71gene). an unfortunate volume which consisted mostly of hymns with about twenty pages of services tacked onto the front and prayers, the Augsburg Confession, and Martin Luther’s Small Catechism tucked in at the back.  The Liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1881) (http://archive.org/details/liturgyofevangel00gene), however, added more material and kept up will and with the Lutheran Joneses–the General Council’s Church Book and the Southern Church’s Book of Worship.

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V.  THE SHORT TRAIL TO THE COMMON SERVICE, 1870-1888

In 1870, the Reverend Doctor John Bachman, Pastor of St. John’s Church, Charleston, South Carolina (hence the photograph at the top of this post), wrote the leaders of his denomination, the (Southern) General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, telling them that greater liturgical uniformity among U.S. Lutherans would increase domestic and foreign respect for U.S. Lutheranism and enable the Lutheran churches to accomplish more good in the world.  That proposal failed in 1870 yet passed six years later.  The General Council agreed to cooperate with its Southern counterpart in 1879.  And the (original) General Synod, parent to the other two bodies, joined the party in 1883.

Work got underway in 1884.  All three denominations worked out their disagreements over the committee’s proposed liturgy and the Common Service debuted in 1888 (http://archive.org/details/congruse00gene).

Analysis of the Common Service will wait until the next post in this series.

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VI.  OTHER LITURGIES

I have focused on the mainstream of Lutheran liturgical development so far.  That has been appropriate.  Yet I would be negligent if I were to ignore other liturgical traditions within U.S. Lutheranism through 1888.

It was commonplace for many Lutheran services in the United States to occur in German or some other foreign language into the twentieth century.  In fact, foreign language Lutheran services continue to occur.  Southwest of my location, in Atlanta, Georgia, the Church of the Redeemer (http://www.redeemer.org/) hosts a German-language service, for example.

Back in the nineteenth century….

It was commonplace for English and foreign-language services to coexist within the same denomination.

  • The Norwegian Synod produced its first English-language hymnal in 1879.  Some members of the Missouri Synod used this volume.
  • The Missouri Synod, which used the Saxon and Loehe Agendas primarily for worship, published the unofficial Lutheran Hymns For the Use of English Lutheran Missions in 1882.
  • The Buffalo Synod (1845-1930), of German origin, produced its first English Language hymnal, The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal, in 1880, with the Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (http://archive.org/details/evangelicalluthe00evan).  The music edition appeared in 1908 (http://archive.org/details/evangelicalluthe08van).  The service 1880 service was either the 1867 Southern Lutheran service or a variant thereof, where as the 1908 rite was either the 1860 Pennsylvania Liturgy or a variant thereof.
  • Finnish Lutheran congregations began to form about 1867.  Prior to that date Finnish Lutherans had joined Norwegian or Swedish congregations.
  • The (Swedish) Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church published its first English-language hymnal after 1888.
  • Danish Lutherans in the U.S. published their first English-language hymnal after 1888.

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VII.  CONCLUSION

The Common Service of 1888 did not impose liturgical uniformity upon U.S. Lutheranism.  It has yet to do so, as a review of hymnals and service books in use among U.S. Lutherans confirms.

There is, God willing, more to come.  With these words I conclude this post, the first in a planned series.  Next I will read for and prepare part two.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL OCCUM, PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As much as possible I prefer to work with primary sources, although secondary sources frequently prove invaluable in making the best sense of those primary sources.  And I prefer to work with actual bound volumes as much as possible.  For this post, however, most of my sources have been electronic, and I have provided links to them.  So I consider those linked ones cited properly.  I did find certain bound volumes invaluable.  Those credits follow:

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

Stulken, Marilyn Kay.  Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1981.

Wentz, Abdel Ross.  The Lutheran Church in American History.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  The United Lutheran Publication House, 1933.

I also found some PDFs helpful:

Marggraf, Bruce.  “A History of Hymnal Changeovers in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.”  May 28, 1982.

Schalk, Carl.  “A Brief History of LCMS Hymnals (before LSB).”  Based on a 1997 document; updated to 2006.  Copyrighted by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

KRT

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22 responses to “Muhlenberg’s Dream: The Road to the Common Service, 1748-1888

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