My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord: Missouri Synod Liturgies, 1847-1940   11 comments


Above:  Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri

Image Created by the Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = HABS MO,96-SALU,120B–2




We would gladly behold the day when the One, Holy, Catholic, Christian Church shall use one Order of Service, and unite in one Confession of Faith.

–From the Preface to the Common Service (1888); Quoted in Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), page 308


My soul doth magnify the Lord:

and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

–From the Magnificat, quoted in Vespers, The Common Service (1888), as contained in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)



In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part I (, I wrote about the process which culminated in the unveiling of the Common Service in 1888.  I chose not to write about that liturgy because I had already entered twenty-four pages of writing from a composition book.  In U.S. Liturgy, Part II (, I focused on the Common Service.  In U.S. Liturgy, Part III (, I wrote about it in The United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) and The American Lutheran Church (1930-1060).   In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part IV (, I focused on The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860-1962).  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part V (, I wrote about Finnish-Americans.  Now, in Part VI, I turn my attention to the Missouri Synod.

I have been studying this material closely, trying to record information accurately as I have reviewed primary and secondary sources.  This has required a commitment of much time, for there are so many synods about which to read.  And, since I grew up United Methodist in southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Baptist Belt, Lutherans were scarce, if present at all, when I was quite young.  My spiritual journey has taken me into The Episcopal Church.  Anglicanism and Lutheranism have many theological and liturgical similarities and considerable theological overlap, but my adopted vantage point is still one outside of Lutheranism.  If I have misstated anything, I can correct it.

The material is, by its nature, complicated.  I have tried to organize and format it for maximum ease of reading and learning, however.  So, without further ado, I invite you, O reader, to follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me.



The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (GELSMOOS) organized in 1847.  Seventy years later it dropped “German” from their name and quickened the pace of its transition to English-language worship because of anti-German hysteria during World War I.  Mobs were, for example, burning German-language books in various places.  The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned the performance of any music by Ludwig van Beethoven (dead since 1827, by the way).  And, when people were really mad and out of their tiny minds, they renamed food products and dog breeds.  So German Shepherds became Alsacian Shepherds and Sauerkraut became Liberty Cabbage, for example.  (That was almost as bad as Freedom Fries, for real “French” Fries are actually Belgian.)  The newly renamed denomination, abbreviated as ELSMOOS, assumed its current name, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), in 1947.

My shorthand name for the denomination in this series of posts is the Missouri Synod.

A related body was the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and Other States (EELSMOS), or the English Synod of Missouri, which formed in 1888.  Its members worshiped in English and sought a way to unite with the Missouri Synod.  They succeeded in 1911, becoming the English District.



Worship in the Missouri Synod, consistent with the name “German Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” was in German.  The two main sources of liturgy were Wilhelm Loehe’s 1844 Agenda for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Confession and the 1856 revision of the Saxon Agenda.  Yet there was sufficient desire within the Missouri Synod for worship in the English language for some congregations to use the Hymn Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Schools and Congregations (1879) (, the first English-language hymnal for Norwegian-American Lutherans.  And three years later, the Missouri Synod published Lutheran Hymns for the Use of English Lutheran Missions.  Hymns of the Evangelical Lutheran Church ( followed in 1886.

Meanwhile, the English Synod of Missouri had published the first edition of the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book in 1889.  Three years later the second edition ( added a liturgy–the Common Service–and more hymns.  Multiple printings continued for nineteen years ( and

The Missouri Synod revised its English translation the Loehe Agenda to echo the rhythms of the Common Service after 1888.  This is obvious in the third edition (1902) of the Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith (, a book which includes the Litany from the General Council’s Church Book (  The 1902 Loehe Liturgy (revised) also listed some fixed feasts:

  • Christmas Day (December 25);
  • the Circumcision of Jesus (January 1);
  • the Epiphany (January 6);
  • Reformation Day (October 31 or July 25);
  • St. Stephen’s Day (December 26);
  • festivals of Jesus:  the Presentation, the Annunciation, and the Visitation;
  • St. Michael the Archangel (September 29); and
  • feasts of the usual Apostles except for St. Thomas and the Confession of St. Peter.

There were also Matins, Vespers, a second rite for Morning Worship, a form for the Orders of Catechization, Introits, and various prayers.

In 1905 the Missouri Synod published the Hymnal for Evangelical Lutheran Missions (, with five pages of liturgy:  a partial Common Service Communion rite, the Apostles’ Creed, and the General Confession.

Seven years later, the English Synod of Missouri having become the English District, the Missouri Synod published the revised Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (1912) (, containing the Communion and Vespers services from the Common Service.  The successor to this volume, the first official English-language Missouri Synod hymnal, was The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), the topic of a future post in this series.



I understand worshiping in the language one knows best, so I grasp why many German immigrants preferred German-language liturgies and hymns.  And so much of one’s culture comes wrapped up in one’s language, with its references, rhythms, and subtleties.  The Missouri Synod dis what it had to do and should have done–reach out to English-speakers while continuing to serve its German-language constituency.  That English would become the dominant language of worship in the Missouri Synod was inevitable.  Nevertheless, that anti-German hysteria forced the issue was most unfortunate, speaking loudly of the intolerance of many people.








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, some 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:

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Melton, J. Gordon.  Encyclopedia of American Religions.  4h. Ed.  Washington, DC:  Gale Research, Inc., 1993.

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 one PDF helpful:

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.



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