Assembled in This Thy House: Danish-American Lutherans, 1870-1962   56 comments


Above:  Interior of St. John’s Danish Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington, 1920s and 1930s

Image Source = Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries


and (

My copy of the 1938 Hymnal bears the stamp of this congregation.




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


O Lord, we are assembled in this Thy house to hear what Thou our Father, Thou Jesus Christ our Savior, and Thou Holy Spirit our Comforter in life and death, wilt speak unto us.  We pray Thee so to open our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit that, through Thy Word, we may be taught to repent of our sins, to believe on Jesus in life and in death, and to grow day by day in grace and holiness.  Hear us for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Hymnal for Church and Home, 3d. Ed., (1938), page 7



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.  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part VI (, I turned my attention to the Missouri Synod.  In U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part VII (, I wrote about Norwegian-Americans.  Now, in Part VIII, I focus on Danish-American synods.

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 Norwegian-Danish Conference broke away from the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1870.  The Conference merged into the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (UNLCA) in 1890.  That denomination helped to form a new body in 1917.  That merged organization, which took the name “The Evangelical Lutheran Church” in 1946, helped to form The American Lutheran Church (TALC) in 1960.  TALC, in turn, merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987.

Now that I have “placed cannons,” so to speak, I get down to the Danish-American Lutheran Synods in earnest.  The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church Association (DELCA) broke away from the Norwegian-Danish Conference in 1884.  Meanwhile, The American Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), originally the Church Mission Society then the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (DELC), had formed in 1872.  The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (DELCNA) split from it in 1893.  Three years later, DELCNA (1893) merged with DELCA (1884) to form The United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (later just The United Evangelical Lutheran ChurchUELC).

Thus, starting in 1896, there were two Danish-American Lutheran synods:

  1. The United Evangelical Lutheran Church (UELC) (1896), formed by the merger of two splinter groups; and
  2. The American Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), parent of part of the other synod.  The AELC merged into the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in 1962.  The LCA, in turn, helped to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987.

So both Danish-American synods became antecedents of ELCA by different routes.



The two Danish-American Lutheran denominations published their Hymnal for Church and Home in 1927.    They added about 150 hymns for the third edition in 1938.  The fourth and final edition rolled off the printing presses in 1949.  The Hymnal for Church and Home met a spiritual and cultural need–an English-language hymnal and service book which preserved Danish hymnody:

Many of our congregations introduced hymnals already available by other Lutheran bodies.  As they, however, contained but few translations of Danish hymns, several individual efforts were made to supply translations in booklet form.  These pointed the way and prepared the ground for a larger effort, but could not satisfy the increasing demand.

It was also felt that the unity which the use of a common hymnal had hitherto helped to maintain in the church services of the two Danish Synods would be lost, unless they united in preparing a hymnal in the English language.

Hymnal for Church and Home, 3d. Ed. (1938), page 3

The Junior Hymnal for Church and Home (1932) helped in that cause also.

The 1938 edition of the Danish-American Hymnal provides a Communion service similar to the Bugenhagen rite from The Lutheran Hymnary (1913) and its near-clone, The Lutheran Hymnary (1935).  This makes sense, for, as I established in the previous post, Norwegian-American Lutheran synods used rituals based on Norwegian and Danish liturgies.  The 1938 edition of the Hymnal also contains the Common Service (Communion, Matins, and Vespers), responsive readings, Collects, Introits, and a two-year lectionary which assigns two readings per Sunday and major feast.  All that content fills 146 pages.

The Service Book and Hymnal became official in 1958, but to write of congregations keeping copies of the Hymnal for Church and Home on hand for certain Danish hymns and the traditional service does not stretch credulity, does it?  My copy of the 1938 edition comes with a booklet containing a slightly modernized version of the first Communion service glued inside the front cover.  There is no date on this booklet, but 1958 or later would be possible.  The Church is “Christian,” not “Catholic,” or “catholic” inside the Hymnal, but it is “catholic” in the booklet.  Yet someone scratched though “catholic” and wrote “Christian.”



Ethnic hymnody and liturgy added much flavor to U.S. Lutheran worship.  The transition to the Common Service of 1888 and to multi-synodical hymnals and service books reduced this variety yet did not eliminate it.  This was good, for variety is the spice of life.  If we were all alike, the world would be unbearably boring.







Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

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

Hymnal for Church and Home.  3d. Ed.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Lutheran Hymnary Including the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

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

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:

DeGarmeaux, Bruce.  “O Come, Let Us Worship!  A Study of Lutheran Liturgy and Hymnody.”  1995.

Faugstad, Peter.  “Centennial of The Lutheran Hymnary.”  In Lutheran Sentinel, May-June 2013, page 14.




56 responses to “Assembled in This Thy House: Danish-American Lutherans, 1870-1962

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