Holy Art Thou: The Service Book and Hymnal (1958)   14 comments

Service Book and Hymnal (1958)

Above:  My Copies of the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) and The Lutheran Liturgy (1959), July 22, 2013




Holy art thou, almighty and Merciful God, Holy art thou, and great is the majesty of thy glory.

Thou didst so love the world as to give thine only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life; Who, having come into the world to fulfill for us thy holy will and to accomplish all things for our salvation, IN THE NIGHT IN WHICH HE WAS BETRAYED, TOOK BREAD; AND WHEN HE HAD GIVEN THANKS, HE BRAKE IT AND GAVE IT TO HIS DISCIPLES, SAYING TAKE, EAT; THIS IS MY BODY, WHICH IS GIVEN FOR YOU; THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.


Remembering, therefore, his salutary precept, his life-giving Passion and Death, his glorious Resurrection and Ascension and the promise of his coming again, we give thanks to thee, O Lord God Almighty, not as we ought, but as we are able; and we beseech thee mercifully to accept our praise and thanksgiving, and with thy Word and Holy Spirit to bless us, thy servants, and these thine gifts of bread and wine, so that we and all who partake thereof may be filled with heavenly benediction and grace, and, receiving the remission of sins, be sanctified in soul and body, and have our portion with thy saints.

And unto thee, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory in thy holy Church, world without end.  Amen.

–The Prayer of Thanksiving, as printed on page 11 of the Service Book and Hymnal (1958)



This post, being Part XI of an ongoing series, flows from previous entries, links to which I have provided here:  https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/guide-to-posts-about-lutheran-worship/.



The Service Book and Hymnal (1958), prepared and authorized by eight denominations, superceded five official hymnals-service books:

  1. The Common Service Book (1917), of The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA);
  2. The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925), of the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church; used also by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1930;
  3. The Hymnal for Church and Home (1927, 1938, and 1949), of the two Danish-American synods, The United Evangelical Lutheran Church and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church;
  4. The American Lutheran Hymnal (1930), of The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960); and
  5. The Lutheran Hymnary (1935), of The Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The Service Book and Hymnal also superceded (for the hymnody, at least), The Concordia Hymnal (1932), which The Lutheran Free Church did not authorize but did encourage the use of as its unofficial hymnal.

One of the functions of multi-synodical U.S. Lutheran hymnals and service books has been to foster unity.  Thus new hymnals-service books across denominational lines have preceded mergers.  Examples include:

  • The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), four years before the merger;
  • the Common Service Book (1917), one year before the merger;
  • the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), before mergers in 1960, 1962, and 1963; and
  • the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), nine years before the merger.

The second American Lutheran Church formed by union in 1960; The Lutheran Free Church joined it three years later.  And the Lutheran Church in America came into existence via merger in 1962.  Thus the Service Book and Hymnal (hereafter abbreviated as SBH), became the hymnal of two denominations.



In 1944 the ULCA, pondering the revision of its Common Service Book (1917), resolved to cooperate with as many Lutheran bodies as possible in creating the next hymnal-service book.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, having published its Lutheran Hymnal in 1941 (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/o-come-let-us-sing-unto-the-lord-the-lutheran-hymnal-1941/), declined to participate.  The Joint Commission on the Hymnal, organized in 1945, got down to work with Dr. Luther D. Reed as the chairman.

Aside:  Reed’s account of the preparation process in The Lutheran Liturgy (1959 edition) is thorough without being tedious.  I, seeing no need to paraphrase all of that account here, refer my readers to that fine volume.

Among the issues the representatives of the eight denominations needed to resolve was the plethora of minute differences in their respective variations of the Common Service.  Muhlenberg’s dream of “one church, one book” lived in the minds of many who labored to make the SBH.  When all was accomplished, the Joint Commission had prepared a revolutionary yet traditional resource–a milestone of U.S. Lutheran liturgy.



The SBH (1958) contains 314 pages of liturgy and 602 hymns.  This volume, the new book of worship for about two-thirds of U.S. Lutherans, deserves much analysis, a short version of which follows.  The complete, book-length analysis comes courtesy of Luther D. Reed, in the 1959 edition of The Lutheran Liturgy.

The SBH Music Edition contains only part of the ritual.  Other material, such as the occasional services, comes bound separately and in the Text Edition.  I am writing based on the Music Edition, which refers one to the Text Edition for

the whole body of liturgical services.

–page x

The Calendar looks familiar from the Common Service Book (1917), with two additions which attract my attention.  All Saints’ Day (November 1) and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (1958) are new.

The Common Service is present, excluding all other rituals for the Holy Communion.  There are, however, two major differences between this variation on it and the 1888 original version:

  1. Although the Church is still “Christian” in the Creeds, there is a footnote which mentions that the use of “catholic” is “the traditional and generally accepted text.”  Reed’s disapproval of the continued substitution of “Christian” for “catholic” notwithstanding, at least he got an asterisk and a footnote to make an accurate point.  It was a partial victory.
  2. There is now a Lutheran Canon/Prayer of Thanksgiving.  Reed had proposed one in the 1947 edition of The Lutheran Liturgy (pages 336-337) after arguing for the existence of such a Eucharistic Prayer (on pages 331-336).  His 1947 proposed Prayer of Thanksgiving resembles the 1958 Prayer closely, for he and Paul Zeller Strodach collaborated on the final version, which I reproduced at the beginning of this post.  Variation of the 1958 Prayer of Thanksgiving appears in the Missouri Synod’s Worship Supplement (1969) and Lutheran Service Book (2006), the ecumenical Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

There are also the usual prayers and services one expects in such a Lutheran book:  Matins, Vespers, Collects, Introits, Baptism, Confession, Burial of the Dead, and Marriage.  The lectionary, which supports the services Eucharistic and otherwise, is a one-year cycle with three readings per day.



As I ponder the SBH in historical context, I recognize it as an intermediate step.  The Nicene Creed is still in the first-person singular and the Church is still “Christian,” for example, but that began to change by the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Most importantly from a liturgical point of view, the restoration of the Canon was a great step forward, one which the Missouri Synod accepted within eleven years, and which other more conservative synods have continued to reject.  Nevertheless, the ultra-conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) added the canon to a service in its Christian Worship:  Supplement (2008).

The SBH was a great advance, one on which that which followed during the next twenty years built and expanded.

Next:  Lord of Heaven and Earth:  The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).







Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

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.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Fevold, Eugene L.  The Lutheran Free Church:  A Fellowship of American Lutheran Congregations, 1897-1963.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.

Hymnal and Order of Service, The.  Lectionary Edition.  Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Book Concern, 1925.

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

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

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

Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee.  American Lutheran Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Columbus, OH:  The Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

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

Pfatteicher, Phiip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

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.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

I also found some PDFs helpful:

Christian Worship:  Supplement Introductory Resources.  Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2008.

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

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.

Zabell, Jon F.  “The Formation of Function of WELS Hymnals:  Further Conversation.”  For the National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, July 2008.




14 responses to “Holy Art Thou: The Service Book and Hymnal (1958)

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