O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord: The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)   15 comments


Above:  Trinity Lutheran Church, Altenburg, Missouri

Image Created by the Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = HABS MO,79-ALBU,3–2




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


O come, let us sing unto the Lord:

let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.

–The Venite from Matins, The Common Service (1888), as contained in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), page 33



In the first post in this series (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/muhlenbergs-dream-the-road-to-the-common-service-1748-1888/) I covered the material from 1748 (the founding of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania) to 1788 (the approval of the Common Service).  Then, in Part II (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/the-missing-canon-the-common-service-1888/), I wrote about the Common Service itself.  Parts III-X cover the span of 1888-1941, culminating with The Lutheran Hymnal.  The Common Service had, with the adoption of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), become nearly universal among U.S. Lutherans.  By 1941 the liturgy was either THE Sunday ritual or a ritual in most current and official U.S. Lutheran service books.  The process of becoming universal was not, however, without some controversy.

One might want to read a previous post about Missouri Synod liturgies (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/my-soul-doth-magnify-the-lord-missouri-synod-liturgies-1847-1940/) before proceeding with the rest of this one.  I refer also to Norwegian-American Lutheran bodies, which I discussed in another previous post (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/that-by-thy-grace-we-may-come-to-everlasting-life-norwegian-american-lutherans-1853-1963/).

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 Lutheran Hymnal (1941), hereafter abbreviated as TLH (1941), stands alongside a few other books of its sort as milestones in twentieth-century U.S. Lutheran history.   Those volumes include:

  • The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), by Norwegian-Americans;
  • the Common Service Book (1917), by predecessor bodies of The United Lutheran Church in America;
  • The Concordia Hymnal (1932), by Norwegian-Americans;
  • the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), by predecessor bodies of The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America;
  • the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), by predecessor bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and
  • Lutheran Worship (1982), by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS).

TLH (1941), still in use in some Confessional Lutheran congregations of various denominations, is a classic product of the late Synodical Conference (1872-1966/1967).  At least three current Lutheran successor hymnals of TLH (1941) echo it.  They are, in chronological order:

  • Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (1993), by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS);
  • the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996), by The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS); and
  • the Lutheran Service Book (2006), by The LCMS.

TLH (1941) succeeded three hymnals-service books:

TLH (1941) expanded on parts of all three books and contracted others.  Absent were former services and many Scandinavian hymns, replaced by more German hymns and the Common Service.  These facts caused consternation among many members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).  So there was an adjustment period required.  And many ELS congregations continued to use The Lutheran Hymnary (1913) instead and some WELS Lutherans complained that the services in TLH (1941) were too formal.  Yet TLH (1941) became to many Confessional Lutherans what The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and The Hymnal 1940 became to many traditionalist Episcopalians and Anglicans:  the gold standard.



The Calendar, found on page 3, provides the usual well-developed Missouri Synod church year plus two notable additions:  the Feasts of Saint Mary Magdalene (July 22) and the Holy Innocents (December 22).  Alas, there is no Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle yet.  But at least the next hardcover book in the series, Lutheran Worship (1982), has that.

The services come from the Common Service of 1888.  There are four rituals:

  • The Order of Morning Service without Communion;
  • The Order of Holy Communion;
  • The Order of Matins; and
  • The Order of Vespers.

And the Church is still “Christian,” not “Catholic,” in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.  It becomes “catholic” in later LCMS resources, Worship Supplement (1969) and Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion (1970) yet reverts to being “Christian” in subsequent Missouri Synod books, Lutheran Worship (1982), Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998), and the Lutheran Service Book (2006).  And the Church remains “Christian” in the present worship materials of The ELS and the WELS.

This seems like an excellent time to consult the writings of Luther D. Reed and Philip H. Pfatteicher, two great scholars of Lutheran liturgy.

Reed, in his magisterial studies, The Lutheran Liturgy (1947 and 1959), writes that German Roman Catholics referred to the Church as “Christian,” not “Catholic,” liturgically even before the Protestant Reformation started and that Martin Luther retained the practice.  Yet Lutheran liturgies from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and France referred to the Church as “Catholic.  Nevertheless, my studies of pre-1958 Scandinavian-American English-language liturgies have revealed the use of “Christian,” not “Catholic” or “catholic.”  So I suggest that anti-Roman Catholicism was a prominent reason for that practice.  Reed considers the use “Christian” in the Creeds something

to be regretted.

(1947, page 285; 1959, page 302)

I agree.

The Nicene Creed, as printed in TLH (1941) and, for that matter, the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), begins:

I believe in one God….

That translation follows the Latin text, as Pfatteicher writes in Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), but the Greek translation uses the first-person plural form instead.  So, if one follows the Greek form of the Nicene Creed,

We believe in one God….

TLH (1941) also offers the following:

  • The Athanasian Creed;
  • Introits, Collects, and Graduals;
  • Invitatories, Antiphons, Responsories, and Versicles;
  • Prayer;
  • Canticles;
  • Psalms;
  • a one-year lectionary, which assigns an Epistle and a Gospel reading per Sunday and major feast; and
  • a two-year lectionary, which assigns three readings per Sunday and major feast.

A three-reading variant on the one-year lectionary appears in Lutheran Worship (1982), the Lutheran Service Book (2006), Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (1993), and the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996), always with an inter-Lutheran three-year lectionary.  The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996) adds to that variation on the one-year lectionary two  more series (years, really), each with two readings per Sunday and major feast.  The old one-year lectionary retains its hold on many people, despite the fact that the three-year lectionary covers much more material.  Who, claiming the standard of Sola Scriptura, could object to that?



The Missouri Synod, having published TLH (1941) just a handful of years before the development of the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) began, declined to participate in that multi-synodical volume, the subject of the next post, U.S. Lutheran Liturgy, Part XI.  Yet the LCMS did begin the process which led to the next multi-synodical service book and hymnal, the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), a volume which the Missouri Synod helped to create then rejected.  So the denomination cloned and altered the rejected book, calling its version Lutheran Worship (1982), the pew edition of which I plan to review.







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:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1917.

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.

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

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

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

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Pfatteicher, Philip 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.

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.

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

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.



15 responses to “O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord: The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)

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