Wittenberg: An invitation to a singing communion

5 Jul 2024

The 500th anniversary of Luther’s first songbook was marked in Wittenberg with joyful song and music, which also marked a milestone in the journey towards a new global Lutheran songbook.

Dr. Uwe Steinmetz, who led the project since 2019, and Prof. Dr Dirk Lange, LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations, showing the new Global Songbook 2024. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller

Dr. Uwe Steinmetz, who led the project since 2019, and Prof. Dr Dirk Lange, LWF Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations, showing the prototype of the new Global Songbook. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller

New Global Songbook introduced as 500th anniversary of Achtliederbuch is marked

(LWI) - Five hundred years after the publication of Martin Luther’s first songbook, hymns and music from all corners of the world could be heard in Wittenberg, Germany. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is working on a new Global Songbook featuring hymns and chants from the seven geographical regions of the LWF and hymns expressing a shared Lutheran heritage.

Organized in eight sections, it echoes the Achtliederbuch (Book of Eight Songs) of Martin Luther, which was published in 1524. A draft of the songbook, featuring 200 hymns, was presented and launched at a conference in Wittenberg on 28 June. The hymns were in focus during a festive worship at the City Church of St Mary in Wittenberg and many were also sung in the Luthergarten following the service. The work on the Global Songbook has been led by Dr. Uwe Steinmetz.

The project choir of the Global Songbook 2024 participated in the worship service. Photo: GNC/Cornelia Kirsch

The project choir of the Global Songbook 2024 participated in the worship service. Photo: GNC/Cornelia Kirsch

“The Global Songbook 2024 celebrates the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s Achtliederbuch in a unique way,” said Prof. Dr Dirk Lange, Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations. “Just as Luther’s songbook pushed forward the reform of worship in the 1520s, so this Global Songbook seeks to awaken and renew the deep connection between liturgy and music in our day. It also invites us into the wonderful adventure of listening to one another across the LWF and growing ever more into a singing communion.”

The songbook “should and will build bridges – between us in the LWF communion and beyond,” said Bishop Kristina Kühnbaum-Schmidt, LWF Vice-President for Central Western Europe. “It will and should build bridges to God; it will help us to express our faith in song in a variety of ways.”

Representatives of churches with the first copies of the songbook. Photo: GNC/Cornelia Kirsch

Representatives of churches with the first copies of the songbook. Photo: GNC/Cornelia Kirsch

Hymns “create connection and community in a world that seems to be drifting further and further apart,” added Kühnbaum-Schmidt, who is also the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany. “Therefore, let us dare to sing new songs of solidarity, love, and mercy; songs of hope for God’s new world of peace and justice.”

Inspired by assemblies

Dr. Uwe Steinmetz has drawn on the worship life of the Twelfth Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, and the Thirteenth Assembly in Krakow, Poland. The assemblies “have shown that we have different approaches to music in worship and how hymns are sung,” said Steinmetz. They helped us “explore our Lutheran identity and reflect on music’s role in that respect. The Global Songbook encourages the LWF communion to join this exploration.”

A limited number of prototype books have been printed and shared with contributors, composers, and curators of the songbook. More will be made available during the fall.

Some songs are also available on the website of the Global Songbook in agreement with the respective authors. The next steps include collecting recordings of songs from different member churches and creating liturgical resources to accompany the book.

LWF/A. Weyermüller