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A Lutheran Educator’s Review of “Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns”

Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, and Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns

St. Louis: CPH, 2019. 

Vol. 1, 1643 pages; Vol. 2, 931 pages. $179.99, hardcover.

Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns is a two-volume set that contains a wealth of helpful knowledge for Lutheran educators. While Volume 1 offers valuable educational components by way of History, Theology, Poetry, and Musical analyses, this review will especially highlight Volume 2 as a rich resource for the Lutheran educator.

Volume 2 is an amazing resource! The opening essays contain a wealth of information. The first seven essays discuss the hymns of LSB in their place in the history of the church. The following three essays provide information about Lutheran hymnals and the “story” of LSB. Two excellent essays follow with broader application of hymnody into the life of Faith, including practical application. Another historical essay provides background on the hymn of the day, emphasizing the importance of the main hymn of the service as a reflection of the readings and liturgy of the particular Sunday on which it is sung. Three practical essays follow that might seem at first glance to be mostly of interest to Kantors and Pastors, but also have application to educators, particularly in selecting hymns to teach the children.

Barbara Resch’s essay at the end of Volume 2 should be essential reading for any Lutheran educator! To quote Resch in her essay “Singing Hymns at Home and School”:

Teaching hymnody to our children is a natural part of their upbringing in the faith. Along with the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Catechism, and the stories of God’s work throughout history, the hymns that have sustained and uplifted the Lutheran Church for centuries also form part of the core body of their religious understanding. Hymns sung by children therefore need to be authentic and truthful expressions of what we would have them believe. Learning the hymns and liturgy from LSB puts these words in their mouths. (Volume 2, page 165)

There follows practical suggestions and an invaluable chart of core hymns categorized by age appropriateness. 

The “Biographies” section of Volume 2 includes short but comprehensive biographies of authors, composers, and even arrangers of the hymns. The quality of research is evident by the use of primary sources referenced after each biography. Students will benefit from researching the background of the people who wrote the texts and music of the hymns they sing.

Following the “Biographies” section, Volume 2 contains even more “educational gold”! For example:

  • Hymn Performance Suggestions include guidance for part singing, tempo suggestions, and other comments regarding successful singing of the hymns in LSB.
  • Indexes of Biblical Sources, Historical Periods, and Recordings of hymns are valuable aids for educators seeking to place hymns in context and to listen to fine singing.
  • The indexes of Authors, Translators, Composers, and Arrangers include the usual alphabetical listing, but they also include a chronological index of Individuals and an index by month and day of birthdays! What a wonderful resource for celebrating the contributors to LSB.
  • An Index of Texts and Tunes organized by historical category. Teachers of History will find this index helpful in bringing together the general study of history and the place and expression of the church’s worship in history.

In summary, the LSB Companion is a full library of resources. An educator could purchase many different books and still not have the comprehensive collection of devotional aid, history, musical analysis, practical guides, and organizational aids that are contained in these two volumes.

Janet Muth

Kantor

St. Paul Lutheran Church and School

Hamel, IL