About the ELW Hymnal

Getting to know the Evangelical Lutheran Book of Worship  (ELW)
12 articles explaining the Evangelical Lutheran Book of Worship




(Part 12 of a 12 Part Series)


“Thanksgiving” is the new speech of ELW, our cranberry hymnal.  In 2 Cor. 4: 15 St. Paul writes, “Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”  When the gospel comes, thanksgiving is the first response.  It is also our ongoing response.  In Phil. 4: 6 St. Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.”  A new option in our hymnal is to use “thanksgiving for Baptism”, (p. 97) at the beginning of the service in place of “Confession and Forgiveness”.  Then as a reminder of the gift of baptism the assembly may be sprinkled with water during the singing of the “Gathering Song”.  One of the names for Holy Communion is “Eucharist”, a Greek word meaning “Thanksgiving”.  Before the Lord’s Supper is share, the presiding minister lead the assembly in the “Great Thanksgiving”  (p. 107)  and continues with the “Words of Institution” or “Thanksgiving at the Table” which includes praise to God for creation and salvation, remembrance of the crucified and risen Christ, and a prayer for the Holy Spirit.  Just as thanksgiving to God pervades our times of public worship, it should also be a part of our daily lives.


Additional Orders of Service available in our new hymnal

(Part 11 of a 12 Part Series)


The Christian community at worship celebrates God’s gift of baptism in a number of ways.  The sacrament itself normally takes place in the midst of the worshiping assembly as a sign that in baptism we are made one with Christ and with the whole people of God.  On behalf of the whole church, we welcome new sisters and brothers, promise to support them, and confess our faith with them.  Although a person is baptized once, the gift of baptism continues throughout a Christina’s life.  Instruction in the life of discipleship is part of the preparation for those who are to be baptized or for their parents and sponsors.  The ongoing nurture of that faith is part of the congregation’s ministries of formation, education, service and evangelical witness.  Additional orders of service provide several ways by which God’s people in worship may participate in the lifelong gift of baptism.  They are “Welcome to Baptism” (p. 232), “Affirmation of Baptism”  (Confirmation) (p. 234) and “Confession and Forgiveness”  (. 238).  


The Hymns in our New Hymnal

(Part 10 of a 12 part series)
Our new hymnal includes 650 – 700 hymns and songs.  About three-fourths of them have the complete musical accompaniment so that we can sing them in harmony.  A smaller number of the hymns have just the melody and text.  Why?  Some hymns are intended to be sung in unison rather than in parts.  Also with just the single notes, the melody is easier to follow.  Our hymnal contains more hymns for Holy Communion than in earlier resources.  Some hymns have a refrain which lend themselves to meditative singing, for instance, as people are gathering or as Holy Communion is shared.  Some hymns have at least one stanza of a second (usually original) language such as “Silent Night” (German) and “Children of the Heavenly Father” (Swedish)  Some hymns come from the international Christian community of Korea, China, and Africa.  Our hymnal includes about 30 bilingual Spanish/English hymns, reflecting the fasted-growing part of our church today, and enriching us all.

150 Psalms in our New Hymnal
(Part 9 of a 12 part series)

The psalms are the oldest “hymnal” we have.  All 150 psalms are included in our new hymnal.  The revised text version preserves much that is memorable from our green hymnal.  In addition it updates and clarifies new insights from Bible and language scholars from Lutheran seminaries and elsewhere.  Some congregations choose to sing the psalms to a psalm tone.  ELW includes some that are familiar from the green hymnal as well as a few new psalm tones.  (pp. 337 – 338) Singing the psalms reflects the way in which they were originally used in synagogue worship.  All of the psalms are pointed using an easy-to-read style.  The song of the Christian assembly has its roots in the psalms of the Hebrew people.  Jesus’ own praying relied on the psalms.  The apostle Paul encouraged the faithful to sing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”  (Col 3: 16) Martin Luther considered the psalms the summary of all scripture, speaking to many situations and allowing the expression of a wide range of human response such as adoration, praise, thanksgiving, lament, confession, intercession, and teaching.  The psalms proclaim hope and faith, yet make room for deep distress and questioning.


Prayer Section is available in our New Hymnal
(Part 8 of a 12 part series)


Prayers are an important part of our new hymnal.  A new three-year cycle of Prayers of the Day offers fresh ways of connecting with the biblical and liturgical context of every Sunday and festival.  The Prayers of the Day appear as a separate section on pp. 18 – 63.  Prayers for Worship are printed on pp. 64 – 71 and Additional Prayers relating to Worship, the Church, Congregational Life, Mission, Civic Life, Governments, Nations, Social Ministry, Stewardship, Creation, Life Passages, Daily Life, Healing, and Spiritual life are printed on pp. 72 – 87.  Consider using some of these for your private devotions or when leading devotions for your family or a small group.


 New Resources that are available in our New Hymnal
(Part 7 of a 12 Part Series)


 Our new cranberry hymnal provides us with new resources that were not included in the green hymnal.  It has all 150 psalms.  It provides the complete liturgies for Ash Wednesday, Sunday of the Passion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter.  In addition there is a service of Healing, a service of Welcome to Baptism for those preparing for this sacrament, expanded prayer resources, informative introductions to services, and appendixes such as Luther’s Small Catechism and a three year daily lectionary.  Over 200 new hymns and worships songs have been added.  This doesn’t mean that congregations need to use all of these, but the hymnal is a collection of materials that will provide most or all of what is need for the assembly’s worship.


The Liturgies in the hymnal are Grounded in Scripture
(Part 6 of a 12 part series)


Are you aware that much of the liturgy in our new hymnal is grounded in scripture?  A section called SCRIPTURE AND WORSHIP (pp. 1154-1159) lists key biblical passages that shape the whole of the language through which God’s people pray, sing and address both God and one another.  For example, in the liturgy of Holy Communion we sing “Glory to God” with angels from Luke’s gospel or “This is the Feast” using images and language from the Book of Revelation.  We sing psalms and pray the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught us.  We gather around the table remembering “the night in which he was betrayed”.  We share the peace of Christ and with that same peace we are sent to “share the good news”. Just as biblical preaching participates in the creating and transforming power of God’s own word, so biblical language, imagery, and action draw us into God’s saving story.




How is our New Hymnal organized?
(Part 5 of a 12 part series)


Our new hymnal may be confusing in regard to its organization.  It is actually two volumes in one.  Thefirst part is resources for liturgical worship.   Numbering in this part of the book is at the bottom of each page, and red tabs on the outside edge of the pages divide the major sections.  The second part consists of resources for assembly song.  It begins with all 150 psalms and then has service music and hymns with some national songs appended at the end.   The numbering in this part of the book uses large numbers at the top of each item:  red numbers for the psalms and black numbers for the service music, hymns and songs.



Art and Pictures in our New Hymnal
(Part 4 of a 12 Part Series)


You may have noticed that there are many visuals in our new hymn book.  There are 8 frontispieces commissioned especially for this volume:  The Church Year (p. 12), Holy Communion (p. 89), Holy Baptism (p. 223), Lent and the Three Days (p. 245),  Life Passages (p. 271), Daily Prayer (p. 293), the Psalms (p. 333), and Service Music and Hymns (#151).  These add visual meaning to our hymnal and help us to navigate the volume easily.  Consider the frontispiece for Holy Baptism (p. 223).  The water is wavy, indicating immersion.  The candidate is being pulled up out of the water and two people are waiting with a towel and a garment.  Some are holding candles.  The background has four pictures: Moses commanding water from a rock, a rising sun (suggesting creation or Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning). Noah’s ark and the rainbow, and Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.  The backdrop is octagonal suggesting the 8th day.  All of these images remind us of biblical connections to Holy Baptism.




Some New Terminology in Our New Hymnal

(Part 3 of a 12 part series)

Our new hymnal uses the word “assembly” instead of “congregation”.  Why?  It’s because the Lutheran confessions describe the church in terms of the worshipping assembly.  Article VII of the Augsburg Confession states  “It is taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy, Christian church.  It isthe assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.”   “Assembly” expresses well the nature of the church as ekklesia, a Greek biblical word for the church, that has at its root the meaning “called out”.  The word “assembly” is also practical.  Not everyone attending worship on a Sunday morning is a member of the congregation. Some are inquirers; some are visitors from other congregations.  The word “assembly” includes them.  The book is also used in the settings of a college campus, retreats, or church gatherings where people from many congregations are represented.




Why are there Ten Liturgy Settings in the New Hymnal?
(Part two of a 12 Part Series)


There are 10 musical settings to the basic text used for Holy Communion in our new hymnal.  Why so many?  The Introduction to ELW (P. 7) states,  “A growing awareness of the interrelatedness of the world, coupled with new understandings of the world’s diverse cultures, has had implications also for the church as  the one body of Christ throughout the world.  The use of language continues to develop in response to context and societal change, as does the use of more than one language in worship.  Forms of musical expression have blossomed, and churches have embraced many of these forms for use in worship.”   The 10 musical settings reflect this diversity.  Congregations may choose the musical setting which they feel are best for them.  African American Lutherans may choose setting 6 which includes music from their heritage. Spanish speaking Lutherans might choose the Spanish words and music of Setting 7 (pp. 175 – 183). Congregations with a “contemporary service” might choose Setting 8 (pp. 184 – 192) which presents the most well known examples from the recent generation of this type of music together with music especially composed for ELW.  The intent is to offer diversity and yet have a basic unity as we worship one Lord.


Why a New Hymnal?
(Part one of a 12 Part Series)


The Evangelical Lutheran Book of Worship, the cranberry hymnal, was published in October, 2006.  Why a new hymnal?   The Introduction on pp. 6 -7 states,  “The Christian assembly worship in the midst of an every-changing world.  And because the worship that constitutes the church is also a fundamental expression of the mission of God in the world, worship is regularly renewed in order to be both responsible and responsive to the world that the church is called to serve.”  The church is always in the process of translating the gospel into the vernacular.  The green hymnal switched from “Thee” and “Thou” to “You” and “Your” when praying to God.  This hymnal expands our worship language b using a variety of biblical images for God.  All 150 Psalms in the book are a fresh translation by biblical scholars form our seminaries and elsewhere.  Luther’s Small Catechism  (pp. 1160 – 1167 of the hymnal) was translated by Timothy Wengert in 2000.  These and other changes are done to make this worship resource fresh and timely.



"Music is a fair and glorious gift of God" Martin Luther