Linda Staats: HomeGrown Faith - Reformation

Songs of Faith

(This page is written specifically for the Lutheran audience, but other denominations that are products of the Reformation may tweak ideas found here to fit their particular tradition.)

A Facebook posting of the photo of a collection of hymnals at American Lutheran in Grand Junction, CO brought an unexpected number of replies and exchanges. It triggered the idea for a Multi-Generational, All-Ages Learning Exchange on a Sunday morning, instead of an age-segregated Sunday School. One could also weave some of the ideas presented here into worship.

WHY a Multi-Generational Celebration?

Many believe that our hymns have often divided the generations when it comes to worship. A multi-generational celebration is an attempt to bring the generations together to share the treasures of faith through songs of faith.Staats Workshop --13

When communities of faith bring adults, in all stages of life, together with children of all ages, to interact and learn – the experience is richer for everyone. Stories are shared, faith is nurtured, and authentic, caring relationships flourish.

“Lutherans, The Singing Church”

Since the time of Martin Luther, the Lutheran Church has been known as “the singing church.” Our worship and celebrations have been enriched by a collection of liturgies, choral works, and hymns through which we express our faith.

In addition to many other reforms, The Lutheran Reformation restored the Church’s song to the people and established a rich musical heritage, which continues today.

Martin Luther loved music and was responsible for writing many hymns. His most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” for which he wrote both the text and music, is usually sung on Reformation Sunday.


1. Planning Team
Invite 5-7 people representing a minimum of 3 generations to form a team to plan and host the celebration. Include voices from the ethnic groups, youth and young adults involved in your congregation, as well as the oldest members of the congregation.

2. Display of Hymnals
Create a display of hymnals that reflect your congregation and denomination’s history, similar to the one created by American Lutheran, Grand Junction, CO.  Engage members of the congregation in collecting and creating the display

DSC04852Since hymnals in general reflect the history and tradition of the churched and maybe 3-4 current generations, be creative about how you will represent the popular tunes those 35 and younger listen to and the devices used to listen to current songs of faith. (Add an iPod or Smart Phone to the display).

In everything you plan, think about the guest for whom this might be a first experience in any kind of faith community, let alone your specific faith tradition.

Invite individuals to bring personal hymnals or favorite song books that include songs of faith.

Plan a time during worship or the Learning/Gathering Time for sharing of stories and memories associated with the hymnals. (See ideas presented in “Multi-Generational Learning Exchange” below.)

3. Worship Planning
Plan to sing favorites from each generation and cultural favorites OR hymns from each Hymnbook era. Include timeless children’s songs, sung by heart.

If lots of voices in your congregation, invite a different generation sing each verse of “A Mighty Fortress.” Check out this full organ offering including the words. If you have few voices to sing, then use the full organ “sing-a-long” version with wonderful photos to accompany the words.

4. Multi-Generational “Songs of Faith” Learning Exchange
(This takes the place of Sunday School/Learning Hour. Or plan an extended celebration time this particular Sunday with food etc.)

Invite ALL ages/generations.

Encourage parents to bring children of all ages. Offer child-care for those 3 and younger, as an option. Or create a cozy corner in the large group gathering space, with pillows, books and quiet toys. Be intentional intentional with invites and offering of rides to elders. The meaningfulness of this Sunday increases with a broad representation of generations, especially elders and wisdom keepers of the congregation.

How will you include the generations that are most often missing in your congregation? OR- do you take this idea to the local coffee shop or pub for a Sing-a-Long of old, traditional songs of faith?

Interaction Options (Choose from the following menu of ideas based on the time you have allowed)

A. Circle of Blessing

Invite everyone to make a circle beginning with the oldest ones present. Begin with inviting those in 80’s and 90’s to stand, as they are able. Honor them for their faithfulness and for knowing hymns by heart!
Next ask those in 60’s-70’s to stand and continue making the circle. Continue calling up each generation, or decade, to join in the circle. Finally invite those ten and younger.

If Reformation Sunday sing a robust verse of “A Mighty Fortress.” (project words or shared hand-outs)

If you have sung AMF in worship, then teach and sing this fun alternative.  Sing to the tune of Davy Crockett:
Born in Eisleben Germany,
Wrote against the pope when he was 34,
Nailed 99 to the Wittenberg Door,
And set us free, forever-r more. Marty, Marty Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church!

B. Small Group Caring Conversation Time
Goal is to form small groups of 5 people of varying ages and generations.

DSC04879If you formed a Circle of Blessings, count off around the circle by the total number present, divided by 5).  [Ex: 100 present, so count off by 20]  The youngest of children (4 or 5 and below) are counted as one unit with their parent/care-giver. All like numbers gather in a small group. (Should be no more than 5 in each group, with at least 3 generations represented). Pull chairs closely together so all can easily hear. Introductions by name in each small circle.

Share with one another his/her favorite hymnal, or favorite hymn or song of faith. Why? Memory of?

On what type device does each listen to music? (Radio/computer/smart phone/iPod)

When not at church, does he/she sing or listen to songs of faith? Where? When?

C. Hymn Sing by Generation (This is fun and meaningful! Need at least one-half hour or longer for this part.)
Have people gather in groups by generation or same decade. If a small congregation you might combine two decades or generations to make a viable small group. If any generational group has more than 12-15 in it, then divide folks into 2 or more smaller groups.

Have children ages 10-17 in one group. Those 9 and younger go to another room or corner with several older youth or adults with whom they are familiar. If few children, then all ages, 3-17, form one group.

Each group is to spend time having each person share their favorite hymn or song of faith. When sharing is complete, group is to decide on one song/hymn to sing as a group, a song that represents their generation or group’s interests. Give each group several minutes to quietly practice the song they have chosen.

Call everyone back together as a large group. Each group will now sing their chosen song for the entire gathering. Begin with elders and move to the children.
Conclude with a song everyone knows.


I guess I best remember the “red” hymnal. Still love the liturgical settings in it. • Blue LCMS – oh my. I was an organist at 13 – still remember some of the liturgy and hymn numbers. • Red. • Hey, Blue here, too. LCMS  • The Lutheran Hymnal, LCMS. In my home church it was red, but it was also bound in blue. The ‘Lutheran Worship’ 1982 was also blue • SBH for me. Still miss it. • Green!! We got a blue supplemental hymnal at some point, too. • Great memories from all our hymnals, but especially LBW. As I drove a van full of kids to camp in S. Dakota, our then, new Assistant Pastor (also on the review committee) sang all the new & some of his favorite hymns from his advanced copy.  • Black…. the very first one I remember was small and had just the words, no music. • The Brown one • Green…I’m a youngin! • SBH. • Since I grew up in the LCMS, a blue copy of the 1941 TLH. But I think there was a green Lutheran hymnal in German that belonged to my Grandmother- Walther’s Hymnal? • This photo is missing several hymnals from Pre-ELCA churches. Concordia Hymnal 1932- blue -ELC- Norwegians. Hymnal For Church and Home-black-1928-Danes. American Lutheran Hymnal 1930-black-green-red-brown ALC. Common Service Book and Hymnal, 1917- black- ULC. Cool! • Black Common Service, Blue Parish School, Red SBH • The Lutheran Hymnary, 1935. Ours were black, not blue as in the picture, and had a cross logo on the front cover. • I like to use foam puppet hymnals I made to teach about change in the church over the years (Debbie Streicher)