Hymnology of the Swiss, French, and South German Mennonites

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The Swiss and French Mennonites never published a hymnal of their own, except the Ausbund (first ed., 1564), until 1955, when they joined in sponsoring the Neues Gemeinschafts-Liederbuch (Basel, 1955). The editorial sponsors (Herausgeber) are listed as the Mennonite Churches in Switzerland and Alsace, the Pilgermission St. Chrischona at Basel, and the Association of State Church "Gemeinschaften" of the Canton of Bern. Samuel Geiser, one of the elders of the Swiss Mennonite Conference, was one of the chief editors of this collection. This hymnal with its 436 hymns is of good quality, including 108 hymns taken directly out of the 1952 edition of the Gesangbuch der Evangelisch-reformierten Kirche der . . . Schweiz.

The Ausbund was used until the 19th century in the Swiss congregations, both Mennonite and Amish, by the congregations in Alsace and France, which were almost exclusively Amish, and by the Amish congregations in South and Middle Germany, the last European editions of this hymnal being issued in 1809 (Basel), 1815 (n.p.), and 1838 (Basel). The 1815 edition bears the title, Christliches Liederbuch der Schweizer Brüder. Between the dated editions of 1564, 1583, and 1622, all without place, and the edition of 1809 six other editions appeared, all without place or date, but three each in the 17th and 18th centuries, publication place for some editions being doubtless Basel. From the 6th edition on the basic number of hymns was 137. The last four editions added an appendix of five hymns and eleven Psalms.

The Mennonite congregations of South Germany began earlier to use the hymnals of the state churches. One of the most popular hymnals, both in Switzerland and adjacent areas, was Lobwasser's book of Psalms (first ed. 1573, after 1700 with many hymns added), while in the Palatinate the hymnal of the Reformed Electoral Palatinate (first ed. 1749) was long used. The first Mennonite hymnal of this area was Christliches Gesangbuch, zunächst für den Gebrauch der evangelischen Mennoniten-Gemeinden in der Pfalz (Worms, 1832), with 383 hymns, sponsored by the conference of this area, and edited largely by Leonhard Weydmann, pastor of the Monsheim Mennonite Church. It appeared in two editions. The edition with the above title was apparently issued by Jakob Ellenberger, pastor of the Friedelsheim congregation, since it has a preface by him. The other edition bears the title Christliches Gesangbuch, zunächst für die Taufgesinnten in der Pfalz. Although many of the hymns were printed with tunes, many were not given tunes. Hence Ellenberger published a lithographed book of tunes in four-part harmony for use with the hymnal. A second hymnal, containing the majority of the hymns in the hymnal of 1832, but with other hymns from other sources, was published by the two congregations of Bildhausen and Rottenbauer in Franconia (northern Bavaria), with the title Christliches Gesangbuch zunächst für Mennoniten. Herausgegeben von der Mennoniten-Brüder-Gemeinschaft in Unterfranken (Würzburg, 1839), with 575 hymns. The introduction to this hymnal refers specifically to the previous use of the state church hymnal: "For a long time the hymnal of the Reformed Electoral Palatinate, published in 1749 at Mannheim and Frankfurt, served us and our forefathers in public services and family worship." The final form of the South German hymnal was Gesangbuch, zum gottesdienstlichen und häuslichen Gebrauch in Evangelischen Mennoniten-Gemeinden (Worms, 1854), with 600 hymns, without music, edited by three preachers (with the help of the hymn writer A. Knapp), J. Molenaar of Monsheim, J. Risser of Sembach, and J. Ellenberger of Friedelsheim. It contained an appendix of 32 pages with prayers for family worship, and an index to the hymn writers, and was reprinted unchanged in 1876 at Kaiserslautern. The tunes were printed at Durkheim in 1856 in four-part harmony under the title, Vierstimmige Melodien zu dem Gesangbuch zum gottesdienstlichen und häuslichen Gebrauche in evangelischen Mennoniten-Gemeinden, lithographed, reprinted in 1874 at Durkheim, and again in 1897 at Waiblingen, slightly revised. The next edition of the Gesangbuch, edited in revised form by Christian Neff and a "Gesangbuchkommission," appeared in 1910 at Ludwigshafen with 575 hymns, a new tune-book (Choralbuch) accompanying it. This edition was reissued in 1950 at Ludwigshafen.

The only other hymnbook published in South Germany was the one sponsored by the Amish congregations, Gesangbuch zum Gebrauch bei dem öffentlichen Gottesdienst und der häuslichen Erbauung, zunächst für einen Teil der Mennoniten-Gemeinden beider Hessen, der bayr. Pfalz, Rheinpreussens und des Herzogtums Nassau bestimnit (Wiesbaden, 1843, reprint Regensburg, 1859), with 286 hymns, and an appendix of 102 hymns entitled Gesänge für Religion und Tugend, all set to four-part music. The introduction is at pains to explain why the "old" hymnal, meaning the Ausbund, was no longer serviceable.

Another aspect of the hymnology of Switzerland and South Germany was the publication of small separate collections of new hymns in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. An illustration is: Zwanzig neue geistliche Lieder, Das Erste: von einem Drucker Gesellen Thomas von Imbroich genannt, Aufs neue gedruckt Anno 1758, first edition at least as early as 1699. In at least one instance the Dordrecht Confession was combined with a collection of prayers and a collection of hymns to form a devotional manual, printed in 1686. The title page runs: Christliche Glaubens Bekentnuss ... wie auch Etliche Christliche Gebätt ... worbey gefüget Etliche Geistlich Lieder, Alles zu Erbawung, Auffmunterung und Lehr, unser Jugend zum besten gestellt und geordnet worden. Seven long hymns constitute the hymn section. Another edition of this same book appeared in 1691. One copy in the Goshen College Library contains bound with it the following hymn collections: Das Gebätt von Hans Rösch (Reist?) her, Darbey auch die fünf nachfolgenden Lieder zu finden; Ein Geistliches Lieder-Büchlein, Darinnen Diese zehen folgende neue Geistliche Lieder zu finden (after 1709); Zwanzig neue Geistliche Lieder (1758); Ein Send-Brieff samt einem schönen Gebätt und geistlichen Lied, Worbey noch etliche andere Christliche Gebätt ... Wie auch etliche geistliche Lieder. This section includes Unterricht vom Christlichen Singen just preceding the hymns. The Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Ind.) has several additional Sammelband volumes of similar character, one with many small hymn collections and single hymns, so that apparently this type of combination book was popular. It is possible that these "new spiritual hymns," as they are commonly called, were intended to supplement the Ausbund, which had more martyr hymns and fewer "spiritual hymns." It seems most likely that these materials were printed in Basel or Strasbourg from 1660 to 1760. This aspect of Swiss hymnology deserves a thorough study.

See also Church Music; Hymnology of the Anabaptists; Hymnology of the Mennonites in the Netherlands; Hymnology of the Mennonites of West and East Prussia, Danzig, and Russia; Hymnology of the North American Mennonites; Hymnology (1989)

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. "Hymnology of the Swiss, French, and South German Mennonites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 2 Mar 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hymnology_of_the_Swiss,_French,_and_South_German_Mennonites&oldid=102284.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1956). Hymnology of the Swiss, French, and South German Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 March 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hymnology_of_the_Swiss,_French,_and_South_German_Mennonites&oldid=102284.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 872-873. All rights reserved.

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