Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Brethren Hymnal

The first Brethren hymnal is a 1720 volume of which only five copies are known to exist.

1720 is only twelve years after the first baptisms and the birth of the new church in Schwarzenau, Germany. The hymn book was printed at Berleburg, near Schwarzenau, and contains German texts of hymns then being sung by separtist and pietist groups in Europe. It also contains a few hundred new hymns apparently written by Brethren. The preface to the hymnal explains that some worshippers did not like having to choose from many different hymnals. The hymn book contains a hymn by Alexander Mack that continues to be sung by Brethren today: "Count Well the Cost." It also contains hymns that celebrate such specific Brethren practices as the love feast and feetwashing.

1720 was a year when two well-known German composers, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, were both in their prime at age thirty-five. It is a time, especially in Germany, when baroque music is flourishing.

The 1720 hymnal, printed only twelve years after the beginning of the Brethren movement, is tangible evidence of the importance of hymn writing and hymn singing among Brethren.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, by Kenneth I. Morse