Singing the Gospel offers a new appraisal of the Reformation and its popular appeal, based on the place of German hymns in the sixteenth-century press and in the lives of early Lutherans. The Bohemian mining town of Joachimsthal--where pastors, musicians, and laity forged an enduring and influential union of Lutheranism, music, and culture--is at the center of the story.
The Lutheran hymns, sung in the streets and homes as well as in the churches and schools of Joachimsthal, were central instruments of a Lutheran pedagogy that sought to convey the Gospel to lay men and women in a form that they could remember and apply for themselves. Townspeople and miners sang the hymns at home, as they taught their children, counseled one another, and consoled themselves when death came near.
Shaped and nourished by the theology of the hymns, the laity of Joachimsthal maintained this Lutheran piety in their homes for a generation after Evangelical pastors had been expelled, finally choosing emigration over submission to the Counter-Reformation. Singing the Gospel challenges the prevailing view that Lutheranism failed to transform the homes and hearts of sixteenth-century Germany.
All historians and scholars of music and worship will profit from the insights Christopher Boyd Brown provides into the way the Reformation affected the practice of religion in the Lutheran town of Joachimsthal: in the schools, the churches, the sermons, the homes, and the actions and convictions of specific men and women. A well-written and informative study.
In this engagingly written book, Brown argues that one vital means to the success of the Lutheran Reformation in implanting evangelical ideals and practices is to be found in the pervasive use, both in church and in the home, of Lutheran hymns. Gladly embraced by the laity, these hymns engendered what Brown calls 'a shared religious culture' that shaped and sustained Lutheran identity through some very difficult times. Singing the Gospel is an important, original contribution of interest to general readers as well as Reformation scholars.
Christopher Boyd Brown has investigated the Lutheran hymnic aspect of the town's history in this engaging study. Analyzing a range of sources, Brown makes a compelling case against those who have argued that the Lutheran Reformation failed "to create a new kind of devout Christian among the popular masses."
Brown's Singing the Gospel truly peels back the layers of one historical context in the age of the Reformation to show how important Lutheran hymns were to the spreading the Gospel. It is a unique and valuable study.
Christopher Boyd Brown's Singing the Gospel is a stimulating contribution to the discussion of popular religion and the role of music in the Lutheran Reformation...This book is an excellent example of sound interdisciplinary research embedded in a fascinating study of the history of one Lutheran town, appealing to historians, pedagogues, theologians, musicologists and general readers alike.
Professional and lay readers have needed Brown's book--a judicious, detailed consideration of the use and penetration of Lutheran hymnody into the lives of early Lutherans based on a local study that traces exactly how pastors and teachers approached the process of "teaching" the Reformation--for a long time. Its argument: a sharp challenge to the thesis propounded a generation ago by Gerald Strauss about the "failure" of the Reformation, and, by extension, to scholars whose work supports it...Brown's effective organization, engaging prose, and transparent and exhaustive use of sources (which will facilitate scholars' evaluation of his evidence) recommend this book as an essential purchase not only for libraries but also for classrooms and private use--not unlike the hymnals its author analyzes.
This book is overflowing with...careful analysis...It should be read as an unusual story, told as truthfully as an idealized narrative can be, but undergirded by painstaking, skilful, and dedicated research.
A great new book...Singing the Gospel challenges the prevailing view that Lutheranism failed to transform the homes and hearts of sixteenth-century Germany.
- Harvard University Press
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