A Hymn of the Old Order

By Sauder, Myron K. | The Hymn, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Hymn of the Old Order

Sauder, Myron K., The Hymn

If there is one hymn that deserves the title of "signature hymn" of Anabaptist faith, and that deserves wider use, it is the hymn "O Gott Vater, wir loben dich" ("Our father God, thy name we praise"). It is an old hymn, but it remains popular. In fact, the Old Order Amish sing it during every Sunday worship service. Several other Anabaptist groups, including the Old Order River Brethren, also use the hymn in translation.1 This essay will describe the origin of the hymn, discuss its meaning in the context of Old Order thought and practice, and describe the Old Order style of singing it.

The hymn finds its origin in the Netherlands during the sixteenth century. Leenaerdt Clock, its author, was a "Mennonite preacher who moved from Germany to Holland around 1590."2 Not much is known about him apart from his writing. He composed four hundred hymns along with devotional literature, published several songbooks, and worked at drafting documents of faith to bring together the German with the Dutch Mennonites.3 Clock's hymn became a fixture when it appeared in the 1622 edition of the Ausbund.

The Ausbund is a German -language hymnal noted today for its long use by the Old Order Amish. The earliest segments of the book appeared in 1564 as poems written by Anabaptists imprisoned for their faith. Although only the Amish use the book today, many Mennonites have used it in years past.4 Thus, this hymnal has the distinction of being the longestused Christian hymnal ever - nearly four hundred fifty years of continuous use.

The Old Order Amish retain the German language in their worship services and use a German dialect ("Pennsylvania German") in their daily life. The other Old Order groups, who have abandoned their mother tongue, retain English versions of the hymn. The translation used by the Old Order River Brethren is by an English Baptist minister, Ernest A. Payne (1902-1980). His translation was published in 1962 in the British Baptist hymnbook and also in the American Baptist hymnal of 1975.5 The translation moved into Old Order circles via the 1969 Mennonite hymnal.6 Currently the Old Order River Brethren sing it from their 1980 edition ?? Spiritual hymns.7

Although this context - sixteenth -century Holland - is the time and place from which the hymn descends, it is to the meaning of the hymn in the Old Order River Brethren context (the context most familiar to the author) that this essay will turn next. Today, local thought and practice take the old hymn and add new meaning to it.

For example, the direct reference to voices (in the English version) can be read to support unaccompanied singing. Among the Old Order groups, a cappella singing, often in unison, stands unquestioned as the appropriate way of bringing public worship to God. Standard practice marginalizes musical instruments to the home or to informal group settings. Traditionally, "singing" and "music" were strongly separated.8 The former was acceptable in worship, while "music," meaning musical instruments or even singing in harmony, was (or still is) unnecessary or harmful.

The word "assembled" also brings to mind a concept that used to be an Anabaptist distinctive. It refers to a voluntary assembly, a "free church" (versus a "state church," established and supported with the help of the civic leaders). In fifteenth -century Europe, the first- generation Anabaptists pioneered this concept in the middle of the religious upheaval of the time. These radicals agreed somewhat with Martin Luther and others who were rejecting their religious authorities and beginning a new way of being church. Very few of these reformers, however, implemented or even conceptualized much of a change in the relationship between church and state.

A radical fringe did so. Their concept of a "free church" called them to reject some of the deepest structures of society, including the infant baptism that initiated all members of society into the state church.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Hymn of the Old Order


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?