Academic journal article The Hymn

A Comparison of Forgotten Hymnals of Methodism from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia

Academic journal article The Hymn

A Comparison of Forgotten Hymnals of Methodism from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia

Article excerpt

In the early part of the twentieth century the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States initiated missions in the Baltic states. Subsequently it published three hymnals in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which do not appear in the history of the hymnody of North American or European Methodism.

All three of these hymnals included a preface by Dr. George A. Simons (1 874-1952 ),! the only American missionary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church assigned to the Baltic states and Russia. He was appointed to St. Petersburg, Russia, in the fall of 1907 as the Superintendent of the Russia Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Simons was an interesting scholar-pastor-poet-musician-publisher. He joined forces with a Finnish- Russian pastor, Hjalmar Salmi (1872-1936), who was born in St. Petersburg and educated in a Methodist theological school in Finland and assigned as the first Russian-speaking Methodist pastor to St. Petersburg in the spring of 1907. With Simons he began a flourishing Russian-language publishing program. This included translations of sermons by John and Charles Wesley, hymns by Charles Wesley, the General Rules, The Character of a Methodist, A Methodist Episcopal Cathechism, the brochure Who Are the Methodists and What Do They Want?, a quarterly newsletter Methodism in Russia, and the substantive periodical KhHstianski Pobornik ( Christian Advocate), which was published in St. Petersburg from 1910 to 1917 and later in Riga, Latvia.

In 1913 Simons published a Russian-language hymnal in St. Petersburg, which, according to his description, consisted of one hundred western hymns translated into Russian. Unfortunately, to date no extant copy of this hymnal has been found.

In 1918 Simons was forced to leave Russia due to comments he made regarding the Bolshevik Revolution at a hearing before the United States Senate. After a return to the United States, Simons was reassigned to Riga, Latvia, as the Superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Mission in the Baltic states and Russia. Once he was situated in his new position, he initiated a publishing program in the indigenous languages of the Baltic states and in Russian. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia all had been part of Imperial Russia and remained a part of Soviet Russia.

Simons recognized the importance of indigenous language hymnals for the worship life and witness of Methodist Episcopal congregations in all three Baltic states, and he engaged the efforts of linguisticallygifted local persons to compile and edit the first hymnals for Methodism in the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian languages. The hymnals are Lithuania: Lietuviska Giesmu^ Knyga Episkopales Metodistu. Baznycios (LIMEH) (Kaunas, 1923), edited by pastors Karlas Metas and Jonas Tautoraitis; Latvia: Dseesmu Grahmata Biskapu Metodistu baznizai Latwija (LAMEH) (Riga, 1924), edited by Eduard Kaimins; and Estonia: Lauluraamat Piiskoplikule Metodistikirikule Eestis (ESMEH) (Tallinn, 1926), compiled and edited by Hans Söte.

Lietuviska Giesmitt Knyga, Kaunas, 1923: The Lithuanian Methodist Episcopal Hymnal ( LIMEH)

LIMEH was heavily dependent on the Gesangbuch der Bischöflichen Methodisten Kirche in Deutschland und der Schweiz2 (GBMK), Hymnbook of the German Methodist Episcopal Church, published in 1896. Aside from the Lithuanian translations, original creations of Lithuanian authors and composers do not appear to be included. Since the text authors are not identified, however, it is possible that a few hymn texts are original in Lithuanian where they are not designated as originating from the GBMK The first line of the German text that has been translated appears at the beginning of each hymn followed by the hymn number in GBMK in parenthesis. Beneath the first line there is an indication of the tune. Savo gaida = same tune means that the same tune for the hymn in GBMK is to be used. If a different tune is to be used than the one associated with the text in GBMK, it is indicated after the word guida. …

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