Original Research

‘Forming identity through Song’: How our songs in worship shape our theological identity: A study of Lutheran hymns and how they shaped German descendent Lutheran congregations

Gertrud Tönsing
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 1 | a1303 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i1.1303 | © 2013 Gertrud Tönsing | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 July 2012 | Published: 06 September 2013

About the author(s)

Gertrud Tönsing, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


How do songs and Christian hymns shape the identity and theology of Christian communities? How does the identity and theology of a Christian community shape the hymns that are written, sung and collected in song books and hymnals? This article explores these questions from the point of view of the author’s community, the German-descendent Lutheran communities in South Africa, and studies their main hymn book, the Lutheran hymnal from Germany (Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch [EKG]) which was used from the 1950s until the early 1990s in the congregations. It shows up the strengths and the gaps of these hymns which come from a theology with a strong focus on faith and trust, but a rather narrow personal morality, with the social ethics restricted to doing one’s Christian duty and praying for the government. Comparing this hymnal to the later hymnal published in 1990, the article shows, that some of the blind spots of one generation can be filled in by the next generation of songwriters.


Identity; song; hymnal; Lutheran; Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch [Lutheran church hymnal]


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