Aims, challenges and the Anthropocene

A brief glimpse into a rain forest...

Our age is often called the Anthropocene, grounded in the realization of many scientists that humans are the dominant force driving change in the world through factors such as the global population boom, the expansive transformation of the landscape and the vast exploitation of natural resources which cause among other things global migration waves and rapid climate change.

Consequently, as much as religious traditions and individual spirituality still play a decisive role in shaping the self-image of human beings, these processes of faith-formation often occur in a dynamic process of an individual pilgrimage towards a personal faith in constant tension to the contemporary world. While the traditional liturgies and the Lutheran musical heritage can be a safe spiritual haven for some, particularly for those who grow up in it and experienced a formation of a religious identity and a sense of belonging, but provide for the other a cause for alienation for example by a perceived tension to the modern world.

Today, many congregations in in all regions of Lutheranism face not only the question how but if the generation of their children and grandchildren will celebrate a worship service in the Lutheran tradition. Therefore, many churches engage in reformational processes of transforming their current liturgies and the content of their present hymnals. Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024 draws from these processes of renewal and the idea of a pilgrimage towards personal faith by centering on a common ground of three emerging themes connected to the age of the Anthropocene. The following three fields will be explored in their particular Lutheran context in conferences and consultations throughout the working process of this study and built the theoretical backbone of the publication:

(i)      Postsecularism: From outside of church walls to a pilgrimage deepening faith
(ii)     Christian ethics: The meaning of freedom and the quest for beauty?
(iii)    Liturgical studies and ecotheology: mobile/nomadic liturgies in new spaces

The Achtliederbuch 2024 aims to offer a balanced overview of a rich spectrum of artistic expressions within the global Lutheran community with a focus on these fields. However, collecting and documenting music and liturgical elements on a global scale comes with the many inherent challenges and limitations of a multinational study.  How to address properly cultural diversity of the global body of Christ in the Lutheran tradition without a predominant Eurocentric point of view and what can be guiding cross-cultural criteria that do not exclude a priori already contributions from different parts of the world?

The recent worldwide celebrations of the Reformation anniversary in 2017 as well as the ongoing global ecological and pandemic crisis situation both underline the relevance of being in dialogue and communal learning from each other in local and global contexts within the fellowship of Christians of different cultures, and simultaneously, provide an encouragement to search for a cross-cultural common ground. The question of Lutheran identities implies identifying trans-cultural connections that can at the same time establish local scopes of action without playing cultural diversity and assimilation off against each other. Religiously inspired music inside and outside of churches and transformational liturgical elements both serve together in providing the common ground of this project. This can be audible in the different ways: how the same Luther chorale is arranged and performed in different musical cultures or how the same liturgical rite, for example a blessing,  is celebrated in different regions of global Lutheranism.

The common ground of a shared heritage brings multiple blossoms and fruits. Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024 as a snapshot of present global Lutheranism, aims to only catch some specific seeds and some overly ripe fruits next to well known popular blossoms in full bloom - at best, a brief glimpse into a rain forest in constant becoming and passing away of lament, hope and praise to the one trinitarian god.