Pilgrimage: Between longing and belonging

At the beginning of any pilgrimage there is a spiritual quest, an unrest coupled with a longing for a transformational experience, for a renewed and deepened faith, a “reaching out to transcendence." The twentieth century with two world wars and manifold ongoing national and local conflicts was full of social and cultural unrest but also inspired new beginnings and spiritual movements in global Lutheranism as a result of substantial crisis and failure of the institutional church.

However, Pilgrimage requires not only a sense of longing but a sense of belonging. A feeling and idea of a spiritual home and a vision to frame the unknown that is encountered through the pilgrimage into the already known, the daily life before, along and after the pilgrimage. By giving up the known for the unknown, we lose the awareness of God´s graceful work through the holy spirit in our present life. By placing God in the sphere of the unknown, God is missing in the area of what is known which gets continually broader in our age which is driven by producing new knowledge. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer summarizes: “We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know.”

Between longing and belonging, the unknown and known, search and constraint, true pilgrimage begins: A temporary home for a rest, a rock on the side is found in the Lutheran heritage of hymns and rites, in communal memories of worship in different places and cultures throughout the centuries. A pilgrimage towards the religious essence of what it means to be a Christian today, carried by a rich heritage with an open heart to embrace the unseen and unheard as sign posts to encounter and understand God´s journey with us.

Pilgrimage comes, as any journey, not without struggle and challenges for the travelers. Artists who create religiously inspired music and poetry that acts as a testimony of personal faith experiences often wrestle with established religious traditions and search for an expression of their spiritual experiences outside of church liturgies and beyond church walls: in the concert hall, their writing desk or the theatre.  These ways of religious expression can lead to a pilgrimage towards a religious tradition and participation in liturgical practices for them and their audience and inspire also new or altered liturgical elements in worship.


Following these considerations, Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024 includes in the Pilgrimage section works from musicians, poets and priests who have extended their work beyond church walls. It collects songs for Lutheran liturgies from artists who perform them outside of the liturgy, and liturgical elements such as gathering, prayers, and blessings, which connect in their meaning to established rites of their respective cultural tradition. The ability of liturgical forms to invite contemporary aesthetics in song and rite can also ultimately lead to a transformation of these liturgical forms. In this case, a transformation stimulated from integrating contemporary culture. The next two sections, Freedom and Belonging center on a change stimulated from within, from the need to formulate established liturgical elements and music on eye level to the respective contemporary culture.