Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Seeking a book about Lutheran hymn writer Paul Gerhardt October 16, 2010

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SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I met a nice woman from Washington. Well, I didn’t actually meet, meet her. Rather she e-mailed regarding an article I wrote about homelessness in Faribault. That piece published in the September issue of The Lutheran Witness, the national magazine of The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Anyway, aside from the fact that Donna and I each attend LCMS churches, we also share a love of books.

“I am a book worm! I love books!” this West Concord, Minnesota, native wrote in one of many e-mails we exchanged. “I love to get books into people’s hands!”

Notice all those exclamation marks at the end of Donna’s sentences. That’s absolute proof to me that this retired library aide enjoys books.

Donna had a purpose for mentioning books to me. She wanted to buy an ad on Minnesota Prairie Roots seeking a specific book, Paul Gerhardt—His Life and His Hymns by William Dallman. Concordia Publishing House published the now out-of-print volume in 1921.

The problem: I haven’t yet reached the point of selling advertising on this blog. Believe me, I’d like to earn some money considering all of the time and effort I invest in blogging, but…for now it remains a passion of mine with no financial return.

But back to that book and Donna’s request. Although I’ve been a Lutheran all of my life, I’m not a musically-educated Lutheran. I cannot read a note nor do I know much about the Lutheran musical heritage. However, I can sing, from memory, all of the words to my favorite hymn, “Beautiful Savior.”

This, of course, does not help Donna. I offered to publish this post with the hope that someone out there—and you don’t even need to be Lutheran—has a copy of Paul Gerhardt—His Life and His Hymns. This musically-knowledgeable Lutheran wants to give the book to her pastor during October, Pastor Appreciation Month. If you can’t make that deadline, Donna’s fine with that. She has other ideas and can wait until next October.

Donna has already tracked down a few copies of the elusive 80-page rather plain brown book, so copies are out there. She found one for her church library and, after advertising elsewhere, located one in Great Britain. But the price is higher than she’s willing to pay. A retired pastor in Oregon also has the book, but it’s written in German. She wants English.

So, if you have an English copy of Paul Gerhardt—His Life and His Hymns e-mail your contact information in a comment (which I will not publish) and I’ll forward it to Donna in Washington.

I’m sure if you ask, Donna will tell you that Paul Gerhardt, born in 1607, was trained to be a Lutheran pastor at Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther studied a century earlier. Gerhardt wrote more than 130 hymns including “Come Your Hearts and Voices Raising,” “Upon the Cross Extended,” “Awake My Heart With Gladness,” “Evening and Morning,” “I Will Sing My Maker’s Praises” and “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow.”

Right off hand, I can’t say those hymns sound familiar to me. Remember, though, I’m no musician, simply a Sunday morning singing Lutheran.

Donna’s pastor, however, based his March 2010 Lenten sermons on Gerhardt’s life and hymns, using those as a window into the life of Christian devotion. That explains why Donna wants this certain book for her clergyman’s private collection.

So if you have a copy of Paul Gerhardt—His Life and His Hymns by William Dallman, in English, not German, e-mail me now.

Danke Schöen.

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HERE’S ANOTHER INTERESTING story from my new Washington friend. Donna volunteers at her church library and her daughter, also a bookworm, gave her a book, Hymns of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for the Use of English Lutheran Missions, published in 1896 by Concordia Publishing House.

Said daughter bought the book for $1 at an American Association of University Women book sale.

But here’s the really odd, coincidental connection to me. Inside the book is the name Martha Schultz, Faribault, Minnesota, and the date, January 10, 1903.  So…, if anyone in Faribault, where I’ve lived since 1982, knows anything about Martha, Martha’s ownership of this book and how it ended up in Washington, Donna and I would very much like to know. Send me a comment.  Thank you.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling