Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lutherans Stop Buying Books

Augsburg-Fortress, the ELCA's publishing house, lost $200 grand in the first quarter of the year, after having expected to make more than $700,000.  The reason is their new hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

ELW was introduced in 2007, and sales were huge -- for a while.  Then people actually looked at the thing.

Anyway, that's one theory.  Another is that Augsburg is chronically ill-run.  We expect the management has another theory altogether, something about aliens or Baptists (six of one), or maybe just a nationwide recession.  Could be something to that last one.

But we at the Egg have been using ELW for over a year now, and we can't claim to be happy.  It's an impressive book, in many ways, with some admirable features:  ten Mass settings, improved harmonies on the hymns, and very attractive graphics.  A good collection of Eucharistic Prayers.  

But the ELW Psalter is so badly translated -- or rather, paraphrased -- that we cannot use it for congregational worship.  The collects -- which in Cranmer's translation quickly became a treasure of the English language -- have with each succeeding modernization grown duller and dimmer.  ELW's collects are a cold, brutalized relic.  Because of its super-thin paper, the book is able to squeeze in many services that once would not have been included in a pew edition -- but most of them are in such an abbreviated form that their inclusion here does no real good, since a separate printed version is required.

We use the ELW, except for the Psalms, because of our Nordic commitment to doing the right thing even (or especially) when it hurts.  But we can see why sales might droop a bit.

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