This, the second of the books purchased from Darius Petkunas, is half in English and half in Lithuanian. The first 237 pages in English explain the history of the East Prussian liturgical agendas. The last half presents the contents of those agendas in the Lithuanian language.
The church doctrine of Martin Luther did not provide the details of church rules or order of worship, i. e. liturgy, in the 16th and subsequent centuries. Originally, in Prussia the emphasis was not on a “comprehensive doctrinal statement” but rather to “reform liturgical practices.”A series of orders, always in the German language, evolved from 1525 Articles of Ceremonies (the date of secularization of the Teutonic Knights) to 1789 (the date of the last “Prussian Agenda” for the Lutheran church). The focus of this study includes the contribution of Lithuanian scholars and pastors who, as part of the ecclesiastical tradition, are credited with the contributing to the beginning of the written Lithuanian language.
The book is of interest to researchers who wish to expand their understanding of the ecclesiastical history of this area and, because of the discussion about the Prussian language, those whose names indicate a Prussian origin. Most publications discuss the political influence of various rulers. Not often is the influence of the church noted extensively.
Early importance to the new church was the instruction of the young and according to Luther’s belief that the pastors should have access to the written language of the people and that the gospel should be preached in the language of the listener. For this part of the world that included the Polish, Prussian, and Lithuanian languages. The problem was the find educated people to translate the contents of the “agendas”. Polish translations of German church orders were available in 1544, 1558, and 1568. Finally, a complete Lithuanian “Agenda” was published in 1730 and a Polish Agenda in 1731, both in Koenigsberg, the seat of power in East Prussia and home of the University of Koenigsberg.
But for the native Prussians, a written agenda in that language was never completed. There simply were no native speaking pastors to complete the translation and only baptism and marriage forms were “ever printed in their own tongue.”
By the end of the 16th century, the Prussians were worshipping in German. The lack of Prussian language liturgical forms and especially the Mass was perhaps not among the least important factors which led to the death of the Prussian language.
King Friedrich Wilhelm III helped create the 1822 Berlin agenda to counteract Rationalism in the Lutheran Church and to unite the Lutheran and Reformed congregations. In 1829 the 1822 Berlin agenda was imposed upon East Prussia, thus ending the East Prussian Liturgical Tradition.
Twenty-first century readers may be amused to discover that the 1825 Agenda was intensely disliked because it cut the length of the service to one hour! This might be alright for city folk, but for the rural church goers who had to walk long distances to church, one hour was simply not long enough (to rest, perhaps???). Complaints were also registered about the fact that hymns were now to be divided into stanzas, referred to in a derogatory way as “broken up hymns,” because the whole thought process was disrupted if certain stanzas were omitted! This was particularly disrespectful to Luther and Paul Gerhard, a great hymnist.