Das Vaterunser

UPDATE: “Das Vaterunser” is now available for purchase at CadenzaOne.com! Click here to view and order.


I’ve been working on a reunion of the group with whom I spent the summer of 1988 in Germany. Fifteen American students from Samford spent over two months in Germany, spending two weeks each in four cities doing evangelistic work. In each city, we were paired with a Jugendchor of the same size as ours (or slightly larger) with whom we sang in the streets and in schools during the day, and in the Zelt at night for a two-week tent meeting (Zeltevangelisation). We were helping to plant and/or strenthen churches belonging to the Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden in Deutschland.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of that incredible summer. We are marking it with a reunion as a part of Homecoming activities at SU.

The last city in which we worked was Bebra. The Bebra Gemeinde at the time did not have a Jugendchor of its own, so the Jugendchor from the city of Tuttlingen did exactly what we were doing: they left home and traveled to Bebra, staying there with us for two weeks and working on the Zeltevangelisation with us. We all stayed together in the same Jugendherberge (in Rotenburg an der Fulda) and we all became very close.

Before we parted, the Tuttlingen group gave us a gift: a song. It was a simple, yet very moving, setting of das Vaterunser. The simplicity of the song, the timeless meaning of the text, and the humility of these beautiful friends and co-laborers, was too much for us to bear. There was not a dry eye among us after they finished singing. Their director, Klaus Wielsch, presented our director, Dr. Black, with the music. Dr. Black gave me a copy, and as soon as I got back home in the States, I sat down to write a poetic translation so the whole A Cappella Choir could sing it the next school year.

Here is a video of that very occasion, when the Jugendchor from Tuttlingen shared this song with us. Thanks to Chip Colee for providing the video.

That next summer, the whole Choir went back to Germany for a concert tour. One of our first stops: Tuttlingen. When we got off the buses at the Gemeindehaus in Tuttlingen, all our old friends came out to greet us. The Samford Choir, not simply fifteen students this time, but some 65 voices strong, stepped of the buses, encircled our Tuttlingen friends, and sang das Vaterunser, this time auf Englisch. It was hard to finish singing it, we were so emotional. The song had come full circle, and we were all back together again.  We were one.

In our day and time of “worship wars”, it seems that music is the main point of contention in the church. Music is what divides Christians. “Are you traditional or contemporary?” “Do you go to the 8:45 service or the 11:00 service?” But God has other ideas about music. God has other ideas about us.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all . . .

Standing there in Tuttlingen, giving das Vaterunser back as a gift to those who had first given it to us, we experienced the power of music as God designed it: the power it can have to bring together people who, culturally, are quite different. People who normally are separated by thousands of miles, separated by language, by traditions, by politics.  In Christ, we are one.  Das Vaterunser showed me that.

There is no male nor female, no slave nor free, no Jew nor Greek, but you are all one in Christ . . .

Vaterunser, der du bist
Hoch im Himmel droben,
Gib daß wir, zu aller Frist,
Deinen Namen loben.

Laß dein heilig Reich ersteh’n
Hier auf dieser Erden;
Was du willst, das soll gescheh’n
Dir zum Ruhme werden.

Gib uns heut’ das täglich Brot,
Stärke unser Leben;
Tilg der Schulden Last und Not,
Wie auch wir vergeben.

Vor Versuchung uns bewahr,
Vor der Macht des Bösen;
Von dem Übel, vom Gefahr,
Mögst du uns erlösen.

Dein ist alle Herrlichkeit,
Kraft in deinen Namen,
Dein das Reich für alle Zeit,
Und auf ewig, Amen.

Now, the way I translated it in 1988 as a 21 year old is not exactly how I translate it now, as a 41 year old. I’ve had a few years to mull it over. I’ve now got a seminary degree and some twelve years in the ordained ministry under my belt too. Here is my poetic translation now, with two options for the middle stanza, one for general use and one for Eucharistic use. (The original is in a perfect 76.76 metre: my translation is irregular in the first two stanzas, yet it fits the music of the original.)

God, our Father, Thou who art
Up in heav’n above,
Grant that we may evermore
Praise Thy Name of wondrous love.

Let Thy holy kingdom come
Down to earth below;
May Thy sovereign will be done,
That Thy justice all may know.

(Version 1) For the strength and pow’r to live,
Daily bread now give us,
As our debtors we forgive,
Our debts now forgive us.

(Version 2) Feed us now with heavn’ly food
From Thy holy altar;
Teach us, our forgiving Lord,
To forgive each other.

Save us from all evil ways,
Keep us from temptation,
From all danger, Lord, we pray,
Be Thou our salvation.

Thine be glory and all pow’r,
Heav’n to us is open;
Thine the kingdom evermore,
Thine forever, Amen.

Denn dein ist das Reich und die Kraft und die Herrlichkeit in Ewigkeit.



About revjatb

I am a father of six who is trying to do his best! My interests are varied. I have one blog, KnowTea, that is primarily focused on liturgy and worship and another one, Bengtsson's Baking, that is about, well, baking! I hope you enjoy both of them, and if you have any questions, please contact me!
This entry was posted in Bible, Church, Music, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Das Vaterunser

  1. PaulB says:

    Great story. First time I’ve heard it!

  2. Bif says:

    Beautiful! I really appreciate your insight on the “music wars.”

  3. Dennis says:

    John — We used your arr. of Der Vatuerunser at our wedding in ’93, at the B’ham Botanical Gardens. Thanks for the backgroud — Tim, Wanda, Cynthia Fields + a bass were our wedding music.

  4. Pingback: I need to post something.

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