Above: Panoramic View of Decorah, Iowa, Circa 1908
Copyright Claimant = Brunt & Parman
H116196–U.S. Copyright Office
Image Source = Library of Congress
CARL DOVING (MARCH 21, 1867-OCTOBER 2, 1937)
Norwegian-American Lutheran Minister and Hymn Translator
I collect hymnals from different denominations for several reasons, including the fact that variety in hymnody interests me. Variety is the spice of life with regard to hymns, for it guards against a generic, vanilla sensibility in church music and texts thereto. Hymns which Carl Doving (1867-1937), or, as The Service Hymnal: A Lutheran Homecoming (2001) misspells his last name, “Dovig,” translated are most likely to appear in hymnals of denominations with a Scandinavian or German heritage, for he rendered texts from Scandinavian and German sources into English. These English-language texts are products of a finely honed mind, the intellect of a skilled linguist, and a deep trust in God.
Doving, a native of Norddalen, Norway, lived in Norway, South Africa, and the United States of America. In 1883, ag age 16, he moved to the Natal, South Africa. There Bishop Nils Astrup, a missionary of the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SNELCA), educated him. Our saint taught at Astrup’s Schreuder Mission, Untunjambili, for a few years before emigrating to the United States at age 23 in 1890. He studied at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, for three years, graduating in 1893 then commencing studies at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1896. Along the way to becoming an ordained minister of the SNELCA then its immediate successor, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), wrote three books from his experiences in South Africa:
- Billeder fra Syd-Afrika (1892),
- Blandt Zuluerne i Syd-Afrika (1894), and
- Izihabelelo (1896).
The last book was a volume of Zulu hymns; the first two were apparently about missionary efforts among the Zulus, according to the scant information I found online.
My sources–books, secondary websites, and primary sources I accessed via Internet searches–helped me to establish some dates in Doving’s career, but not as many as I would have preferred. I do know the following, however:
- Doving served a churches in Red Wing and Montevideo, Minnesota. He was serving at the congregation in Montevideo in 1902.
- In 1903 the SNELCA asked Doving to undertake missionary work among the Zulus. I have found no indication of his reply.
- By 1905 Doving was serving as pastor of the First Scandinavian Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York, New York. He remained there through at least 1911, perhaps 1912.
- Doving served as a visiting pastor in Freeborn County, Minnesota, in October and November 1912, overlapping with the long-term tenure of Olof Hanson Smeby (1851-1929) there. By then Smeby and Doving had concluded their service on the committee for The Lutheran Hymnary (1913).
- Doving’s final assignment was as city missionary in Chicago. This work was well underway by 1916. One of our saint’s duties was visiting people in hospitals. Many of them were immigrants not fluent in English. Fortunately, Doving was fluent in German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Greek.
Above: The Conclusion of the Preface to The Lutheran Hymnary (1913)
Scanned from the 1935 edition of The Lutheran Hymnary by Kenneth Randolph Taylor
Doving applied his linguistic abilities to translating German and Scandinavian hymns also. Some sources I consulted indicated that The Lutheran Hymnary contains 32 of his translations. I counted hymns and wrote down titles, however, and arrived at a different number–37.
Above: An Article from the Mason City Globe-Citizen, Mason City, Iowa, March 6, 1934, Page 16
Obtained via newspapers.com
The Lutheran Hymnary and users thereof benefited from our saint’s large hymnological library and extensive knowledge of hymnology. Doving donated that library to Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, in 1934. Since 1997 the custodian of said library has been Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. That library contains thousands of hymnals and books about hymns in more than 300 languages and from six continents. The oldest book in the collection dates to the middle 1600s; the most recent volume comes from the early 1900s. It is a collection which a recognized expert in the field of hymnology assembled.
Carl Doving (D.D., Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, 1931), died at Chicago, Illinois, on October 2, 1937. His hymn translations survive, and not only in out-of-print hymnbooks. My survey of germane, current hymnals reveals the following count of Doving texts, in descending order:
- Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996)–16;
- Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994)–11;
- Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1993)–5;
- Lutheran Service Book (The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 2006)–3;
- The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook (The Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1996)–2;
- The Service Book: A Lutheran Homecoming (unofficial, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2001)–2;
- Celebrating Grace Hymnal (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 2010)–1;
- Chalice Hymnal (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1995)–1;
- Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2006)–1;
- Moravian Book of Worship (Moravian Church in America, 1995)–1;
- The New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ, 1995)–1;
- The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1985)–1;
- Trinity Hymnal–Baptist Edition (Reformed Baptist, 1995)–1; and
- Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, 1990)–1.
I checked many other current hymnals in my collection and found no Carl Doving texts in them.
The top two hymnals on the list come from denominations with a dominant Norwegian heritage. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod formed in opposition to the merger which created the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), which merged into The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987). The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations is the remnant of The Lutheran Free Church, which merged into The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987) in 1963. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also has a strong Norwegian heritage.
Denominations with strong German roots include the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church in America, and the United Church of Christ.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has strong Swedish and Danish roots, as well as Icelandic and Finnish heritages. Hymnals of Swedish and Danish immigrant denominations had a stronger Scandinavian hymnody than non-ethnic U.S. Lutheran hymnbooks have had, beginning with the Service Book and Hymnal (1958). The Evangelical Covenant Church of America has Swedish immigrant roots.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has an ethnic Finnish constituency also.
Our saint left a fine legacy, one which continues to benefit people.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 29, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS
THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENNA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN
THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially Carl Doving)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN