On the second Sunday of Epiphany we will sing, “We all Believe in One True God” is a powerful hymn which is a version of the Apostles Creed by Martin Luther, written in 1524. Following the outline of the Creed, the first verse is about the Father, the second about the Son, and the third, the Holy Spirit.
The music is based on a Latin chant for the Creed that dates back to the 1300s. Johann Walter (Blanckenmüller) (1496-1570) was a Lutheran composer and poet who wrote the expanded music in this hymn and perhaps harmonized this musical version of the Creed. Walter has the privilege of being the first editor of the first Protestant hymnal (1524) with a foreword by Luther, himself. Luther in the preface of this hymnal explains: “These songs were arranged in four parts to give the young – who should at any rate be trained in music and other fine arts – something to wean them away from love ballads and carnal songs and teach them something of value in their place.” This seems relevant to our day, as well.
As we sing this marvelous hymn in our own congregation, I always feel a sense of great unity, which I take to be the very point of the hymn. Not only because the Creed was to be the basic profession of all Christians and has been since the earliest days of the Church, but the music of Walter beautifully supports this as the first line is sung in unison, then breaks off into harmony: “We all believe in one true God” or “We all believe in Jesus Christ” or “We all confess the Holy Ghost.”
Can you sing the first verse by memory?
We all believe in one true God,
Who created earth and heaven,
The Father, who to us in love
Hath the right of children given.
He both soul and body feedeth,
All we need He doth provide us;
through all snares and perils leads us,
watching that no harm betide us.
He cares for us by day and night;
all things are governed by His might.