Book: Rejoice! A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
Sydney: The Presbyterian Church of Australia, 1987. Available from the PCA, G.P.O. Box 100, Sydney 2001
For the first time, Presbyterians in Australia are singing from a book produced in Australia for the Australian Church. This hymnal of 639 songs contrasts greatly with the Australian Church's previous song tradition, which still included the Scottish Psalter of 1650, the Scottish Paraphrases of 1781, and The Revised Church Hymnary. An appendix to Rejoice! lists the 361 numbers retained (though usually altered) from those collections (20,21, and 320, respectively). The new collection, in which psalms and hymns are integrated, features many textual changes and a great variety of musical styles.
The Rev. D. F. Murray, convener of the eight-member committee that worked on the hymnal, has provided a 37-page "Companion to Rejoice!" which contains descriptive information about the book, suggestions for use, a topical index, and a listing of four to five songs each for morning and evening services for the entire church year, following the Book of Common Order lectionary.
Rejoice! integrates the psalm and Scripture paraphrases with the hymns in a four-part structure, "God: His Being, Works, and Word"; "God's Divine Son: The Lord Jesus Christ"; "God's Covenant People: The Church"; and "The Christian Life." "Occasional hymns" (marriage, harvest, national) and several table graces, doxologies, and benedictions close out the book. The usual indexes are included (on unnumbered pages) and the ICET versions of the Lord's Prayer, Apostles' Creed, and Nicene Creed appear inside the back cover.
For new and revised texts, the committee relied most heavily on Hymns for Today's Church. One hundred and ten texts were taken from that 1982 English publication that broke new and controversial ground in text revision and provided many new hymns and Scripture versifications. Therefore, both traditional and contemporary British and Scottish hymn writers are well-represented. Nowhere have the editors indicated that the older texts have been revised, but almost all were. "The Committee felt that the time had come to eliminate the beautiful but archaic idiom of so many hymns. Consequently, all but two of the hymns have been put into modern English" ("Companion," p. 6). The committee also revised thirty-five psalter texts from the 1959 Psalter Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Since they worked apart from the revision committee that produced the 1987 Psalter Hymnal, this committee's revisions are different— rather conservative, but carefully and well done.
This hymnal offers a wide variety of musical styles, including tunes from traditional English and continental sources as well as music from folk and contemporary popular composers. Chords were included for every song. One hundred tunes were used more than once (ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT and JERUSALEM four times each).
In the first edition of Rejoice! the harmony is printed with one stanza of the text, followed by the entire text printed as poetry. Because the pages (8 1/2" x 5 1/4") are rather cramped, the texts are sometimes completed overleaf; organists will welcome a planned larger edition with no texts "over the page." A smaller pew edition of melody only is also planned.
Rejoice! was prepared in response to the 1982 mandate from the General Assembly to provide an Australian hymnal. The stimulation caused by producing a book with so many new texts and musical styles and the care with which the committee worked with the churches will undoubtedly result in renewed worship which offers more vigorously the prayers and praise of God's people in Australia.