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Book: Voices: Native American Hymns and Worship Resources

The Native American Hymnal and Worship Resource Committee. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1992.94pp. Available for $9.95 from Discipleship Resources, PO Box 189, Nashville, TN 37202; (615) 340-7284.

Two publications dealing with Native American worship resources were published this year. The first, entitled Voices, is a product of the United Methodist Church, a leader among denominations in providing resources from many different traditions. Marilyn M. Hofstra, of Choctow and Chickasaw heritage, directed the project.

For many years Hofstra has gathered songs, stories, and resources from a variety of Native American groups. This collection includes material from about twenty different nations and tribes of the more than 250 language groups of Native Americans, and represents a first among multitribal worship books from mainline churches.

The first section of Voices contains thirty-six hymns. Eleven are well-known ecumenical hymns translated into a number of Native American languages: for example, 'Amazing Grace" (8 languages); "Jesus Loves Me" (2), and "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" (5). A few texts are translated from English and sung to a native tune ("Come Thou Fount" to a Chippewa tune), but most of the songs are wholly original. The challenge for presenting these songs was in transcribing the melodies using traditional staff notation and providing a common alphabet for the many different languages. The editors used a "common phonetic transliteration," along with a pronunciation guide.

English texts are provided as well, either in translations (which can be sung to the native melodies, such as the examples included in this issue of RW on pages 43 and 44) or in paraphrase. The paraphrases are a disappointment, in that it is impossible to sing the English texts to the Native melodies, thereby rendering these songs unusable for English worship services. An English poet with musical gifts to craft the English texts to the melodies would have made this collection much more useful.

The second section of Voices (18 pages) contains a variety of worship resources, including calls to worship, prayers, litanies, stories, and parables from many Native American traditions. As always happens when the old truths are told in ways new to us, our eyes see new visions of God at work, especially in and through creation and the work of the Spirit. For all churches interested in celebrating the communion of the saints in a fresh way, this resource, used with care, will be helpful.