For years missianaries from North America exported Western hymns. New Christians learned songs that were often foreign to their cultures. Usually these non- Western Christians adapted the hymns~moving pitches, changing rhythms and tempo, and wing instruments very different from the organ to accompany their singing.
Confession, in one form or another, has always been part of the Christian life and church. In the days before the Reformation, confession took place privately: first one went to the confessional and then to Mass. When the Reformers began to study the prayers of Scripture and of the early church, they began a radical reform of public prayer. The Reformed Church of Strasbourg developed two core prayers for the worship service: The General Confession and the Prayer of Intercession.
During the fall season many North American Christians attend two celebrations. One is a commemoration of the past—of the sixteenth-century Reformation of the Christian church. The other is a national celebration of thanksgiving—a day of praising God for the ways 1 which he has blessed us in the past and the present.
In most churches September is the start of a new church school year. The children of the church will again gather every Sunday morning to sing praise and to learn about God and his people. Adults will meet to study God's Word and to discover new ways of living their faith. Even in churches that hold church school all year long, September is often a time of beginnings—new classes, new students, new teachers.
Whenever he went out, Rev. Meersinkwore a beret-that was the problem.Oh, it wasn't the beret really, Marlenethought. The beret was merely asymbol of Meersink's inability to outgrowthe sixties: he always had to be different.
When it came to music, for example, Meersink wasn't content with the books in the pews. He kept running off new hymns and handing them out with the bulletin, giving the impression that he'd spent hours treasure-hunting through a hundred flashy books from Texas, looking for some new ditty that would bring on a revival single-handedly.
May we change "Deck Thyself, My Soul with Gladness" to "Clothe Yourself…" or "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" to "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer" or "Faith of Our Fathers" to "Faith of Our Parents"? May we revise old hymns because they offend us theologically? May we alter them because they include exclusive language or concepts children cannot understand ("What does 'Here I raise my Ebenezer' mean?") And if we do start altering and revising, how far may we go? What are the poetic rights of the original author?
If you do all these things, you are pretty busy. Now here's my question. When is the best time I can talk to you. I know you are always listening, but when will you be listening hard in Troy, New York?
Church is alright but you could sure use better music. I hope this does not hurt your feelings.
Can you write some new songs?
I began writing hymn tunes the same year that I began directing my first church choir. I was looking for hymns that would serve as choral closings for a service, and I grew frustrated. Although I found some excellent evening hymns, they were set to some very disappointing tunes. So I brashly decided to do something about it: I composed my first hymn tune for "The Day Is Past and Over," a song I found in The English Hymnal.
Versifying a psalm might sound simple. After all, psalms are poetry—how much effort can it take to make them singable? But as anyone who has tried can tell you, versifying a particular psalm in an appealing, singable, and authentic way is actually a very complex assignment.
A hymn is an expression of worship—our glad and grateful acknowledgement of the "worth-ship" of Almighty God, our confession of our own creatureliness before our Creator, our bowing before his transcendence. Hymns are a celebration of who and what God is and of what he has done— songs of praise, thanksgiving, and joy in God. Christians sing hymns because our God is worthy to be praised.
During the next year or two many congregations will open new hymnals. They'll admire the binding and the crisp new pages. They'll learn new songs and wonder what happened to some of the old ones. They'll learn new words for old, familiar tunes and some fresh tunes for old, familiar words.
Some will accept the new hymnals eagerly, grateful for the change. Others will be more cautious, analyzing changes in language and tone, questioning the need for Genevan Psalms or black spirituals.
With this fourth issue of RW we complete our first year of publication and introduce our first theme issue: Introducing New Hymns and Hymnals. Because hymns express emotions as well as faith, few things in the church are more challenging than introducing a new hymnal or new hymns. Such introductions call for sensitive planning and the cooperative efforts of all the church's leaders.
The Mara ADA Church deep in the valley needed new hymnals. The old ones were battered and worn. Pages were missing. Everyone knew the need. One Sunday new hymnals were in the pews. No one had talked about them or planned for them or expected them. But there they were. Rev. Notsing had selected three new hymns from the new book for the morning service, and the people stumbled through them. By the time they were half way through the second hymn some of the congregation were muttering about how much better the old hymnbooks were.
John Ferguson. New York: American Guild of Organists. 815 Second Avenue, Suite 318, $20.00.
The major task of a hymnal revision committee is to select psalms and hymns for a hymnal. It involves a lengthy, and sometimes laborious, process of sifting through stacks of texts and tunes, selecting those that are both musically and textually excellent and true to the standards of the denomination who will use the hymnal.
Robin A. Leaver, James H. Litton, and Carlton R. Young, editors. Carol Stream, Illinois: Hope Publishing Company, 1985, 310 pp., $18.50.
Reformed Worship uses Rejoice in the Lord, the Trinity Hymnal, and the Psalter Hymnal as its standard references when suggesting hymns to use within the context of worship. If you would like a copy of these hymnals for your library, they can be ordered as follows:
Rejoice in the Lord
(developed by a committee of the Reformed Church in America, and published in 1985 by William B. Eerdmans)
Along with many new hymns and hymnals, an increasing number of helpful resources are being published. Many of these books are hard to find. The typical Christian bookstore carries few, if any, books geared to hymnody; and music stores usually specialize in choral and organ music.
At last we have received our new issue of RW!
I am very much pleased with the contents and lively articles, especially with the Hymn of the Month suggestions.
I accept your apologies for the late arrival of the second issue; we did get it late in February. I can understand the frustrations in some of the scheduling and the delays that can occur. However, I would like to see the issues cover a calendar quarter at least two to three months in advance.
Ten years ago in a series of articles published in Church Music, Erik Routley suggested, "Buy yourself a bookshelf." Routley had before him over seventy hymnbooks, ranging from small collections to hymnals of more than a thousand pages, all published between 1964 and 1973.