Mary Nelson Kiethahn, editor. Garland TX: Chorister's Guild, 1989, 128 pp., $24.95.
In situations of joy as well as in occasions of crisis, phrases or refrains of hymns will sing in our minds, offering encouragement and consolation. Because hymns are a powerful tool for learning and using theology, we need to consider where—or if—our children are learning to sing and love a variety of the great hymns of faith.
Our Heritage of Hymns Series II (cgbk-49) offers a wide-angled approach to teaching hymns to children. (Our Heritage of Hymns, CGBK-43,1986, by Mary Nelson Kiethahn is also still available; see review in RW5.) Kiethahn, the editor, suggests a coordinated effort by church school leaders, children's and youth choir directors, handbell directors, worship committee members, and clergy to teach children eight standard church hymns and provides resource materials and teaching aids to support that effort. These eight hymns form the core of this resource: "The God of Abraham Praise" (leoni), "Creator of the Stars of Night" (conditor alme), "Once in Royal David's City" (irby), "Jesus Shall Reign" (duke street), "Lift Up Your Heads" (truro), "Were You There" (were you there), "Thine Be the Glory" (judas maccabeus), and "Now Thank We All Our God" (nun danket). These hymns reflect a variety of sources and historical periods, as well as the liturgical church year.
Numerous suggestions for teaching and memorizing the words and music of these hymns allow for selection of those methods most applicable to your own situation. Included are resources such as the following: reproducible handouts for children's choirs which highlight scriptural, historical, and musical perspectives on the hymns; suggestions for interpretation of the hymns through movement, processionals, or hand-signs for the deaf; reproducible simple instrumental additions for most beginning band and string instruments as well as handbells and Orff instruments; reproducible bulletin inserts on each hymn, introducing the hymn to young children through written activities; and reproducible charts, hymnal markers, and a Certificate of Achievement to help children keep visible track of the hymns they have learned.
As a closing suggestion, Kiethahn includes plans for two different hymn festivals, each based on these eight hymns. Ideas for banners representing each hymn are also included, with suggestions for involving other groups of the church in preparing these banners for the hymn festival. The presentation of either hymn festival could climax a year of multi-faceted exposure to these eight great hymns of the church, and involve several groups of the church in a unifying and satisfying effort. For those children's choirs who occasionally produce a musical, and for Sunday Schools who give a program or pageant, these hymn festival plans offer a well-organized and interesting alternative.
Our Heritage of Hymns Series II can help you teach hymns effectively to the children of your church and offer them a singing theology.