Editorial Committee: Robert Webber, Vicky Tusken, John Witvliet, Jack Schrader. Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL, 1995. Singer's Edition: Code No. 1997, paper, 352 pp., $8.95. Accompaniment Edition: Code No. 1998, spiral, 472 pp., $19.95.
Robert Webber is well-known to RW readers as a proponent of blended worship. Webber's passion takes him on the road just about every weekend from September through May for workshops on worship renewal. This new hymnal of 308 songs is intended to be "Exhibit A" of just what he means. Renew! is a "blended hymnal," including some of the best of traditional hymnody as well as some of the best of contemporary popular congregational music. Webber is a bridge-builder: churches on either end of the spectrum of traditional and contemporary will find encouragement to cross over and try new songs. You'll find traditional hymn writers like Charles Wesley next to song composers from Taize, lona, the Jubilate Group in England, and composers like Andrae Crouch, Marty Haugen, Graham Kendrick, Twila Paris, Dan Schutte, Michael W. Smith, and John Michael Talbot.
The Singer's Edition includes only the music and Index of Hymn Titles (not first lines). Many are presented in melody only, but a substantial number include harmony as well. The Accompaniment Edition also includes extensive notes on the rationale for this liturgically structured hymnal, which follows the historic fourfold pattern for Christian worship: The Gathering (89 songs), The Service of the Word (105 songs), The Service of the Table (54 songs), and the Service of Dismissal (24 songs). That historic structure, brought to life with both traditional and contemporary music, is what Webber means when he promotes blended worship.
While firmly placing the Service of the Table in the fourfold pattern, an alternative section, The Service of Praise and Thanksgiving (36 songs, trini-tarian in structure) is also included for those churches or occasions when the table is not celebrated. There is a bit of a topical and liturgical index, but unfortunately for worship planners, there is no Scripture index, nor even an index of authors and composers. That serious omission ought to be remedied in subsequent printings.
The balance between traditional and contemporary seems to be weighted more on the side of the contemporary. Fair enough, since most churches have access to traditional hymnals. But the value of this collection is the careful sifting by the small and expert editorial committee to present a good balance of old and new.