In the late summer of 2012, the worship ministries group of the congregation I pastor began considering whether to preorder Lift Up Your Hearts for our pews. Since I am a member of the hymnal’s editorial committee, I said very little during those discussions. Although I occasionally answered questions that arose, I wanted to ensure that the decision was made in the congregation’s best interest rather than because I was pushing it through. Nonetheless, I could barely contain my excitement when I heard the decision had been made to proceed with the preorder.
Obviously I’m biased. But my excitement is more practical than personal: I am eager to have Lift Up Your Hearts in our pews because I look forward to it becoming our primary worship resource. The next generation of worshipers in our congregation will have their faith and their spiritual vocabulary shaped and molded by its carefully and beautifully honed attention to Scripture, theology, poetry, and music.
I am also eager to have Lift Up Your Hearts as my primary resource for worship planning. With over eight hundred songs, it is broader and deeper than any other hymnal on my shelf. It provides a remarkable collection of recently-written music, accessible global music, and even a few beloved hymns that I have not heard since my childhood. It is has a more usable collection of psalm-based material than any other resource I own, except one (Psalms for All Seasons, also published by Faith Alive). It is carefully indexed (by Scripture, title, topic, and tune). It is intuitively organized—the first section biblically and the second section following the order of worship. It includes a number of litanies and readings that can be used in a variety of contexts. Perhaps most amazingly (and most importantly), it reflects a biblical and Reformed understanding of worship and theology that is unparalleled by any hymnal I know. The book is a worship planner’s dream.
Other aspects of Lift Up Your Hearts make it attractive even beyond the material contained in the printed edition. Chief among them are the plans to provide a variety of online and digital resources in connection with the hymnal. Hopefully, by the time the hymnal is published, there will be online access to indices organizing music and litanies according to their usage with the Heidelberg Catechism and the scriptural connections they have with the Revised Common Lectionary.
As a pastor, I look for resources that are biblical, theologically sound, extensive, practical (usable in a variety of contexts without editing or revision), and easily searchable. I need to have access to as many resources as possible in as little time and space as possible. Although I enjoy spending time leisurely paging through the hymnals and songbooks on my shelves in search of the “perfect” song, the truth is this: every moment I spend searching for something is a moment I cannot spend doing something else.
Lift Up Your Hearts is more than a hymnal; it is an unprecedented collection of music and worship planning resources. After spending some time getting to know it, I have no doubt that pastors will find that it saves them preparation time and enables them to add both breadth and depth to the worship vocabulary of the congregations they serve.