The Albatross Takes Flight: On the completion of the Psalter Hymnal Handbook
Soon after the Psalter Hymnal was released in 1988, people started calling, wondering when the Psalter Hymnal Handbook would be ready. I got calls and letters, even from different countries. After all, this would be a first for the Reformed tradition: there was no English-language companion volume that dealt with both psalms and hymns from the perspective of the Reformed heritage of congregational song.
It almost didn't happen. More than once in the past ten years I met with other staff and board members of CRC Publications—the parent organization of Reformed Worship—to discuss whether to scrap the whole project. As more and more time and money were spent, we sometimes became discouraged. At one point, not only for financial support but also to test continuing interest in the project, we sent out about a hundred letters across the Christian Reformed denomination asking for donations. The swift and generous response from a majority of those contacted amounted to almost seventeen thousand dollars. Two gifts deserve special mention: a matching grant of $7,500 from the Holland American Wafer Company in tribute to the late Anne Vander Heide (1907-1997), an influential church musician and civic leader here in Grand Rapids, and an outright grant of $5,000 by the Rainbow Foundation, which supports Christian educational ventures in Western Michigan. With that great morale booster, we pushed on. After all, we had promised the handbook, even though we knew from the start we'd never break even.
At long last the project known around my office as the "albatross" is finally completed. After spending ten years on this book, you will understand if we really celebrate it in this issue of Reformed Worship! You'll find an interview with Bert Polman, primary author, on page 7. Bert Polman did the lion's share of the writing and research, but many others were involved as well; altogether seventeen people are listed as contributors. The Songs for the Season column (pp. 10-15) gives the handbook entries on three hymns. Finally, the inside back cover lets you know how to order a copy.
We're all grateful and not a little relieved to have the Psalter Hymnal Handbook take flight. Now we hope that it enriches those who use it, especially worship leaders who will be able to explore a wonderful heritage of song—gifts to the church from saints of many different times and places.