John A. Dalles: Swift Currents and Still Waters: 65 Hymn Texts.GIA G-5366, paper, $19.95.
K. Lee Scott: Rejoice in God: The K. Lee Scott Hymnary. Morning Star MSM90-28, paper. $15.00.
Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr. Awake Our Hearts to Praise! Hymns, Songs and Carols. GIA G-5302, paper, $19.95.
If your worship planning team is building a library of hymns of theological and poetic integrity, you’ll want to add these collections of texts (Dalles and Stuempfle) and tunes (Scott). Few of them are too esoteric to be of any practical use; nor, on the other hand, are they shallow or trite. Further, the suggested tunes for the new texts are generally well-known or easily singable so as to guarantee success at the first singing with the congregation.
Pros: These are the writers’ finest offerings! Helpful indices are included for referencing Scripture, topic, or lectionary. Particularly useful for the church year, many of these hymns retell familiar Scripture passages as if we’re hearing them for the first time. Take, for example, the “I am the vine” saying of Jesus from the gospel of John recast by John Dulles to the tune DIADEMATA:
God, bless your church with life!
May all our branches thrive,
unblemished, wholesome, bearing fruit,
From you, one Holy Vine,
in freedom may we grow.
Sustain us in our mission, Lord,
your love and peace to show.”
—Dalles, 13, stanza 2
Cons: There aren’t many—they’re both fine writers. Dalles is a Presbyterian pastor who was a winner in the Reformed Worship hymn contest (RW 35 p. 39); Stuempfle is in active retirement in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was professor of preaching and president of Lutheran Theological Seminary. I love K. Lee Scott’s music, but an average congregation would need these tunes well-rehearsed before they could sing with full heart and voice. And some hymns texts read better than they sing. Scott is a Presbyterian composer with many published choral works.
Bottom line: Together, these new hymn resources are a welcome complement to the congregation’s repertoire and to your worship planning bookshelf. Most offerings are an ideal marriage of text and tune, of simplicity and freshness.