Versifying a psalm might sound simple. After all, psalms are poetry—how much effort can it take to make them singable? But as anyone who has tried can tell you, versifying a particular psalm in an appealing, singable, and authentic way is actually a very complex assignment.
Articles in this issue:
A hymn is an expression of worship—our glad and grateful acknowledgement of the "worth-ship" of Almighty God, our confession of our own creatureliness before our Creator, our bowing before his transcendence. Hymns are a celebration of who and what God is and of what he has done— songs of praise, thanksgiving, and joy in God. Christians sing hymns because our God is worthy to be praised.
During the next year or two many congregations will open new hymnals. They'll admire the binding and the crisp new pages. They'll learn new songs and wonder what happened to some of the old ones. They'll learn new words for old, familiar tunes and some fresh tunes for old, familiar words.
Some will accept the new hymnals eagerly, grateful for the change. Others will be more cautious, analyzing changes in language and tone, questioning the need for Genevan Psalms or black spirituals.
With this fourth issue of RW we complete our first year of publication and introduce our first theme issue: Introducing New Hymns and Hymnals. Because hymns express emotions as well as faith, few things in the church are more challenging than introducing a new hymnal or new hymns. Such introductions call for sensitive planning and the cooperative efforts of all the church's leaders.
The Mara ADA Church deep in the valley needed new hymnals. The old ones were battered and worn. Pages were missing. Everyone knew the need. One Sunday new hymnals were in the pews. No one had talked about them or planned for them or expected them. But there they were. Rev. Notsing had selected three new hymns from the new book for the morning service, and the people stumbled through them. By the time they were half way through the second hymn some of the congregation were muttering about how much better the old hymnbooks were.
Robin A. Leaver, James H. Litton, and Carlton R. Young, editors. Carol Stream, Illinois: Hope Publishing Company, 1985, 310 pp., $18.50.
The major task of a hymnal revision committee is to select psalms and hymns for a hymnal. It involves a lengthy, and sometimes laborious, process of sifting through stacks of texts and tunes, selecting those that are both musically and textually excellent and true to the standards of the denomination who will use the hymnal.
Along with many new hymns and hymnals, an increasing number of helpful resources are being published. Many of these books are hard to find. The typical Christian bookstore carries few, if any, books geared to hymnody; and music stores usually specialize in choral and organ music.
Reformed Worship uses Rejoice in the Lord, the Trinity Hymnal, and the Psalter Hymnal as its standard references when suggesting hymns to use within the context of worship. If you would like a copy of these hymnals for your library, they can be ordered as follows:
Rejoice in the Lord
(developed by a committee of the Reformed Church in America, and published in 1985 by William B. Eerdmans)