Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New Hymnal

ELCA synod leaders prepare to introduce 'Evangelical Lutheran Worship'

My national church body is an the verge of publishing a new hymnal.  I've read that there is some controversy about the new hymnal, which, in some respects has seemed a bit strange to me because some of the people with 'issues' haven't seen this book because it hadn't yet been published  when they were complaining. 
Our church has used some of the liturgical prayers and some of the hymns from the trial material.  The hymns were fine, but, of course, I don't know how representative they are.  Our church likes to use music from a variety of cultural backgrounds, so this was nothing revolutionary for us.  We are currently using hymns from the ELCA's green book, blue book, maroon book [African American hymnal], modern RC hymns composed by Lutherans, as well as occasional hymns from the Family of God hymnal. 
Regarding the liturgy and prayers, seemed that if you liked to say something with 5 words instead of two, then the new prayers were for you.  But again, I don't know how representative this is of the book as a whole.  The pastor that was using those prayers also preached in the same mode. 
I've read through the whole trial edition of the new hymnal.  I didn't see anything in there that was all that revolutionary.  I did see that it says it contains quite a bit from our old green hymnal. 
I'm wondering why would we want to put money into a new hymnal if we already have these other resources?  Our books aren't worn out.  Sure, it might be nice to have the same hymnal in all ELCA churches so that there is something familiar when a person is visiting. 
Here's another thought if a church has some money to spend on their music program:  send the organist and pianist to some of the sessions to learn more about the new music.  Help them to become acquainted with and learn to play music from some of the other cultures that are represented in the new hymnal.  Help them learn to play the liturgy and the hymns of praise as they are meant to be played. 
I'm not trying to make a blanket negative judgment about church organists.  I'm reacting to some things I've experienced and heard.  For example, when we were using the green hymnal exclusively, our very accomplished organist played the hymns of praise in a praiseful, glorious way, but I've heard them played like funeral dirges in other churches.  Our organist said that she went to the sessions introducing the green hymnal and learned how these pieces were meant to be played and sung.  When the blue book was introduced, she played most of that music on the piano.  She said that much of that music, which our church really likes, isn't written as organ music.
Maybe the leadership for musical issues isn't entirely with the church's musicians, if the pastors are  picking the liturgy and hymns.  There are churches that still use only the green hymnal.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it does seem like only shopping at the same store for 20 years. 


  1. The LCMS is also coming out with a new hymnal and I'm on the New Hymnal Committee at my church. It will probably be an interesting experience.

    Here's a hymnal I really like: the 1991 Baptist Hymnal. It includes many hymns I know from my years as a Lutheran as well as many from the "born again" churches I grew up in. It's the best of both worlds for me. :)

    I doubt if I'll get my church talked into buying that one instead of the new LCMS one, though.

  2. I should add that the new LCMS hymnal also contains at least one new-old liturgy, a revision of the liturgy of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941). We have been using it for a while from materials made available in advance of the hymnal. Now I'm used to it and like it, but at first it seemed very strange.

  3. PS - Thanks for your wise words and beautiful pictures on your blog.
    I have also taken a look at the new hymnal materials, and it's good material. For us, it's a question of timing. We have not had the blue book - With One Voice - for very long (about five years), and many of them were given as memorials. Also, we are in the midst of a building expansion, so new hymnals are not high on our list of (financial) priorities. I think we'll wait awhile before we buy new hymnals. That's fine for me. My former congregation did not even have With One Voice, so I feel as if I have barely begun to explore it.

  4. What is amazingly wonderful is that the pianist has taught the blue book liturgy and some of the songs to the Sunday School kids for years and they love it. When we have a time for choosing hymns during special services, the youth always beat the adults to the punch with hymn numbers from the blue book.

  5. Your comment about dirges is what bothers me most about some music selections in worship. I just don't think the Lord wants to be worshipped with a dirge every Sunday and I have been in churches where EVERY Sunday is filled with wrote prayers in dirgelike settings. I have in fact been to some funerals in which there is more joy expressed during the service than on some Sunday mornings at a "normal" service. I am not saying there is no place for reverence and quiet or stately procession or whatever but that is not the norm in many churches I have attended. I have often wondered if people believe we have a living God or not. I understand that many smaller and/or rural churches do not have the ability to have a full worship band etc and the organist has been there for umpteen years and may well be offended not to play every song, but there are ways to introduce newer songs or at least more upbeat arrangements for some of the others. I have also wondered why the 1800's seems to be the chosen century for much of the church music being used in many churches.


And what do you think?