Hymnal Changes?

David at Per Christum points to something I’d missed. There’s a new resolution coming to General Convention concerning a new hymnal. Now, we don’t need to hyperventilate yet—it’s looking at approval in 2015 for a 2018 publication date.

It is time, however, to consider what a revised hymnal might contain. The impetus for the change is stated this way:

The world of this new millennium is very different from that of the prior century, when The Hymnal 1982 and its predecessors were created. Rapid liturgical, cultural and technological change continue to have an impact on the lives of all the faithful. A study of the need for a new hymnal for the Episcopal Church would explore sensitivity to expansive language, the diversity of worship styles, the richness of multicultural and global liturgical forms, and the enduring value of our Anglican musical heritage.

The primary message that I get from this paragraph given its emphasis on a new millennium, rapid changes, rapid development, etc. is a drive for “new” things. The four central criteria:

  1. “sensitivity to expansive language”
  2. “diversity of worship styles”
  3. “richness of multicultural and global liturgical forms”
  4. “enduring value of our Anglican musical heritage”

also move in that direction, the last being the only nod to continuity; everything else is oriented towards change.

I’m currently “studying”—or perhaps “receiving”—this resoltion and considering what may be a helpful response to it. Several things come to mind.

1. Th current hymnal(s) paradigm—will it stay or will it go?

Currently, we have the ’82 hymnal—the normative hymnal—and two books that I regard as supplemental that meet certain perceived needs in the church: Lift Every Voice and Sing and Wonder, Love and Praise.

What will happen with a new normative hymnal? Will the supplements be rolled into it or will they be retained and, perhaps, strengthened or also re-issued?

2. Ecumenical Activity—how’s that working out for you?

Since the Great Liturgical Leap Forward following Vatican II, we’re now on our second generational of hymnals. There are lessons to be learned if we’re willing to ask the hard questions and take long looks at some sacred cows. Has our method of including multicultral hymns been effective; have they infomed our spirituality and worship styles? Which are the sucesses, which the failures, and what do we learn from this?

The Lutherans have just introduced a new hymnal which seems to incorporate these very same principles (only altering the proper adjective in point 4). What can we learn about how these changes have been received, and whether they were done well or ill?

What’s going on in Roman territory? The most interesting developments I’ve seen are a move away from hymnody at mass and back to the chant propers. However, you’ll note that the Parish Book of Chant—the hymnal of choice for the Reform of the Reform—has no propers in it; they’re in the Gregorian Missal which is intended for the choir/schola, not the congregation. What it does have is ordinary chants for the mass.

Which raises yet another issue…

3. Mass Settings

Will the new hymnal have new service music in it as well, and if so, what form will that take? I know the kind of things I’d like to see, of course

Current Thoughts

My current thoughts—subject to further input and reflection, of course—look something like this:

  • I doubt this is a train that will be stopping. Barring something unforeseen there will be a new hymnal come 2018. And it will implent at least the first three criteria above. I sincerely hope the fourth will be respected as well.
  • I’m of a mind to advocate for a spectrum of resources: one normative hymnal and a set of supplements that augment it.
  • Given that, I’d recommend a supplement that is directed towards a traditionalist/Anglo-Catholic constituency that would include chant settings for mass and office, the breviary hymns, and, to best fit with Rite I services, a selection of “traditional-language” hymns. I.e., hymns with words un-fooled-around-with.
  • Chant propers could either be included or be done separately in an “anthem” book.

11 thoughts on “Hymnal Changes?

  1. Christopher

    It seems to me that a normative hymnal change goes with a normative BCP change. So now I’m even more {ahem} “curious” as to what this may look like.

    With regard to “expansive language,” it seems to me we have some theological work still to do after the whole Thew Forrester debacle, no? It seems to me we expand the language without the solid theological work. A trajectory, sadly, that dovetails with a tendency from the Liturgical Movement toward liturgical archaeology.

    I would love to see enrichment move us to chant as you propose, oh, how my body hungers for this, but it seems the train is on a different track. Chant doesn’t seem to be a part of the conversation though reaching out to those “youngsters” does–we want chant! “Traditionalists” like our young-out-of-date selves who prefer chant don’t have a “worship style” within the orbit of “diversity.”

    Do we just grab others’ goodies without their having any relation to our actual Church composition? Multicultural is coming to mean not rooted, rather than appreciative of what others bring and offer.

    Finally, I don’t often get the sense that those doing this have a sense of our enduring Anglican heritage on multiple topics. Am I missing something?

    Your hope for a Rite I anything may be in vain. It seems to me that the next BCP revision may eliminate not only Elizabethan/Jacobean English, but the traditional Anglican theological language which composes Rite I.

    Sorry for being so sour.

  2. ambly

    I suspect like -some- who want prayer book revision, this is led by a dying generation (mine) that can’t seem to accept that there is a great movement among the young seeking closer attachment to our roots and leaving the legacy of the ’60s and 70’s behind.

  3. churchmouse

    More tinkering! They’ve done enough damage already to hymnals and liturgy without adding more.

    I suspect, as with cancer and therapeutic ‘industries’ in the secular world, this is a means of providing ‘something to do’ for teams of underutilised clergy. And, ambly has a point about the urge of a ‘dying generation’ wanting to place a final smudgy pawprint on our great traditions, further tarnishing (eradicating) them. I hope ambly is right in the comment about ‘the young seeking closer attachment to our roots’.

  4. Vicki McGrath

    Whatever approach to expansive language is taken I hope it will be done very carefully, with an eye not only to the imagry and theology, but also to the integrity of langusge itself. There have certainly been alterations to the texts in H82, but they are mild and reasonable compared to the New Century Hymnal. NCH is the UCC (I think) hymnal and is used by a parish in our diocese. In order to get around gender-specific language relating to both God and humans, it so twists the language of existing hymn texts that the meaning is completely changed. The focus is removed from God as the object and subject of praise and worship, and put onto the congregation or the individual as the giver of praise. In other words, it becomes all about us! We have got to to have better liturgists, poets and theologians than that!

  5. adhunt

    Man did I join TEC at the wrong point in history. I joined looking for depth and tradition and all I hear is “revise, revise, revise!”

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    Yeah, adhunt, I think you’ve arrived at the right time to join the rest of us telling them that if they really want to keep the young people, they’d do well to preserve the depth and tradition.

  7. adhunt

    Though it’s not the same as true conversions, I can tell you there is a line thousands long of disgruntled evangelical youth who are sick to death of shotty “modern worship” and who would gladly join TEC if it could swerve just closer to the center again.

    I’m with you anyway . . . “Put the book down and back away slowly” – love it

  8. Hoosierpalian

    Meanwhile, Derek, there are a goodly handful of us in TEC in Baltimore who would gladly assist you with compiling an Anglo-Catholic oriented supplement.

  9. Deborah

    I have a horrible time with the Hymnal ’82. It was constructed with the idea that every church has an organ, an organist, and a fully trained choir, and the 20th century art masses are certainly not accessible with anything less. There is very little accessible for a smaller church, Much of it is completely unsingable otherwise. I would be happy to see a hymnal that pulled the best of the older and traditional music and the best new hymns, and excluded the inane modern garbage. I would also like to see the hymn texts returned to the poets’ original words that have been hacked up in the name of “inclusive” language.

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