1. Why another hymnal?
In worship one of the main ways we praise and honor God, give voice to our prayers, and communicate the wonders of God’s works is through song. Though the underlying gospel message doesn’t change from generation to generation, the concerns, prayers, and social context of each generation does. Since the publication of Rejoice in the Lord and The Psalter Hymnal we have seen sociological change with a move toward postmodernism and witnessed the exponential growth of technology–our world is very different today than it was twenty years ago. The words we use for worship need to express these new realities that form the backdrop of our worship–a new hymnal for a new generation.
This desire for a new hymnal for a new generation fits with the reality that a hymnal has a lifespan of about 20 years. The Psalter Hymnal and Rejoice in the Lord have both surpassed the 20-year mark. A new or revised hymnal about every 20 years has also been the practice of the CRC, with hymnals being released in 1914, 1934, 1959, 1976, and 1987.
2. Are there enough churches that use hymnals to make this project worthwhile?
Yes, there are. Before we began this process we did a survey of churches in the CRC and RCA and found that there are still a significant number of churches that use hymnals and will continue to do so. Also, many churches that rely primarily on modern presentation technologies anticipate keeping a hymnbook in the pew as a supplemental worship resource.
3. What about those of us who don’t use print books for worship? Is there going to be a version for projection?
We wish we could confidently say that there will be an electronic version of the hymnal. We are continuing to explore possible ways to make an electronic version available to the church that both meets copyright laws and is affordable to the church. It is our hope that the copyright laws will catch up to the growth in technology, making this possible. In the meantime, the committee continues its work, which would be the same regardless of the end product (we would still need to choose and edit the music). In fact, doing only an electronic version wouldn’t work either as churches would want print copies for their musicians and worship planners.
UPDATE: We have been working with The Hymnary, www.hymnary.org and people are now able to download words and music for some of the music that Faith Alive owns at a cost comparable to other sites. We are also requesting permission from copyright holders to post their music on this website. It is our intent to greatly expand what is offered and to post as much of the new hymnal and its associated products as we have permission for. (March 2010)
4. Why bi-denominational?
The synods of the CRC and RCA have encouraged their churches to find ways in which to work collaboratively. As denominational siblings it makes most sense for us to work together wherever possible. In fact, Faith Alive Christian Resources is the resource provider for both the CRC and RCA.
5. Why our own hymnal? There are several recently published hymnals. Why not recommend one of them and save the money?
Though it is true that there are many good hymnals available, none come from an explicitly Reformed perspective with our denominations’ DNA. For example you will find theological differences in baptism sections as well as songs dealing with the end times and heaven. Not only are there legitimate concerns about what is included in these hymnals, there are also noticeable holes. For example, there are fewer songs, or no songs, on the Lordship of Christ, providence and election, and other particular nuances of the Reformed faith. Many of these hymnals also lack a global perspective. They include very few songs from the worldwide church, they tend to have more public domain songs (fewer songs from the 1900s on), and they do not promote the singing of psalms.
6. Will this hymnal include a separate section of psalms (a Psalter)?
The Psalter Hymnal included all 150 psalms in a Psalter followed by hymns. Rejoice in the Lord captured most of its psalmody in a discrete Psalter section. Sing! A New Creation marked a noticeable shift by incorporating the psalms where they would most naturally fit in the order of worship or part of the church year. It has become clear that this last approach encouraged more consistent use of the psalms in worship. It is our plan to include the psalms in a variety of musical genres within the hymnal but not to dedicate a separate section to them.
UPDATE: In looking at the psalms in preparation for the new hymnal we became so excited about them that we are working on publishing a psalter separate from the hymnal so we can include multiple versions of each psalm in various styles. Many (though not all) of these psalms will also find their way into the hymnal. The anticipated release date of this psalter is 2012. (March 2010)
7. What about creeds and confessions?
It was important coming into this project that nothing was “assumed” before the editorial committee could meet and both denominations participate in the decision making. So we began with a blank slate with no commitments. The editorial committee is very happy to say that there is a clear consensus that the creeds and confessions held in common by the CRC and RCA will be included. An RCA-CRC committee is already at work to arrive at a common text for these, with plans for any changes to be approved by both synods in time for inclusion in the hymnal. It is as yet unclear as to how best to include confessions/testimonies not yet adopted by both denominations, i.e. Songs of Hope, Our World Belongs to God, and the Belhar confession, but the committee will continue to listen to the desire of the churches on this.
UPDATE: As we continued our work it became clear that our previous position was rather untenable. First, we were challenged by the great number of CRC churches who though they have access to the confessions in their hymnals do not turn to their hymnal for them during worship but rather reprint or project them. Second, once material is printed in the hymnal it is impossible to make more than slight corrections without creating a new edition with differing page numbers and the requirement to reapply for all copyright permissions. This could cause great confusion between churches when there are different editions available. Third, the reality is that the CRC’s Psalter Hymnal’s confessions are already out-of-date creating some issues as it is. For those reasons it seems more prudent to publish a separate book with the confessions that can be updated more easily, would be cheaper to replace, and was sturdy enough to withstand placement and usage in the “pews”. (June 2011)
8. Will my favorite song be included?
No promises on this one. The editor of this hymnal pointed out that her favorite song has yet to appear in any of the four songbooks she has edited. See the website for more information on how songs are chosen and what criteria are used.
UPDATE: My favorite song finally made it into Hymns for Worship! (March 2010)
9. Are you going to change the tune/text of songs?
Each song will be evaluated separately with any text or tune change having a clear rationale. The committee is working from the default of not changing anything unless it is clear that it is necessary and that such a change will strengthen the song.
10. How big will this book be?
That has yet to be determined. Most hymnals have around six hundred songs, but they don’t all include the creeds and confessions. We will be investigating the options we have for the paper and cover material (which will affect the weight), noting the length of the back material, and adjusting the number of hymns accordingly. At this point we are working with six hundred hymns in mind.
UPDATE: It has become clear that in order to represent the growing diversity within our denominations that we will need to include closer to 750 songs. The challenge is to do that without increasing the weight of the hymnal. (June 2010)
11. What type of music will be in this hymnal?
This hymnal will include music from various genres (traditional hymnody, contemporary, African American, global etc.). Every church has about two hundred songs solidly in its singing repertoire, and we hope that by providing a wide variety of styles each church will find songs that fit within that known repertoire as well as new texts and tunes with which to grow.
12. What additional resources are you planning to produce with this hymnal?
We have made no commitments as of yet. We will continue to ask this question as we move along in the process and hear from the churches as to their specific needs.
13. When will it be completed?
The current plan is for the hymnal to be released in 2013. That date will be updated and adjusted as necessary as we go through the process.
14. Who is on the committee?
For a list of individuals serving on the editorial and advisory committees, please go to the website.
15. What will the name of this hymnal be?
We have no name for this hymnal as of yet. If you have a suggestion, feel free to contact a committee member or email email@example.com.
UPDATE: It has a name! Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (LUYH).
16. What color will it be?
There hasn’t been a decision on this. We will let you know.
17. I wrote a song that I would like to submit. How can I do that?
Please go to the website to read about the submission process.
UPDATE: The submission process is now closed. (June 2011)
18. How can our church get involved?
The web is a great way to keep churches informed and solicit feedback. Check the website from time to time for updated information as well as surveys and other ways to lend your voice to this process.
If you have a specific question or concern not addressed in the FAQs or on the website, feel free to email the hymnal editor, Rev. Joyce Borger (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The task of putting together a hymnal which will provide the words we use in worship is daunting. The editorial committee recognizes the pastoral nature of this task and desires that the process is undergirded and led by the Holy Spirit. Please join us in praying for this process as together we form a hymnal for a new generation.