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If you have not already heard a group of folks from the CRC/RCA have been working on a new hymnal for our two denominations. There are 10 people (5 each from the RCA and CRC) and 3 staff members on the editorial committee and 80 (40 from each denomination) on an advisory team. These are diverse groups geographically and stylistically. Our common bond is our love for Christ and his church and our passion for congregational singing. 

Though we don't know its color yet, a name has been chosen: Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (LUYH)

Picking up on a thread from another forum, the question was asked as to whether or not it is appropriate to consider including contemporary music in a hymnal/songbook format. Faith Alive has produced a songbook Contemporary Songs for Worship that attempts to do just that. 

Some reflections: 

Music throughout history has been adapted for various settings beyond the one in which it was created and when it is "transported" it changes. How it is played, the acoustics musically and culturally in which it is played and heard, are different. Recently I had a chance to see and hear an harmonium which is widely used in Pakistan and India to accompany congregational singing. Harmoniums were brought to those countries by missionaries who wanted to sing hymns with an organ and the harmonium was the closest transportable instrument. What if they had stopped singing the hymns because there were no pipe organs available? What if we said that the harmonium could only be used to accompany hymns that it was inappropriate to use that instrument for indigenous music? 

We could similarly ask if it is appropriate for Caucasians to be singing African-American spirituals. Rarely are they played or sung the way they were "performed" in the original context. Similarly is it right for us to sing the songs of Arabic Christians when we fail to catch their musical nuances and stresses, and use western vocal techniques and sounds?  

I certainly agree that contemporary/modern music played on the piano or organ alone sounds much different than what you would hear with a full praise band. Conversely, hymns played by a praise band are rhythmically and musically quite different than those played on the organ. One performance practice may be closer to the original than another, and one instrument might be more appropriate than the other but I would hesitate to stop a congregation from incorporating a song simply because they fail to have the right instrumentation.

There is much more going on when we adopt songs from varying cultures and styles than just a musical exchange. When we sing each other’s songs we are singing each other’s prayers; our heart language, and there is something quite profound that happens in that exchange even if it sounds different. For that reason we learn and sing songs from Middle Eastern countries, Western hymns, and Australian praise songs.

We can certainly talk about and strive for the ideal instrumentation and performance practice. We also have a responsibility to treat each musical genre and the gifts we receive from various cultures with respect.  The reality is that each of our worship contexts is different. If you have a pipe organ available and a praise band then use each appropriately; however don’t make the fact that you only have a band keep you from singing hymns, and an organ from adapting praise music. 

Faith Alive realizes that some of the congregations we serve are large and have many instruments available, others only have a guitar, or an organ. It is our goal to help churches utilize the best of all musical genres. So, we provide guitar chords for hymns, not for the churches with organs but for the churches with only a guitarist. We also provide simplified contemporary music in which we attempt to keep the rhythmic integrity of the piece, not for the churches with the praise band but for the churches without or with only a less experienced group.  


I find that our worship planners use a variety of congregational-singing & presentation music that comes from wherever they can find it - from harder rock to hillsong, gospel, hymns (new and old versions, with the band and occasionally the organ), as well as music from CCLI's top 25. Which is to say that there is an availability of music today that was not available at all the last time a hymnal was put together (available online, especially if musicians can figure out stuff they hear).

The CRC webpage says the new hymnal is an attempt to "give a common voice to our worship in the twenty-first century." But because of the speed and manner (online, radio, file-sharing) with which music is distributed today, I don't think it is possible for a hymnal to accomplish this goal.

The trend is to use multiple, not single, sources for songs & music, and I think the trend will be for churches to use this hymnal as one source among many.

I agree Zach.
As some of our discussion has gone on this site, I'm not so sure putting all the time and money into a new hymnbook is stewardly or fully in-touch with the continually changing face of contemporary music. Perhaps our best efforts would best be served by showing churches how to use the great online resources. My concern is that guitar-led songs will be turned into keyboard led songs, which will do a great disservice to the musical intent of the song.

I'm also going out on a limb here, but I have often sensed an apprehension from the CICW to encourage use of the CCLI site.

I encourage folks to go to the hymnal website for more info re: the reason behind doing a hymnal. But to respond to the comment regarding the hymnal creating a common voice. I completely agree that churches make use of multiple resources and some do not use any hymnal. For churches that use the most recently composed music no hymnal will meet their needs like the web does. Our hope is that those worship planners will keep a copy of this hymnal as a resource. When deciding to sing a traditional hymn our hope is that you will consult the hymnal to so we can learn/sing the same words regardless of the style of the accompaniment. If such a church wants to include a new song, maybe something from the global church that they will again turn to this hymnal. There are also many churches that will sing directly from the hymnal on occasion and yet other churshes will sing from it solely. In this way we hope to create a common voice.

Maybe it is better to consider the hymnal as a common thread between each church's unique musical tapestry.

In other words we have no delusions that this hymnal will fill the musical needs of allCRC/RCA churches. We are much too diverse for that. But we hope to meet the needs of hymnal using churches and provide a great resource for others to use

And yes CCLI is a great resource for contemporary song (less helpful for traditional hymnody, modern hymnody and global song) we use it all the time as does CICW.

For me, one of the most compelling arguments I've heard for a hymnal is that we should have a 'core' set of songs that are well known across our churches and those from other denominations.

Why does that resonate with me?

My wife is a chaplain in a long-term care setting with people from a wide variety of faith backgrounds. She has amazing testimonies of what happens when she is able to sing a familiar hymn or song with them. I saw the same thing when, as a kid, my parents would drag me along whenever a few from our church would go to a similar facility to 'sing with the seniors'. Music taps into something so deep, so powerful that people who are barely able to communicate are somehow able to hum or even sing along.

Personally, I love contemporary music styles. But I sure hope that there's still a 'core' set of songs that is learned by my kids, kids from other denominations, and those who will may minister to them throughout their lives. I think a denominational hymnal - or, in this case, a bi-denominational one - helps that.

I agree that having a core set of songs that Christians can share is an eminently valuable thing. I just think that change in media over the last 20 years means that this goal is not likely to be accomplished through a large book.

I am all for using a hymnal as one resource among many.

Now you've got me a hymnal a format (i.e. book) or a 'core collection' (available in many formats)?

If the latter, how does a collection of songs remain 'core' over a long period of time within a church? Or a denomination? Or inter-denominationally?

In other words, would 'Amazing Grace' be as universally loved if it weren't for hymn books? Obviously, I've got more questions than answers!

Zach, you may be in a church that utilizes many resources but what about the churches that only has one hymnal from which they sing? Should they not be provided with the necessary tools to worship in a relavent way?

The appropriate research was done well in advance of the gathering of any committee and it was deemed that there was indeed a desire for and need for a new hymnal. The cost of producing the hymnal is covered through the sales and is not dependent on any ministry shares.

Certainly, many (though not all) of our congregations are comfortable using web resources and this hymnal will be supported by online material, and as much of the material as possible from the hymnal will be available on the web.

There use to be a day when one hymnal met the needs of all churches as did one Sunday School curriculum. The growing diversity within our denomination is a great thing but that means diverse needs. It seems that your congregation's music needs are currently being met through readily available resources on the web; it could very well be that this hymnal may not and that is ok. But, I do hope that you take a careful look at it when it comes out. And, if you are able examine the songbooks already produced and provide feedback on them via the hymnal website.

Zach Vandenberg on April 16, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[quote=jborger]Zach, you may be in a church that utilizes many resources but what about the churches that only has one hymnal from which they sing? Should they not be provided with the necessary tools to worship in a relavent way? [/quote]

It's interesting that you wrote "tools" (plural) in the second sentence, but referenced "one hymnal" (singular) in the first sentence. I don't want to nitpick your words too much to make it mean more than you intend, but I definitely lean more towards helping churches access the many, many tools (and songs) for leading worship and would feel sad and restricted if all I had to use was one hymnal.

Also, I am well aware of the many resources offered by the denomination/worship institute from my time at Calvin Seminary. We use some of them here. My only point in this whole discussion is that the hymnal should be considered one resource among many.

Tim, you raise some great questions. Ultimately the songs that get passed on are the songs that make it into the hearts of the next generation regardless of format. I think it is the job of the pastor/worship planners to make conscious choices about the music that their church sings, reflecting on the body of songs as a whole as well as each song individually. Whether they use a hymnal, many hymnals, web resources or a mix of resources the task of choosing the songs of the congregation is one that ought not be taken lightly. What messages do we want to resonate in our hearts and the hearts of our children? The hymnal committee asks that a lot when we think of creating a balance of theological, pastoral, and spiritual themes. It takes a pairing of great texts and tunes as well so you need to employ theologians, poets, and musicians, to help make the decisions. "Amazing Grace" and "In Christ Alone" have both made it as "heart songs" because they speak to the heart and our Christian experience but also because they are singable... repeatedly. Interestingly, "Amazing Grace" isn't sung all that much in our congregations anymore but it doesn't need to be, it has become such a classic in the repertoire that it is most poignant when sung in the moment when no other song will do.

Okay, y'all lured me back into the conversation - good points by all above.

It seems to me that there some "hymnal philosophical elephants" in the room and I'd like to point them can see my actual position below.

1. In some ways, I really feel for Faith Alive/CICW here. Whether or not the really WANT to produce this hymnal, Synod asked them to do it. The other angle is that they are both publishing/resourcing agencies who, to varying degrees, are supported by what they SELL. Therefore, even with the best intentions, there is a financial/marketability dimension to this discussion. Quite frankly, they know some of us won't own this hymnal or purchase it for our churches, regardless of how good it is - so why try to please us? (You can't please everyone, right.)

2. On the other hand, one visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. That's not a bad thing - they're good at what they actually do, except for the fact that it becomes the de facto position for our denomination and it comes to a head on things like a denominational hymnal. Another good example is "Reformed Worship" magazine - which some might see as a descriptive source for how Reformed folks handle worship....when in fact, it only represents a segment. It has to do with representation......I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs (I'm talking more Hillsong and Tomlin here than Shine Jesus Shine).

3. While the idea of a "core collection" is nice, its probably any more not feasible any more than a multi-denominational confession is. At my last church, which was in a different denomination, they got mad because I wasn't playing "old hymns". I was, in fact, playing old hymns....they just weren't the hymns that were part of their core. Over the next 50 years, as churches become less denominational and more congregational or united by common theological/practical affiliations (WCA, Acts 29, etc.), the local expression becomes more important....I think we're already past that tipping point in most places outside West Michigan. (Not to mention, the Grey Hymnal substituted verses and word changes that made them dissimilar to the "core collection", anyway).

4. Allen's point about "the rubber hitting the road" is a great one. No matter the good intentions of the hymnal publishers, we know from experience that, at the local level, some organist/pianist will refuse to play a supportive role in the band as the church progresses in their worship expression and will use a denominational hymnal as THE excuse to do so. "Look", she'll say, "I'm just playing the notes that are in the hymnal the way I always have. If it was meant to be led by a guitar or have drums, it would say that." (If you really don't believe me, go to the Grey Hymnal and find the notations saying "guitar and piano should not sound together".) Putting modern worship music, particularly when there is a refusal to represent it in its long-form, does an injustice to the genre and FUELS the worship wars more than quelling them. It also drives a deeper divide between "hymnal" churches and "non-hymnal" churches, rather than letting us learn from eachother in a constructive environment.

I should say I'm not against publishing a hymnal - Faith Alive and CICW can do whatever they want. What I am against is labeling it a DENOMINATIONAL hymnal when there's been precious little evidence that the denominational de facto leadership on worship have understood the genre change or trying to resource the modern worship element of that denomination. Just publish a book of hymns and "world music" for the churches who actually want to buy it - its good business sense and it isn't as off-putting to us on the other side. That, if it had significant differences from my other 15 hymnals and, I'd probably buy to have on my shelf as a resource.

By the way, we're still calling this a "HYMNal".........?

Prior to entering ministry in a rural setting, I would've agreed wholeheartedly that the time for a printed hymnal has come and gone. It isn't that I don't love hymns and desire to continue singing them, but my experience in a larger church with greater resources made me think hard copy music wasn't needed.

However, I am now in a hymn-singing church with one hymnal to sing from. It is tattered, worn, and decidedly not Reformed in any way. This is the experience of a majority of the churches in the Reformed Church in America (I think one of my professors shared the statistic that 80% of RCA churches are rural, and many of them are declining). For a new hymnal I say -YES! I just hope that it won't be filled with new songs. A few new songs would be good, and I would like to see some of those songs come over from the Sing a New Creation! book.

[quote=Mark]I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs.[/quote]

*raising hand* I'm an advisory committee member who doubles as worship leader with a full band, triples as organist, lead vocalist, and choir director. My congregation worships in the styles of Tomlin, Hillsong, Iona, Getty, Haugen, Wesley, and Luther. It would be foolish for any of us to assume that most congregations worship exactly the way ours do (on any point of the spectrum from "traditional" to "modern"), and I also do not believe if other congregations worship differently that they're doing it wrong. I cannot speak to the total percentage of committee members who are of the "modern" church persuasion. However, at our advisory committee meetings I have observed a widespread diversity in terms of worshiping voice. So while Lift Up Your Hearts may not meet the needs for “modern” worship as some define it, most of our congregations will be very well-served by this collection. My own congregation may not even purchase the books for the sanctuary, but as a worship planner and leader I will certainly be able to use it well, even if only to introduce new hymns (yes, they may even be called "modern hymns") to the congregation, or provide condensed music for my song leaders who more often than not prefer music to chord sheets.

[quote=Mark] visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. [/quote]

I have attended Symposium half a dozen times in the last decade and I find this assessment a bit unfair. I do understand what you are saying in that we don’t worship there in the same way as at a David Crowder Band concert, but using “non-modern” is hyperbolic. I believe there is more to modern than the latest hits on the CCLI list. The target audience for an event like Symposium is altogether different from that of a worship conference at Dallas Baptist University (maybe this separation is something that needs to be addressed). So perhaps worship is done a certain way at Synod or Symposium, but that does not dictate an official position for the denomination. Yes, a stronger resource is needed for the modern worship as some voices here define it, but I will not discredit the hard work of people like Paul Ryan, Ron Rienstra, and others by saying little has been done to understand or resource the genre change. I see Reformed Worship mentioned in this thread as well. Certainly it can be one arena for that "modern" voice. I know Joyce continually seeks to include new resources and submissions from worship planners. I think it would be great for "modern" worship leaders to contribute to RW, which could help expand its platform to serve other modern congregations or those transitioning to more “modern” styles of worship. Also, it should be noted here that an open invitation was offered to any and all who wanted to serve on this advisory committee. Like I said, I do not know the breakdown of those who hail from “modern” churches, but the opportunity for them to participate was equally given to those of any church.

I'd like to echo Joyce's initial reflections here in regards to employing styles of worship that may not be indigenous to our congregations. I consider myself fortunate to have talented instrumentalists in my congregation who can lead “modern” songs. These are guitarists, bassists, drummers, and vocalists who are dedicated to leading us each week in modern expressions of musical worship. At this point, our sound is not even close to that of Hillsong, Crowder, or Tomlin, but it is still done well and, more importantly, it is genuinely offered. Is that an injustice to the genre? I truly hope not. I've heard many bad organists slaughter hymn-accompaniments, and while it's unfortunate and it may distract ME, I think that is something I need to work through and get over in order to refocus on the bigger picture here. I just don't think we can really take such a purist stance on this.


Hey Chad....

Thanks for the comments, its good to have folks like you and Joyce to give actual information to our discussions :).

I wasn't trying to bemoan CICW/Symposium for what they do......they do what they do well....perhaps the bigger problem is that we lack a strong leaders on the other end of the spectrum.....something like a modern-worship-CICW, be it a supplementary organization or whatever, within the CRC's who want to move from traditional towards something more modern are left without many good Reformed options.

Maybe those of us who are doing it need to create something of the sort? I'd love to have a regional or national gathering of CRC/RCA churches specifically targeted at a more band-based approach to worship. Greg Scheer and Paul Ryan led a workshop like that at Redeemer a few years back that was fairly well done, but imagine a whole "modern" Symposium.....that would be great fun for us modern worship junkies and be a great resource for congregations that are longing for it. I'm not sure trying to work that into the current Symposium is achievable without major concessions from both sides.

I think we probably will disagree about the hymnal however, be it philosophically or practically in nature - anything hymn-related I can usually find easily online or figure out the usually-easy chord progression so I just don't see the need locally. But like I said....if Faith Alive can make net profit on it, go for it. However, I also hear what Zach was saying....give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish.....

I think it would be awesome to develop a modern-worship CICW/Symposium! I know I could definitely use some additional training and my band would probably also find that very beneficial. I go to Symposium and glean knowledge and info based on what's offered there...if more was offered on this end of the spectrum I'd definitely check it out. I think I saw in another thread someone mentioned a small underground network of modern worship leaders (was that you?). How can we encourgage some mobilization with them and with others who would be interested in an effort like this?

I don't know if this has been brought up, I have not had time to read through the other comments at this point. Speaking from the point of view of a former PowerPoint operator and the one who sets up the assigned service in PowerPoint, I think it would be beneficial if a CD or something accompanied this hymnal for congregations that use PPT regularly in their worship services. The CD should include all the liturgies, Communion, Profession of Faith, etc forms in a Word document. That would save a lot of time in setting up services in PPT.

Joyce Borger on April 22, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Our hope is to have those files for download at where we will also have additional resources for songs as they become available, such as translations. We will probably leave the texts in Word so that it can easily be used by various presentation technologies. (OF course we will be limited to posting what we can get copyright permission for.)

There is a CD available with the forms and confessions already:

These forms etc. can also be accessed online see the link to "CRCNA Website One-Stop Resource Index" on the Worship main page.

My only hope, and I've expressed this to Joyce before, is that there will be some French language inclusions in the hymnal.

Joyce Borger on April 22, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oui! Nous ferons de notre mieux.

Though it is an official language in Canada the reality is that we have CRC/RCA congregations that worship solely in Spanish, Korean and various other languages but we don't have any that worship solely in French. That being said we will try to include it some. We also have the opportunity to put translations on when they are available (and copyright allows).

The Lutheran church just put out a French hymnal "Liturgies et Cantiques Lutheriens" which includes many traditional hymns. You may find that a useful resource for translations. It is available through Concordia Publishing

Normally I dont respond to things like this, but this caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One being the fact that as I read, I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? In the church I am currently serving, we have a praise band that leads worship once every three weeks. The lady who helps me plan the worship service is very intentional about trying to keep a balance with hymns and "Modern" songs, because of the local setting we are in. But the "style" of this praise band is unique in my opinion, but does it make it more or less "modern?"

I have had the opportunity in my life to be a part of a lot of different congregations, mainly CRC. But I have was raised in Suburban Los Angeles, I went to school at Dordt College and Calvin Seminary. I married a Canadian from Ontario, interned in Ontario, and now serve in Southern Alberta. As I have read above, there is so much diversity all across the board when it comes to worship. Each congregation finds its way of "doing" worship. I feel as long as it is genuine and from the heart it is giving praise and glory to the Father. It doesnt have to be "perfect" or sound exactly like Hillsong.

Another reason this intrigues me is because my wife is on the committee as well. She has a wealth of music and theological training and I think that is an asset, along with her background of living in different areas as well.

One thing we have to realize is that yes, there is a higher percentage (i dont know the number myself) of churches who do use hymnals. The church I serve has the blue and the gray! There is a lot of information available online yes, maybe we dont utilize the right websites, but I find that when you do a search for a song for guitar chords lets say, or even just the lyrics, there can be a number of versions. For example on Good Friday we were going to put the words up on the screen for "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" as well as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." There wasnt just one set of lyrics for these songs. It was easier for me to type them in from the hymn book.

I myself have struggled with the question why do we need one when a lot of churches use the Screen. But, as April said earlier, when serving in a rural church, it is very useful. I think that having a hymn book that gives us a set of "core" songs will be helpful in the long run.

Mark Hilbelink on April 22, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[quote=Brian Kuyper] I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? [/quote]

Hey Brian......good to welcome a another Dordt/CalvinSem grad to the discussion.

I won't try to overwhelm you with info like most of my posts, but for the purpose of this discussion, we've been talking musically in these terms:

1. Traditional (hymnody)
2. Contemporary (Gaithers-->Michael W. Smith)
3. Modern (Tomlin, Hillsong to current)
4. Neo-Traditional & world (see the Green Hymnal)

The #2/#3 difference is an important one, though often misunderstood. Musically, it was the shift from keys-led to rhythm/guitar-driven and yet became more complex in structure (ie, a full band was more necessary than before). Lyrically, it also ushered in a new standard for quality in lyrics and became much more justice and missionally-oriented, IMHO).

I've got an entire blog post on that here:

You can see much more than you probably want in our other discussion:


Harry Boonstra wrote the following and asked that it be posted:

I am a newcomer to this forum, and perhaps my questions and comments have been discussed (and resolved!) in the past. If so, just point me in the right direction.

My comments and questions center mostly on psalmody and the psalter. (Years ago I heard a speaker from the exclusive Psalm singing Reformed Presbyterian denomination: “A real psalter contains every verse of every biblical psalm; all others are snippet psalters.” My own tongue in cheek definition is: “If it contains Psalm 137:8-9 it’s probably a real psalter”).

As far as I can determine, CRC Synod 2007 did not ask for a new “Psalter Hymnal”—that is, a “replacement” for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal (the grey PH, or, as editor Emily Brink prefers, the silver PH.) Rather, the mandate was to produce a “bi-denominational songbook” or a “comprehensive hymnal” (Agenda, pp. 206-207). The actual recommendation uses only the term “hymnal” (Acts, 579-80). (I very much like the title chosen for the new “songbook.”)

No. 6 of the FAQ asks, “Will this hymnal include a separate section of psalms (A Psalter)?
The first part of the response says that “the psalms” will be scattered “by subject’ throughout the hymnal.

The UPDATE announces that in addition there will be a separately published psalter.
Of course the designation “psalter” is not always used in the same way, neither in general nor in this FAQ response. For example, the response notes that in Rejoice in the Lord the psalms are in a “discrete Psalter section.” Actually this “psalter” is a unit in Part I, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE, under the subheading, “Psalms Praise Him.” Here there are only 63 psalms (#83-143) in numerical sequence. Some of these include the complete biblical psalm; many others are select verses from the biblical psalm (Ps. 119 is spread over two numbers (#129, 130), for a total of 9 stanzas. Psalm 119 is again captured as “Scriptural allusions” in 5 hymns. Obviously this Rejoice “psalter” designation is very different from the 1987 PH, where Psalm 119 is versified in 22 stanzas, all by the same versifier and the same Genevan tune).

It is worth noting the different approaches in the CRC and the RCA traditions. The CRC has always published complete psalters, that is, all 150 psalms were represented. In the 1912-1914 Psalter and in the 1934 (Red) and 1959 (Blue) Psalter Hymnal the 150 psalms were spread over many versifications, that is, the Scottish/English psalter tradition (generally Presbyterian). The 1987 (Grey) Psalter Hymnal went back to the Dutch/Genevan tradition of each biblical psalm represented by one versification and one tune. The RCA has not published a complete psalter since its 1789 Psalms and Hymns….of the Dutch Reformed Church. (Psalm 119 is represented by 121 stanzas). There were many later editions with an ever-increasing number of hymns.

All of this adds up to my main question: What kind of bi-denominational psalter can we look forward to?

Now to answer Harry's question...

I want to be clear that there are two different products we are talking about. The first is the actual bi-denominational hymnal/songbook entitled "Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs" (LUYH, pronounced lu-yah as a short-form). The second is a separate psalter not yet titled.

1. In LUYH you will find representation of all 150 Psalms as you do in the Psalter Hymnal. What is different is that they will not appear in order at the front of the hymnal but will rather be placed where they would fit thematically or in the worship order with a good index at the back of the book in case you are looking for a particular psalm. Some psalms will appear more than once (i.e. Psalm 23) others will only appear once. This hymnal is scheduled for release in 2013.

2. The psalter will be close to the size of LUYH. It will be in the order of the psalms. For each psalm you will first find the full text of the psalm arranged for responsive reading, or reading with multiple voices, along with some pointing and suggested tone for those churches who desire to chant the psalms (the tones themselves will appear elsewhere in the book). Following the text of the psalm will be musical renderings of that particular psalm which could include something from the Genevan Psalter, or another metrical version, as well as psalm composition in a gospel, contemporary/modern, or folk idiom for example. Some psalms will only have one or two musical representations others will have five or more. The psalter is scheduled for release in 2012.

Nick Monsma on October 14, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My hope for the new Psalter would be that one setting for each Psalm would be as close as possible to the text -- that is, an actual (easily singable) musical setting of the Psalm (or of several of its verses), not just a song based on the ideas in the Psalm. I would find that very useful for worship. Adaptations and interpretations of Psalms are fine, but for those who believe that Psalmody is an important part of Biblical worship, being able to sing the text of the Psalms is key.

The same would go for the Psalm settings in LUYH, but I understand that there are many other competing priorities for those editing a comprehensive hymnal.

Out of My Hands?I love music! I love to play and sing and worship! Everyone who knows me would smile and agree with those statements. I have memories of sitting in church as a child cheerfully flipping through the pages of the hymnal. One particular Sunday stands out in my memory. I must have been flipping hymnal pages very noisily during the pastors’ sermon.  The irritated worshiper next to me snatched the book out of my hands and put it firmly back in the rack. I got the message! If you’re going to get lost in the words and music in the hymnal during the sermon, do it quietly!Seriously, that quick stab of embarrassment and surprise impacted me as an 8 year old. I still remember the hymnal that I loved being ripped out of my hands. I smile now as I remember, because I’m sure I was being rude and distracting. But lately I’ve wondered about this very thing – taking the books out of people’s hands.Don’t get me wrong, I love contemporary music and worship. The trend in modern worship is to project lyrics and Bible passages, making it easy for the worshiper to flow with the service. There is no need to announce page numbers or take time to find them. There is no heavy hymnal to balance between you and your neighbor who you may or may not know and feel comfortable singing with, let alone share the task of holding it in front of you. Have you ever started shaking while doing that? How embarrassing! Without the book, your hands are released to clap or to raise in praise and adoration. So I will agree, there are plenty of good reasons to free them up.Many churches also project the scripture passage. This also makes it clear and easy for all to see, and takes away the embarrassment for worshipers and seekers alike who struggle to find obscure passages in Philemon or Haggai.But what happens when we take the printed books out of our hands? The cutting edge technology of the 15th century produced the printing press, placing the printed page in the hands of the people. Has the cutting edge technology of the 20th century taken it out of their hands? Before you write me off, think through this with me.The implications of not holding the Bible in your hands during worship abound, but I won’t pursue those here. Let’s talk about hymnals. The Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church in America are joining together to produce a new hymnal. It’s a huge project! I know because I’m involved in it. “Why a hymnal?” people ask. “Our church doesn’t use a book.” We are well aware of this. It’s okay. No one will be forced to buy the book.

Think of the act of holding and having. The hymnal my church has in the pew says a lot about what the church believes. It has been chosen carefully. We take seriously the implications of the theology expressed in the words of the songs. God’s word is often hidden in our hearts along with a melody. The collection of words and music gathered together in a hymnal give expression to the heartsong of a community. I hold in my hands my favorite songs along with your favorites. I hold the songs of children and old people, the songs of those from other nations and cultures, the songs of those who have lived through war and atrocities and those who haven’t. I hold the songs of pastors and plumbers, of scholars and students. The beauty of the book is that I hold your song as well as mine. The beauty is that I hold many songs in my hands. To place the hymnal in the people’s hands gives them a snapshot of Christian community. It’s theologically rich and musically diverse. It’s a symbol of who we are and what we believe.Here is what has struck me as important lately: if we worship only with words on the screen, we are at the mercy of the one choosing those words. This puts a lot of power into the hands of one person, the worship leader. As worshiper, I watch and participate as I decide while the worship proceeds from slide to slide. And then it’s done. I have nothing left but the memory of the experience, and my impression will depend on whether I liked the speed, key, accompaniment, etc. My worship becomes something that passes quickly in front of me, by someone else’s design. I can’t take it home. I can’t play it for my enjoyment or my children without significant effort to find it in print, perhaps online.Let’s ask what we lose by not having a good hymnal in our pews, in our homes. If we never see the complete text on the page, we may not recognize the beauty of the whole. Will we realize the breadth if we see it one line at a time, one day a week? Will we recognize the importance of all the songs in one place if we don’t feel the weight of it in our hands? And if my church sings only the choices of one leader, will we know what we’re missing?I’m not saying that we should only use hymnals. Certainly there is too much good in both mediums, electronic and print, to use only one. We have so many great opportunities at our fingertips today. We need to carefully consider the implications of each, and choose with prayer and wisdom the best and widest resources for corporate worship and spiritual growth. And honestly, let’s ask ourselves, is there value to what we can hold in our hands? 

I'm not sure about this new hymnal.  I understand that there are many established churches out there who will dole out the cash for them because that's what you do.  But I'm not sure our church will go for it -- I'd be surprised if they did.  We have a ton of music available through the old hymnal, supplements and lots of CCLI stuff.  I can hear people saying they'd rather put their $$ toward local mission.

Hi Allen, I appreciate your heart for mission. I would like to suggest that having 'a ton of music available' is one of the best reasons to put together a collection of hymns and songs that is theologically rich and meets the needs of the worshiping church. Too many choices can be as frustrating as too few. I'm beginning to see that a hymnal can provide a community with a core set of music to draw from. In this case, this also includes resources from a reformed perspective for the church as it celebrates the sacraments and Christian holidays together. Of course, an ongoing goal is to make the music accessible to the average musician and accompanist, the singer in the pew, and provide a well-rounded and thoughtful repertoire to the local worship leader.  And who knows? Maybe having a larger collection of songs representing the old and new, heartsongs that cross denominational lines, and music that shows diversity and appreciation for music from other cultures will actually be missional.

I appreciate this discussion. I'd love to hear others' opinions of whether or not a hymnal can be missional. 

Hello Joyce and all,

I had a thought for the new hymnal that I wanted to pass along. It seems to me that one of the great needs and opportunities is for the use of a hymnal as a common resource for worship outside of Sunday mornings (though that receives the most attention). I’m thinking of small groups, family worship, church committee meetings, prayer groups, and even individual prayer. So what if the new hymnal contained orders for morning and evening prayers? And perhaps other suggestions or resources along these lines?

I can imagine several potential benefits...

- It could help encourage the ongoing recovery of the practice of morning and evening prayer (aka the "daily office", fixed-hour prayer, liturgy of the hours). Since this has always (early church, medieval, Reformation era, and contemporary) included the Psalms as prominent (and usually sung or chanted), it would be a natural fit with a hymnal encouraging Psalm singing.

- It could help to provide a much needed link between our corporate (Sunday morning) worship and the daily worship of individuals, families, and groups throughout the week.  I’m thinking of Jamie Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and his comments about the need to keep our various prayer, worship, and spiritual disciplines linked to the corporate worship of the church, about how crucial this is for our spiritual formation as communities of disciples.

- As has been noted, many churches are using projection in Sunday worship - but nobody I know uses projection in small group or family worship, or personal devotion times! Yet here is where a hymnal can provide such a rich resource! I might even be so bold as to suggest it could increase sales...I know I would be more likely to buy a copy for home use if it could serve in this way (maybe even one for home, one for the office, etc.).  And I would recommend the same to others. And maybe our church would be more interested to have it in the pews if it was also in use in our homes.

A few other related thoughts...

- This could be as simple as a couple pages with morning and evening prayer liturgies for home and small group use. Liturgies adapted to church seasons could be included. Or it could be made more robust - including a cycle of suggested Psalms as many prayer books do. Maybe a couple pages of explanation of the long practice of daily morning and evening prayer and some instruction for the use of these liturgies.  And possible adaptations for families with small children, for example.

- If this suggestion is too late in the process, or even if its not, perhaps publishing a separate edition of the hymnal - say, Lift Up Your Hearts - Home and Small-Group Edition - could serve a similar purpose. Include, say, 50 of the most central Psalms, another 50 hymns and songs, some daily prayer liturgies, and make it a smaller, more portable size I can carry with me.  Here’s where a digital edition for our various portable devices could also be helpful.

- Some resources that came to mind as I thought of this - Arthur Paul Boers’ book The Rhythm of God’s Grace: Uncovering Morning and Evening Hours of Prayer.  Or some of Hughes O. Old’s work on common prayer in the early Reformed churches (an article I just read recently), the various common prayer books from Episcopal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic sources. Not to mention, of course, Phil Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face that I’ve only glanced at so far, but I know is doing some similar recovery work.

- I even wonder if having these others settings as a consideration would guide (and enrich) the decision process about which songs to include

Perhaps this has already been suggested and considered (and dismissed). But I didn’t see any mention of it on the website posts I came across. I’d love to hear some discussion of this - pros or cons I haven’t thought of yet.

To submit my lone vote at this point, my interest in a new hymnal would significantly increase if this could be made part of it!  


Darrin, you are tracking with the thinking of the editorial committee!  We are hoping to do exactly what you are suggesting the clincher will be the issue of space. 

I'm delighted to hear it. Can you tell us any more?

What shape such a section might take? What models or resources are being looked at?

What other hymnals have included resources along these lines?

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