Lift Up Your Hearts

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This is a reflection from Diane Dykgraaf on her thoughts regarding "Lift Up Your Hearts" hymnal set for distribution in June 2013.   She serves as the administrative assistant to the editorial committee.

Working with this editorial committee of theologians and musicians has been a privilege and a joy for me. I came into the process shortly after it started, and for the last 4 years have been working as Joyce's assistant, and doing whatever I can to assist this team. My former role as worship director and worship leader for a CRC and a church musician has been very helpful. I grew up in a family that loved to sing the 4-part hymns at every gathering. I am thankful for the music 'memory' that I have because of my past, and that leads me to the question we've been asked over and over again - "Why a new hymnal? Aren't hymnals a thing of the past?" I believe there are several answers to those questions.

First of all, even though the Editorial committee heard these questions, there was never a feeling of futility, or even frustration. Maybe the day when all of the congregational music came from the one book in the pew is gone, but the idea of a hymnal containing congregational song that speaks to the heart of the people who worship at a given time and place, that is biblical and theologically sound, and that can form the memory of a worshiping community and worshiping individuals, is certainly NOT past. Perhaps it's time to expand our definition of hymnal, beyond the traditional thoughts. How about a hymnal on an ipad, on a computer, projected onto a screen in church, and yes, even a book I can hold in my hands, place on my piano at home, or write in as I read the texts for devotions? How about a hymnal that is used in the home for family worship, or at the bedside of a sick loved one? How about a hymnal children can use for their piano lessons?(or other instruments). How about a hymnal where you can print out the song/hymn in the key that you want it in. There is some thought today, even in the less traditional circles, that for words and melodies to become part of individual and community memory, that it needs to be more accessible to the worshiper than just words flashed across a screen once a week and changed at the desire of a worship leader.

I have to say that this editorial committee of 12 people is packed with musicians and theologians of the highest repute, yet there isn't an ego or selfish agenda among the group. It has been a joy to see those representing different ethnic groups or genres, highlighting the best of their area of expertise or experience, yet always yielding to the best of the group as a whole. There has been an over all respect and humility that makes working together possible, and always with a heart for ministry and desire for the local church.

The other thing that I've been amazed at, and that most people will not realize, is the attention to every little detail. First of all is a concern for biblical accuracy from a Reformed perspective. Song selection was a tedious and long process that included listening to many wonderful people, including the 80 member Advisory Council who were asked to submit their congregations heart songs. Needs were identified for new texts or tunes, and Lift Up Your Hearts will include some very new and fresh surprises. Care has been given to the accessibility and singability of the music - can it be played and sung by the local church musician? Every note, every phrase, every word is currently in the process of being checked.

For those of us who have perfectionist tendencies, we really want this hymnal to be perfect. But the reality is that it won't be. No matter how hard we work, and how good it is, it will not be perfect. But I can say with all sincerity that the desire of this committee has been to provide a hymnal that is God-honoring, pastoral, that is inspirational and encouraging; a hymnal that will teach through song and scripture, and will connect us with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world in the mission God has called us to be a part of.

Who wouldn't want to get up in the morning and be part of that?

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I am so grateful for your work, Diane, and the work of the whole committee. Hymns have played a powerful role in shaping my faith and giving voice to it. Every week my heart is stirred by the words we sing. This week it was the song, My Jesus I Love Thee that hit home. My grandfather is in hospice care now and won't live much longer. The song became a prayer for him and a source of comfort to me.

"I'll love thee in life, I will love thee in death, and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath... in mansions of glory and endless delight, I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright, I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now."

Great project here! I can't wait to see it! I love the values driving this anticipated hymnal.

One classic problem that concerns me is, how do we handle some people's heart songs that frankly are mushy sentimental pieces with unsavory or unbiblical theology?

Major blessings on your work!

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