Tuesday, April 29, 2008

21st Century Hymnal

"I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
Isaiah 43:19a, NRSV

It is a shame that the 2008 General Conference has adopted a petition to establish yet another hymnal revision committee to produce a new, printed hymnal for the denomination. Even though several speeches against came from young people and people of color, the prevailing wish of the older, white delegates was affirmed. This flies in the face of at least three of the new hymnal’s proposed goals:
  • Incorporate new expressions of worship in new and revitalizing congregations to engage all persons, including new, younger, and diverse people.
  • Hold broad appeal across cultural, geographical, age, and congregation settings.
  • Incorporate the newest technologies and ways of communicating the music and liturgy of the book.
The time has come to refrain from printing millions of paper hymnals and move toward more flexible and accessible music and liturgy resources that can be downloaded from the Internet. Most of the new and emerging congregations and forms of worship in The United Methodist Church do not utilize printed songs and liturgies in worship but rather use digital projection to enable those gathered to fully express their faith in word and song. Incorporating new technologies would not preclude printing liturgies and song sheets (with appropriate permissions) for those wishing to have paper in their hands. It would, however, enable timely, emerging and relevant resources to be readily available at a fraction of the cost, if not entirely free. And the funds not expended on printed hymnals would make it possible to translate these resources into languages other than English.

If the church is serious about reducing its environmental impact, it cannot in good conscience authorize the printing of millions of copies of a new paper hymnal. Already the question is circulating: What does the General Board of Discipleship and The United Methodist Publishing House propose churches do with their discarded 1989 hymnals? Please, let’s not suggest, in the spirit of recycling, that we ship them to Africa.


Craig L. Adams said...

I agree that this was a very foolish decision. The last Hymnal was quite successful because they took the time, responded to feedback & built a consensus around it. It sold well. It seems likely to me that this one will not. Some people have "moved on" from paper. Some people (like me) haven't but would like to, other may resist the Hymnal for content it does or does not contain. Hymnals have sometimes been a hard sell. this one certainly will be.

Or so it looks at this point.

gavin richardson said...

i don't know if we can, or if i'd want us to get away from binded hymnals. however, it can't be expected to sell as well just because people will opt for the cheaper software over the mass of books.

i heard awhile back that they were working on an 'emerging' hymnal to move into the current generation. much like the faith we sing worked for contemporary audiences. i thought a supplement was a good continuation for another 10 years.

oh well