Friday, 25 June 2010

New Methodist hymn book.

I have just received this week's Methodist Recorder (yes it is a day late)and started to skim through to see what caught my eye and arrived at the letters page where there are a number of letters relating to the proposed new hymn book.
The first letter I read is about changing of words to hymns and I have to say I do not understand why we have to change the words of hymns that certainly people in my generation grew up with. To be honest the proposed changes to 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' strike me as political correctness gone stark raving bonkers.

The other thing that I struggle with is that the new book is supposedly a 'supplement' to Hymns and Psalms and according to the dictionary definition I would have been expecting the new book to contain nothing that is already in Hymns and Psalms. According to one correspondent the book will contain 815 items with 320 of them already being available in Hymns and Psalms.

The Merriam Webster on-line dictionary gives this definition for a supplement : a part added to or issued as a continuation of a book or periodical to correct errors or make additions.

Have I missed something or am I misinterpreting the definition.

I suppose conference will approve it but believe it will be interesting to see how many churches across the connexion actually take it up in either format. I don't see many churches in our circuit expressing much interest.


DaveW said...


My understanding is this is a full new hymn book not a supplement. I am pretty sure Conference confirmed that last year.

The web based rolling resource is of course by definition a supplement.

I have not looked at the particular word changes yet, however, I think some can give hymns a new life for new generations by making them clearer and by re-phrasing to recognise that English has changed, particularly in our understanding of what are now used as gendered words eg man.

My experience with other hymn books is that when done well nobody has a problem but when done badly nobody uses them.

There are many hymns in H&P that I won't use because of the language, it would be good to be able to use some of them again.

Rev Tony B said...

Well, there's changing language, and there's changing hymns. Bringing obsolete language up to date can sometimes be done (but sometimes can't, without destroying the poetry). Editing hymns because we don't like what the writer gave us is a different thing altogether. Those preachers who change the offending line in "In Christ Alone" are technically in breach of copyright. OK, you might not like to sing about the wrath of God, it is generally misunderstood and gets in the way of the rest of the subject - in which case, choose a different hymn. Do not amend a hymn-writer's text - remember the words of John Wesley in his Preface to the Collection of Hymns: "I desire they would not attempt to mend them - for they really are not able."

As to the new book - it stopped being a supplement a long time ago. It's a new book. I'm not sure how many churches will bother to buy it, but if bowdlerisation such as "Dear Lord and Father" is typical, I won't be encouraging my churches to buy it.

Avey said...

Yes you have missed something..... the words are not sacred.... God is. Regard it as transforming to encourage people who prefer English to not feel like guests in a museum. Everything moves, nothing should stay stationary.... but church has, hence our church attendances and lack of a lot of other things like being incarnational...

David said...

We shan't be buying the new hymn book. When we get some spare money we will update our technology and then be able to decide which hymns fit our church and which versions. Hymn books are already close to being obsolete.

Doreen Nightingale Shropshire said...

It's all very well producing a new hymn but if the book is not bound properly, then all the work compiling it is useless. It will be a 'big book' we are told. Well, Hymns and Psalms is a 'big book' and look at some of them - you have to use clothes pegs and rubber bands to keep them open when you are playing piano/organ. I have a collection of old hymn books and in those days there did not seem to be a problem: they were bound properly, with quality paper. I have noticed the same problem with other music - you have to crease it vigorously for it to remain open. Therefore, no thought has been put into the poor organist/pianist. Well they are anxious to make money quickly, so do not have time!! As far as 'Singing the Faith' is concerned, why did no-one think of simply producing a hymn/song book using the work of mainly new composers/writers? That would have sold like hot cakes and we still have Hymns and Psalms to turn to for the older hymns.