The new hymnal-ette

Table of Content

Unless you're a German-speaking Anabaptist, hymnals don't last forever. The twelve-year-old Singing the Living Tradition has reached or passed its half-life, and so a supplement is in order even if it means -- joy! -- having two (or more) books in the pew racks.

The UU Enforcer has bought it, and has a review at his blog.

Now, apart from the thrill of novelty in 1993, I've not been very keen on Singing the Living Tradition, and the recent call for new hymns that didn't sounds like there was a place for new Christian hymns didn't warm me up any. But fundamentally, my dislike is musical, not theological. SLT has introduced more than its fair share of saccharine jingles. For All That Is Our Life sounds like a Campbell's Soup ad.

It makes me think the Anabaptists have the right idea: retain pure feeling based in profound experience. Consider this woman hymn-writer's -- "Song of Annelein of Freiburg, who was drowned and then burned in 1529" -- words:

O God, guard my heart and mouth,
Lord watch over me at all times,
Let nothing separate me from you
Be it affliction, anxiety, or need,
Keep me pure in joy.

That's a keeper. I doubt anyone would sing "Roots hold me close/Wings set me free" in Guantanamo or the like.

Apart from the Jason Shelton works (which I'll reserve judgement until I hear), I'm also disappointed that the new booklet -- entitled Singing the Journey -- scans so old, if the UU Enforcer's relative praise is any indication. I mean, is "De Colores", really in there? Or "Shall we Gather at the River", "There is a Balm in Gilead", or "By the Rivers of Babylon"? I'm having "old home week at seminary chapel" flashbacks. I think all of them are in the Chalice Hymnal, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hymnal of the same vintage as the SLT. Please tell me "Hear Am I, Lord" isn't in there.

Comment your hearts out, particularly if you have a copy. I'll save my money.

3 Replies to “The new hymnal-ette”

  1. The 13 songs included in the “Jewish and Christian Teachings” section are:

    “We Begin Again in Love” (R. Eller-Isaacs; L. Kleen, 1996)
    “23rd Psalm” (B. McFerrin, 2003)
    “Be Thou with Us” (D. Budd, 1994; T. Benjamin, 1995)
    “Hush” (Afric-Amer spiritual; J. Shelton)
    “Santo” (C. Guillermo, 1986)
    “Rivers of Babylon” (T. McNaughton, G. Reyam, F. Farian, B. Dowe, 1978)
    “Szekely Aldas” (Trad. Transylvanian; E. Norton, 2002)
    “Eli, Eli” (H. Senesh; D. Zehavi, arr. K Herman)
    “There Is a Balm in Gilead” (Afric-Amer spiritual; arr. N. Williams Jr, 2000)
    “Shall We Gather at the River” (R. Lowry, 1865)
    “Nada Te Turbe” (“Santa Teresa de Jesus”; J. Berthier / Taize)
    “Ubi Caritas” & “Vieni Spirito Creatore” (J. Berthier / Taize)

    By my count, that’s one hymn (“Shall We Gather”), one spiritual, one gospel setting of a spiritual, one reggae spiritual, five chants or praise refrains (including one in Hungarian), one choral anthem (“23rd Psalm”), one Hebrew or Aramaic song, and two Spanish songs. Only one of these — Daniel Budd and Tom Benjamin’s 13-word praise song “Be Thou with Us” is genuinely contemporary.

    Happily, “Here I Am, Lord” didn’t make the cut.

  2. Let me amend my comment just a bit: Most of these songs will sound contemporary, of course, but “Be Thou with Us” and “We Begin Again in Love” are the only two that were both written and scored since the publication of “Singing the Living Tradition.”

  3. SLT has introduced more than its fair share of saccharine jingles. For All That Is Our Life sounds like a Campbell’s Soup ad.

    THANK YOU!!!

    Sometimes I think that half the Singing the Living Tradition is a collection of Hallmark cards set to rejected Muppet movie music.

    I guess that I must wait until our GA delegation returns home to get reviews of the newer submissions.

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