The new Presbyterian hymnal, which is to be published in the fall of 2013, will contain both old favorites and new offerings — a comprehensive collection, but not so many that the book will be too heavy to hold. It’ll weigh roughly two pounds — about the same as the current hymnal (and will fit into the same pew racks).
The songs include those drawn from the Psalms, from classical music, from around the world. They include everything from some of the most popular Christmas songs (“Silent Night, Holy Night”) to those much less familiar (“Sound A Mystic Bamboo Song”).
While most of the songs are in English, some hymns from the global tradition are included — including songs in Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Latin, French, Sotho and Swahili.
David Eicher, the hymnal’s editor, has said the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song considered many factors in deciding what to put in the book, including such things as which songs congregations tended to sing (and not to sing) from the 1980 hymnal; the need to minister both to those steeped from birth in Presbyterian ways and those brand-new to the denomination; and the recognition of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Presbyterian family.
The committee making the selections included church musicians, professors of theology, pastors and others — including, by requirement of the General Assembly, two who were under age 25 when the work began.
At its final meeting, the committee sang through the entire contents of the new hymnal, in the order proposed. In addition to songs, the hymnal includes liturgical material for worship and prayer services. The book is arranged in a theological arc reflecting the history of salvation — beginning with “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” and moving from the image of creation to the hope for the Lord’s return.
Here’s a reflection of the breadth in the book:
Traditional hymns: “Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me”; “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.”
More recent: “Jesus, Remember Me”; “Called As Partners in Christ’s Service.”
Liturgical seasons: “On Pentecost They Gathered”; “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”
Psalms: “You are My Refuge, Faithful God”; “To the High and Kindly Hills.”
Spirituals: “Let Us Break Bread Together”; “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Taize: “Bless the Lord, My Soul.”
Patriotic: “O Beautiful For Spacious Skies.”
Global: “When a Poor One” (Cuando el Pobre), “We Will Walk With God” (Sizohambe Naye).