(PNS) — Presbyterian Publishing Corporation announced Wednesday that it will donate royalties from sales of the Glory to God hymnal to organizations involved in reparative justice for every African American spiritual and Indigenous Peoples’ song in the book. This is being done to honor the creators of these songs, who, unlike other hymn writers in the book, were never able to benefit from their creations.
“Paying royalties for songs composed and arranged by respective communities of African Americans and Indigenous People is part of the repair work for racial justice and healing PPC understands as part of its mission as a publisher,” said the Rev. Dr. Bridgett Green, vice president of publishing. “The hymnody and creative expressions of faith of these two groups have been and continue to be pivotal to Christian worship. Because many hymns and spirituals were passed through tradition and without an assigned author, African American and Indigenous communities were never compensated and honored for their creative expressions when their works were published; therefore, those communities did not benefit from the economic resources they so richly deserved.”
Green estimates that the amount to date, since the first publication of Glory to God in 2013, is about $50,000. Funding will continue as additional hymnals are sold. The amount is calculated based on what these songs would have earned for their creators, just as hymns that are under copyright earn royalties for their creators and licensors. The recipient or recipients of the funding will be determined after consultation with those involved in reparative justice causes, both across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in the Louisville community.
Green noted that several congregations have begun making donations to local or national restorative justice organizations every time they sing a spiritual or Indigenous Peoples’ song. She encouraged additional congregations, seminaries and colleges to consider this for their own music program.
David Eicher, editor of Glory to God, praised the decision. “It pleases me greatly that PPC has decided to recognize the contribution of unnamed creators of African American spirituals and Indigenous People,” he said. “The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song had a desire that the collection called Glory to God would be as inclusive and representative as possible. Being unable to pay royalties directly to the creators of these songs, I am grateful to the leadership of PPC for taking this action that further recognizes the rich diversity of gifts in our collection of hymns, songs and spiritual songs.”
The Rev. Dr. Mary Louise Bringle, chair of the hymnal committee, added, “A hymnal committee dreams its work will prove to be a gift that keeps on giving, enabling congregations to witness in song, week after week, to the wide reach of God’s creative Spirit. What a joy for the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song to see our dreams further realized in yet another form of giving, as the publishing corporation honors the contributions of groups not formerly compensated for their artistic efforts, and in so doing widens the arc of God’s justice in the world. Glory to God!”
by Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Special to Presbyterian News Service