By Steve Wolfgang
Welcome to the 2012 Truth Lectures! We celebrate this year the consolidation of Truth Bookstore and CEI Bookstore, and the relocation of the Foundation to Athens, Alabama. We have been warmly received and are gratified to become more involved in this community and area. Even though our clientele is nationwide, indeed, international, we are happy to be rooted here as we expand the operational scope of a traditional local business, the CEI Bookstore, owned and operated by the Foundation for more than a quarter-century (since 1986).
As a non-profit religious publishing Foundation, our mission is to produce and distribute a wide variety of material which will help Christians grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, edify other Christians who worship together in local congregations, and help fellow Christians share the good news of God’s grace, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, and the hope of eternal life. The materials we produce and publish include an innovative full commentary on the entire Bible, several complete sets of Bible class curricula, a wide variety of tracts and other Bible study materials. This year, we also celebrate the introduction of a new hymnal around which the 2012 Truth Lectureship has been planned and themed.
Most of the topics in this year’s Lectureship are derived from hymn titles, old and new, which are included in the new hymnal, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. Lectureship speakers have been given wide latitude to address their assigned topics as they deem best, and thus these lectures may or may not extensively address the content of the hymn from which its title is drawn, at each speaker’s discretion. Participants were selected because of their ability to proclaim the truths suggested by the hymn titles they were assigned; they include evangelists well-known in North Alabama and elsewhere as well as a number of staff writers for Truth Magazine or others connected with the Foundation.
Other sessions will address principles, promoted in this new hymnal, which can enhance the worship of God in song. These sessions include the early morning presentations on “Singing with the Understanding” conducted by David Maravilla, one of the five editors of the hymnal. Each evening’s lecture will be preceded by singing hymns from the new hymnal. Additionally, this year’s Open Forum will consist of three “conversations,” including questions and answers, with the editors of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. These sessions will allow audiences to query the editors about the principles and processes used to produce the distinctive features of the new hymnal. Some background of the goals and philosophy developed for this hymnal, as well as the historical background of prior hymnals, can be found in Steve Wolfgang, “A New Hymnal for Worshiping God in Song,” in the 2007 Truth Lectures.
Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs: The Hymnal
This new hymnal is an original and fully edited production. Designed for congregational worship, it is much more than a simple compilation of hymns. It is the carefully designed work product of worship leaders, hymn writers, tune composers, evangelists, and elders. Its textual content, musical arrangements, style and format, and special features are intended to expedite and enhance the praise of God and the teaching and admonition of Christians.
Table of Contents
The content of this hymnal was developed in stages, beginning with selection of the first 550 titles, identified as the result of an Internet survey in which participants ranked those hymns most appropriate for a congregational hymnal. These 550 hymns were identified as familiar and widely used hymns by many Christians who participated in the Internet survey, and thus represent a core “repertoire” in many churches. They were selected, identified, and highly ranked by Christians across the country from the more than 1800 hymns which appeared in the eight hymnals most widely used by Churches of Christ in the 20th century. Thus, more than 1200 hymns, including some “personal favorites” as well as hymns well-known in some localities, were not included since they were not highly ranked by those investing the time to participate in the Internet survey.
To this core repertoire of 550 familiar hymns, 300 titles were added from various genre appropriate for congregational worship. These genre included categories often identified as contemporary, folk, gospel, New English Renaissance, and high church hymns. In addition, these 300 titles included hymns written by the brethren in recent decades. Before being selected for inclusion, hymns recently written by brethren were subjected to a blind review and ranked on the basis of content, poetic and musical quality, and potential for use in congregations wishing to learn new hymns. The final Table of Contents, therefore, includes 850 titles that are both old and new, representing a variety of musical and poetic styles. As a collection, they reflect an emphasis on quality and suitability for congregational worship rather than being skewed toward any particular favorite genre or personal preference.
Of the many distinctive features of this new hymnal, perhaps the most noticeable is the result of the concept of “Phrased Notation.” This unique feature sets the width of a hymn by the length of phrases that fit on a line, rather than by the musical notation. Phrased Notation then “wraps” the music around those phrases. The result is a series of unbroken clauses and couplets, as in a book of poetry. These unbroken phrases let the worshiper visualize, group, and more easily comprehend the meaning of the phrases as they are being sung.
Hymns utilizing Phrased Notation appeared initially in The Sumphonia Hymn Supplement, published by the Foundation in 2007. That collection of 78 hymns functioned both as a hymnal supplement and as a prototype to test the layout demanded by using Phrased Notation. More than 10,000 copies of this prototype were printed and distributed, and have been used in private and public settings to test this layout scheme in many homes and congregations over a five-year period. Phrased Notation has proven to be a valuable layout format, effectively promoting the comprehension of uninterrupted thoughts within a hymn.
The layout of hymns, centered on each page, causes them to appear in various widths in Phrased Notation. Hymns with longer phrases will occupy the full width of the page. Other hymns with varying meters will appear as “narrow” hymns with significant white space surrounding them. In some hymns, the meter demands different staff widths within the same hymn. To help orient how the eye “sees” each hymn, titles of each hymn (also of varying length) appear with spanners which run the full width of each page.
The first section of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs contains psalms and psalm derivatives. A second section contains hymns and spiritual songs, avoiding any technical criteria which are sometimes used to differentiate the two (e.g., whether or not there is a chorus or refrain). This second section is ordered in a God-first sequence, beginning with hymns of praise, followed by hymns about the life of Christ, continuing with hymns addressing themes such as salvation, fellowship, submission, commitment, the Christian life, prayer, evangelism, heaven, and eventually concluding with songs of invitation.
Editorial Principles and Processes
Each hymn was systematically and thoroughly reviewed in terms of word choice and verse selection. With few exceptions, any hymn familiar to the primary audience of this hymnal was published in its most common version, as determined by its appearance in the hymnals most commonly used among Churches of Christ in recent and current generations. These hymnals included Hymns for Worship-Revised (Stevens and Shepard, 1987), Praise for the Lord (Wiegand, 1992), Christian Hymns, No. 2 (L. O. Sanderson, 1948), Great Songs of the Church, No. 2 (Jorgenson, 1937), Songs of Faith and Praise (Howard, 1990), Songs of the Church (Howard, 1971), and Sacred Selections (Crum, 1956).
To achieve a high degree of consistency, alterations in wording followed an editorial policy developed by the editorial board in 2006. This hymn editing policy gave greatest emphasis to language that was Biblical, poetic, and original or standard, while giving lesser emphasis to language that privileges momentary trends or accommodates transient fashions.
When a hymn was unfamiliar or its language archaic, its pronouns and accompanying verbs were modernized when possible. However, if a hymn was more familiar, its pronouns and verbs remain unchanged. Unfamiliar hymns with problematic verses were occasionally “hybridized” using superior couplets or quatrains from existing phrases within the hymn. On rare occasions, one or two words in familiar hymns were altered to achieve consistent meter or to prevent worshipers from stumbling over inconsistent phrasing, by eliminating the need to frequently double-check the hymn page for unpredictable terms or rhythms.
A number of outstanding hymns, widely known and frequently sung by prior generations of Christians, have dropped out of the repertoire of modern hymnals but are reintroduced in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. In some hymns, excellent original verses have likewise disappeared from hymnals over time, and are incorporated in this hymnal. The criteria necessary for reintroduction were Biblical expression, worthy content, and poetic quality. Also, several hymns in this hymnal contain optional verses. These verses, appearing below the staff, are borrowed from other hymns with a similar message and meter. They demonstrate how optional verses can extend a hymn while giving the borrowed verse a fresh use.
Additionally, there are a number of “composite” hymns included as a distinctive feature of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. These hymns contain verses from several well-known hymns sharing the same message and meter. These composite hymns address topics of salvation, pilgrimage, spiritual warfare, heaven, and the crucifixion and kingship of Christ. Most of these composite hymns introduce new or underutilized music appropriate to these very familiar verses. For Christians and congregations interested in learning the new music, these composite hymns can revitalize older verses and provide an uncomplicated and spiritually edifying medley-like worship experience.
As with lyrics, hymn tunes were likewise reviewed and considered for alteration if necessary. These alterations followed a music editing policy established in 2006 to promote editorial consistency. In most cases, tunes were not altered at all. Tunes regarded as familiar were published in their most common rendition, both in terms of the melody and the harmony. Melodies of familiar tunes were not revised by the editors. Even should a given melody appear to have been altered, the version typeset in this hymnal merely reflects a change already made by congregations after long-term use.
Melodies of unfamiliar tunes, on the other hand, were altered when necessary to render the music singable by an average congregation. In some cases, the original melody had fallen out of use because it employed an extreme range in pitch, an unusual rhythm, or a peculiar complexity. These melodies were edited after consulting original versions retrieved from archives. In other cases, a melody required revisions to fit the rhythm and meter of the hymn. Throughout, a minimalist editorial policy was adopted, permitting as few alterations as possible to render a hymn more easily singable.
As with the melodies, most of the harmonies were left unaltered. This was especially true if the arrangement was familiar to the audience, even when an arrangement was occasionally difficult. Harmonies were revised only when the music was not widely used or easily sung by the primary audience of this hymnal. The basic approach of the music editing policy, as it related to arrangements, was to represent the sound and intent of the composer while rendering the four-part harmony accessible to the average congregation. The policy did not allow for personalized alterations to satisfy tastes and preferences of a music editor, even when the hymn tune appeared in the public domain; nor did it allow violation of standard rules of harmonization. The result is the retention of original chord progressions and the composer’s intended sound, in general, as most alterations were limited to improvements in voice-leading.
Approximately 100 hymn tunes, the majority unfamiliar to the primary audience, were altered only slightly. The harmonies of approximately 60 tunes, largely unfamiliar or lacking a standard arrangement, were altered significantly. In cases where a hymn tune had been published with various arrangements but no clear standard version had been established, tunes received an arrangement that was original, one that was composited from previously published versions, or an arrangement was modified only slightly from a pre-existing version. In cases of contemporary songs with numerous, highly variable, and somewhat random arrangements, the version published in this hymnal represents the editors’ best attempt to present the most commonly published and singable version.
Style and Format
All hymns and tunes in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs were copyedited to fit a style sheet. The hymn style sheet was developed according to Standard English. The music style sheet was based on Music Engraving Today: The Art and Practice of Digital Notesetting (Powell, 2002) with modifications commonly employed in brotherhood hymnals; these modifications involve shaped noteheads and stem direction priority.
Principles of capitalization in the style sheet for this hymnal follow modern Bible translations. Specifically, pronouns, titles and names for deity are capitalized, while personifications generally remain in lower case. Additionally, one of the distinctive features of this hymnal is that the word “Lord” appears in small caps as “Lord” when it refers to YHWH, as in some Bibles. The variable capitalization of “Lord” and “Lord” allows this hymnal to serve as a teaching tool, helping worshipers to sing with clearer understanding.
Other Distinctive Features
In addition to unique features such as Phrased Notation, capitalizations of Lord and Lord, composite hymns, hybridized verses, and optional verses, other distinctive aspects of this hymnal include dagger endnotes and a hymn-based metrical index. Daggers (†) appearing below the bottom staves indicate to worship leaders some alternate ways to lead a hymn. Each dagger corresponds to a suggestion for a possible key change, optional arrangement, or Scripture reading that can be integrated into a hymn. Dagger suggestions are detailed in Endnotes, located in the Appendix.
Another unique feature is the Metrical Index of Hymns, which clusters hymns of similar meter, then lists them by their titles. For this index, hymn meter is defined as syllables per line. This simplified definition does take into account the role of rhyming or the concept of metrical feet, since these aspects of meter are more academic than practical for most worship leaders who will use this hymnal. Because the Metrical Index of Hymns lists hymns by titles rather than by tune names, it provides a user-friendly resource for worship leaders wishing to interchange the hymns and tunes in preparing worship services.
It is our fervent desire that worship leaders will make full use of this hymnal, exercising good judgment throughout. Worship leaders have great discretion in selecting the ideal tempo, volume, and other aspects of worship in song, based on the content of each hymn they select. While those who lead congregational worship also have discretion in selecting which verses best fit the worship service, they need not feel obligated to lead every verse of a hymn simply because the authors wrote them and the editors included them. Worship leaders may use the topical index to develop themed services, the metrical index to match hymns with various tunes, and the endnotes to consider alternative keys and arrangements. We have provided these tools with the trust and confidence that dedicated and thoughtful worship leaders will use them judiciously, while avoiding meticulous instructions or excessive orchestration which can disrupt congregational worship.
So many people have contributed to the production of this hymnal that our debts of gratitude are inestimable. From the beginning, we have sought input from numerous and varied people and sources. Our gratitude to many of these individuals is detailed in the hymnal itself. We are grateful especially to R. J. Stevens, who taught us much about enhancing the worship of God in song, and who mentored many of the editors, writers, composers, and worship leaders involved in the production of this hymnal. We are indebted to John Wiegand for researching the historical information used in the metadata of the hymns, and we also thank Richard Morrison for permission to use his shaped note font. Acknowledgements and identification of the Editorial Board and Technical Editors contained in the hymnal itself provide a small clue of our indebtedness to the host of other individuals who contributed on many levels to the production of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. All glory to God!
This has been an arduous but gratifying enterprise for the five editors. We have experienced a special fellowship as we have worked harmoniously through many toils and snares, demonstrating that it is possible to disagree fervently but without animosity while maintaining love and respect for each other through years of endeavor. Our spouses – Tom, Sylvia, Jimona, Joetta, and Bette – are gifts from God who have long understood and supported this labor of love, and are truly sharers in the work.
The editors present this hymnal to the Lord and His church with a prayer that God is pleased by this work and the hearts that produced it, that all Christians—whether with or without an inherent affinity for singing—will benefit from worshipping with this hymnal, that congregations will use this hymnal to glorify God and to teach and admonish one another, and that because of this hymnal our children and grandchildren will continue to grow spiritually after we are gone.