As part of the preparation for this summer’s General Convention, the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music has commissioned a report from CPG’s research division on revision of the Hymnal 1982. The report includes details of the results of surveys conducted designed to ascertain the level of support or lack thereof for a revision of the Hymnal 1982. There was little by way of huge surprises in the report. Below, I offer a few highlights from the report without too much comment.
One factor emerged which seemed a surprise to those administering the survey.
The group that was most resistant to the idea of revising the hymnal are those under 29 years of age. They are the most resistant by a large percentage. The report concludes, on page 57,
“Respondents in their twenties and younger are statistically different than the rest of the respondents, reporting the least interest in desiring worship music to reflect their personal musical tastes. This proves counter to the “common knowledge” theory that younger congregants are looking for a more modern or popular-music experience at church.”
The survey found that those “whose age is significantly above or below 50 are less likely to support revision. Middle-aged Episcopalians are more supportive of revision than younger and older Episcopalians.”
Among clergy, the numbers are striking, “Specifically, both the youngest and oldest clerics tend to be more opposed to revision, while middle-aged clergy are more favorably disposed. Clergy who are younger than 30, in fact, are nearly two-thirds in opposition to revision.”
In the Under 30 Demographic:
-Among lay respondents: 50% opposed to revision, 30% neutral, 20% in favor.
-Among clergy respondents: 61.5% opposed to revision, 7.7% neutral, 30.8% in favor.
The report states, “Younger respondents continue to differ from older respondents when questioned about whether they wish worship music reflected their general musical tastes.” One 22 year old respondent wrote,
“I think there is a huge assumption made that the younger generation wants guitar- and piano-based praise and worship music. …What we want to hear in a Sunday Eucharist are the classic hymns played on organ. And occasionally we want to chant. Church is the one place where our musical taste is not based upon fad, but instead links us with a much more important, more elegant tradition. If I wanted to listen to acoustic guitar and piano, I’d pick up Dave Matthews or Ben Folds. If I wanted rap, I’d listen to Lil Wayne. …For worship, I want music that connects to me a world outside of the in and out of my daily life.”
In its conclusion, the report states, “Perhaps most significantly, there is no pattern in which youth correlates with a particular movement towards new forms of musical expression. To revise the Hymnal must in some way be a project that is a gift to the next generation. Gaining some clearer sense of what the worship music of that generation will look like will require a longer and more careful period of discernment.”
While recommending moving forward gingerly with discernment, the report acknowledges, “That 13,000 people took the time to complete a lengthy survey on the question of hymnal revision shows how central The Hymnal 1982 is to the life of The Episcopal Church. This should give us pause. A rush to revise the Hymnal could seriously undermine and weaken the Church, alienating those who have remained with The Episcopal Church through difficult times.”
In seminary, we were told that the Book of Common Prayer exists, in many ways, to protect the laity from the clergy. It provides the Church with a distinctive and agreed upon core. The hymnal functions in much the same way. The report states, “While among clergy and music directors, a plurality favor hymnal revision, sentiment among congregation members runs 2-to-1 against revision and there is no demographic category that is in favor.”
Among female clergy, there is a strong sentiment in favor of revision and the report says, “Gender is strongly correlated to views on Hymnal revision among clergy, and with some relationship among music directors, but gender has no effect on the views of the laity.”
Another respondent that the report quoted wrote,
“I’m a refugee from a non-denominational church where the ‘praise band’ was very emotional, very repetitive, and very oriented toward the congregation energetically telling God how much they loved him, needed him, would set aside everything to serve him, etc. That might seem admirable but often when you come to church, you’re running on fumes—you’re dry, hurting…I belong to a message board for evangelical mothers and let me tell you—there is a rising trend among evangelical of finding church to be empty, tiring, and irrelevant. There is a rising interest among them of either going to a ‘house church’ (for community) or a traditional church (for depth and transcendence). Please don’t give them nothing to find when they come.”
I recently was part of some liturgies that were…unfortunate. Actually beyond unfortunate, they reminded me of the very things I fled to join the Episcopal Church. From vague “contemporary” songs written in the heady days of Vatican II that talked about us rather than God to a Fraction anthem that sounded like a raucous taproom jukebox number rather than a memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ there were elements of the liturgies that were deeply uncomfortable. Moreover, the planners seem to have forgotten an adage of our rector, that we are not the interesting thing about Church – God is.
We sang over and over “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Over and over. We, us, our. We, us, our. We, us, our. Have I mentioned us lately?
A friend recently told me a story about another event. A diocese had a conference and the youngest clergy in the diocese were asked to plan the liturgies. They ended up with lots of chant, solemn masses, and the like. Middle-aged clergy were aghast and some even informed the planners that they were undermining everything they had spent their career working for.
My hope is that middle-aged leaders in the Church will not see the desire for the reconsideration of elements of lost tradition as a threat or as an undoing of their lifetime of work but as a natural process and movement to rediscover and re-appropriate parts of our heritage.
This past Saturday, I took part in a blessing of a civil union of two young women. It took place within the context of Rite I Solemn High Mass. The readings were from the King James Bible. The music was gorgeous and rooted in the Anglican tradition. The ceremonial was lush without being self-referential. The blessing itself was beautifully written and theologically rich. In other words, the fullness of our tradition created, for these women, a sacred space in which to have their commitment solemnized.
A changing world does not demand that tradition be undone. Changing realities reinforce the need for tradition – albeit a tradition that is considered, scrutinized, examined, and tried. We have spent much of the last half-century tearing down anything that looks like tradition because it looks like tradition. Our youngest laity and clergy are now taking the time to go through what has been cast aside and calling for a careful re-examination of the notion that progress means perpetual revolution.
The full report may be found at https://www.cpg.org/linkservid/57003D75-DA12-05B2-F4FFD5819BE00E5A/showMeta/0/?label=Hymnal%20Revision%20Feasibility%20Study
Very interesting. On the whole–as a 31 year old priest (ordained in 2006)–I’m reluctant to encourage revision of anything at this point in the life of the Episcopal Church for fear of the result… much better to wait.
However, I do think there is a tendency in the Hymnal 1982 to assume a musical capability that is not the reality in most of our congregations given their size (this is especially the case with some of the service music). At least, this has been my experience in the congregations I’ve served. Addressing that issue doesn’t have to mean changes to the hymnal, but it should be dealt with in, say, supplemental materials, and it does, I think, reveal a bit of the conceit we have as Episcopalians (i.e. aiming our materials at a congregation that has multiple clergy and a large choir with a professional music director when that actually described very few of our parishes today).
Agree with the “don’t revise now” theme. There *are* some hymns in H82 which are tough to sing even for trained choristers, but many of the “problem hymns” don’t need a trained choir so much as they need a changed way of presenting them, if they are unfamiliar to the congregation. Mostly that means emphasizing singing to introduce, more than hearing them on the organ, and a general expectation that the congregation will sing and make a joyful noise, without necessarily expecting they will sing *well* all the time. I know a congregation can be led, because I did it once – no choir, just me (a visitor) singing, congregation sitting tight, and it took about 1 1/2 hymns before I had the congregation with me. We sang the rest of the service together.
C. Wingate said:
Oh, gosh yes. Given the garbage liturgy coming out of SCLM, I see no reason to trust them with the hymnal.
Claiborne Reppert III said:
the 1982 Hymnal is as much a part of my worship as are the readings, BCP, and Gospels through service. Perhaps because I spent time in Cathedral Choirs in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain may explain my supreme reluctance to be a part of texts, and revisions that I already have in the dogma we follow-balked and still do at some texts and hymnals, etc. I think that you have to make Muhammad go to the Mountain and be that simple, age old, and comforting to those who seek it-and I believe we should be advocates of our tradition-the 1789 conference with a large number of the framers of the Constuitution were present. Noone through the annals of revision and retribution have gained success-my favorite part of the Service is the welcome to all newcomers, strangers, and questioning people to feel welcome-we need more outreach, welcoming, and warm to those who assemble to glorify The Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost
Kathryn K. Suminsby said:
As a 77yr. old ‘cradle’ Episcopalian , I have to agree with Jody. My parish is small (in winter!) and we don’t have a choir or even several strong singers. The additions to the 1982 hymnal which I embraced were those easy to sing. We have in recent years added some of the Taizé chants. I don’t object to change if they are ‘singable’.
Indeed, it may be that the middle-age opinion bulge, including the preponderance of high-ranking and influential Episcopal office-holders, itself is the problem with the US Episcopal Church. I might hope that they read the tea leaves you have so patiently and explicitly displayed here, but my guess is that they will force through a hymnal revision that fits their vision of what would be edifying to the church. Luckily, though, congregations can always select their own hymnals, so Hymns Ancient and Modern or the New English Hymnal could see an increase in sales.
Or a particularly determined, musically-insightful, theologically-steadfast congregation could look into publishing an alternative hymnal of its own.
Count me as one of those middle-aged clerics who is not enthusiastic about a revision of the hymnal. We’ve been doing just fine with supplements, which we are free to use or not. Why not keep doing that? The parish I see is about 35% African-American, and we have LEVAS in the pews right alongside the 1982 Hymnal. This gives our choir and congregation a diverse array of hymns, and it works out very well.
On the other hand, LEVAS needs some revision, but that’s an issue for another day.
Make that “the parish I serve.” Not enough caffeine yet.
Greg Tallant said:
Are we assuming that a revision would mean a bad revision? Is it a given that a revision would mean less tradition and more watered-down music? Though I tend to agree with Jody that waiting for another generation to revise might be the way to go, perhaps a revision would improve what I find to be an already excellent hymnal.
Thomas Williams said:
Well, yes, I think it’s a fair assumption that a revision under present circumstances would be a bad revision, for exactly the reasons that Fr AKMA suggests.
Derek Olsen said:
Well–let’s take a look at what other liturgical material has been released recently from upstairs. Would you call it an improvement on what came before?
Greg Tallant said:
Some has been quite good, in my opinion. I like the EOW 1, Prayer 2. I like the supplemental canticles.
Madre Marialinda said:
Well, the 1982 hymnal had some unfortunate revisions from the 1940 hymnal…tossing out “Once to Every Man and Nation” for political correctness reasons, and changing the poetic words to “Wachet Auf” making it a horrible travesty of the dignified German, again for political correctness reasons. On the other hand, the excellent “Earth and All Stars” was added and so was some of Jack Noble White’s swinging rhythm chant forms.
If there is revision coming, I’d really like to echo both the Presbyterians and Methodists who have added bilingual hymns in several languages to their primary hymnal.
AND, add hymns that are singable for a small congregation in which there are few really musically educated parishioners. The classic Wesley and Isaac Watts and Fanny Crosby tunes may not be sophisticated music, but they are instantly singable, full of rhythm, and the lyrics tell a story that can be followed from verse to verse. Nothing sadder than a congregation gamely attempting some of the hymns that were added to the 1982 hymnal.
In a revision, I’d also suggest staying away from the me, mine, and I lyrics and focusing on those hymns that promote communal understanding. One of the best lyric revisions was the changing of the popular “I am the Bread of Life” so that the human element became plural rather than singular. The same can easily be done to “On Eagles’ Wings” — one hymn from the guitar era that has stood the test of time and popularity and could well be added to a new hymnal.
Personally, I love using LEVAS and LEVAS II. EOW has an unfortunate way of spreading a hymn across a page turn, making it more complex to sing than is necessary. (IMNSHO!!)
C. Wingate said:
Well, I would prefer “YOU are the bread of life”; I dislike “voice of God” hymns.
At any rate, I’m not sanguine about anything coming from an SCLM that has a hard time letting “The Lord be with you” pass their lips.
Donald Dupee said:
Not sure the omission of “once to every man…..” was political correctness as much as a theological issue/heresy issue. Do we really only have “One” chance to decide whether we serve God or not?
Amen and Amen.
I, for one, had a difficult time with the survey because I felt it assumed certain postures and positions based on my answers. For example, there is an assumption that one would want a change or revision only because he feels TH1982 isn’t progressive or “contemporary” enough, and not for other reasons such as finding it silly and difficult for newcomers to have S-numbers separate from the other numbers, or because the unsingable William Albright pieces and other de facto choral anthems masquerading as “hymns” need to GO.
So, I found myself answering questions in pointed ways (typically pointing back to 1940!) simply to keep from adding fuel to the fire for my “age demographic” as wanting change. Turns out, I was not alone by a long shot.
I agree about the bias of the survey. The developers of the survey made a presentation to the Association of Anglican Musicians Annual Conference prior to its implementation and were not as direct in their responses to questions as might have been best. The survey developer ultimately said, “I’ve designed this to completely eliminate bias.” In addition to my music position, at that time I coordinated a clinical trials research division for a school of medicine and lectured in the areas of statistics and experimental design and would have flunked him, were he in one of my classes. An agenda was clearly afoot.
I am in the odd position of being asked to play music in worship services, which makes them into services I myself would not attend. We always just shrug it off, saying, “In the words of the Kinks, give the people what they want.” But we’ve also found ourselves adding, “. . . Or at least the middle-aged people.”
I have nearly given up on trying to convince my peers that young people want liturgy, chanting, and silence. This report feels to me like someone yelling “Stop!” just as the torch is about to be laid to the ancient rainforest.
Perhaps there is hope that I wasn’t just hallucinating all these years . . .
Larry T. said:
I have attended one of the RSCM summer courses every summer for many years now, and I’m always excited about the level of talent and commitment to sacred music I find there. A few years back, some of our teen guys, who had all grown up singing in a Cathedral Choir but really were typical teens in every way, found a new collection of “worship songs” sitting on a piano. When I went by the room, I heard them singing and having a great, hilarious time with it, mostly by pointing out how ridiculous they found it all to be. “Why would anyone ever sing this junk”, one of them asked. While I did dissuade them from using it as part of the talent show at the end of the week, since it’s not wise to make fun of what some people may like, it did leave me wondering…
Now, if we’re going to be a “big” Church, it’s OK to have occasions for people to use music like this. BUT, there must be a place for traditional music of the ages (which certainly continues to be written today), which takes us from where we are and connects us to another place. I work almost exclusively with young people, and am always surprised (and pleased) how traditional most of them are. If our teens had their way, we’d have Solemn Mass at the high altar every Sunday, in Rite I. If ECUSA doesn’t have a place for them, it will surely lose yet another generation of devoted members…
Martha Scott said:
Thank you for your comments. I have a 17 yr old son who certainly fits your description of the teenage boys in the story. He has recently earned his RSCM Gold Medal with Honors and is headed off to college to Major in Architecture and Music Composition. He has already composed a number of chants and service music in traditional style.
He wouldn’t be caught dead singing from some of the “new stuff”!
Fr. Sudduth Rea Cummings said:
Amen! Preach and sing it, Father. There is too much material in the 1979 BCP and the “official” alternatives that is faddish, fashionable to the progressive culture of the 70’s and disconnected from the Great Tradition of the Church’s historic liturgies (Canon C for instance?) The current Hymnal is already loaded with politically correct tinkering and changes. Its time to rescue the “Ancient-Future” depth of Anglican worship. It’s a shame that more TEC didn’t read and heed Robert Webber’s books on worship. Many evangelicals did read them and have enriched their worship because of him by recovering the maintsream of historic worship.
Fr. Sean said:
If anything, is changed with the hymnal, I would like to see more Rite II service music. That is the place where I am most left wanton. I like to vary what we use per season and divide the Sundays after Pentecost into 2 or 3 blocks. I am not predisposed to use all of the same service music per season year after year, so a handful of well composed additions would be most helpful.
We really ought t have a printed version of “Lord you give the Great Commission” with the tune “Abbot’s Leigh” in addition to the tune “Rowthorn.” I can think of a handful of great hymns, written since 1982, that could be added to the Hymnal 1982, which I consider a fine hymnal. When I think of hymnal revision, it is along these lines, not revision for the sake of jettisoning what we have. I am 40 (Gen X) and have been ordained 13 years now.
Fr Everett said:
I have been really disappointed with the liturgical materials we have released. It seems more concerned with gender language issues rather than enriching worship (I am not saying the language issues are unimportant, but that seems to be the sole concern). Therefore I do not have a lot of trust with what the church would publish today. I think we could learn something from Gather and ELW if we were to put out a new hymnal or offer new supplements.
I like praise and worship music. I like chanting. I like Bach hymns. I even love the Albright “hymns” (though yeah. pretty unsing-able for most congregations.) But I just don’t see the point of revision when we have supplements, and, as AKMA points out – there is much more room in canon law for choosing our own hymns anyway. Why create a new book that people have to buy, that will undoubtedly have much of what’s in the existing 82 Hymnal, LEVAS, Wonder Love & Praise… etc etc etc?
Susan Q. Claytor (The Rev.) said:
As one who has worked with young people for many years, I hesitate to not at least offer a supplemental book of music. I attended a conference on young adults (by 815 in 2005, Colorado) in the church and the one thing which seemed to go unnoticed is that the young adults in attendance obviously treasure that which we hold dear- liturgy, music and tradition (as do I). However, I want to keep in mind those many, many young adults who leave the ECUSA because they are seeking more choices- not necessarily total replacement. We lose more than we maintain, so we should be mindful of those who were not in a position to respond to the survey, that i hope to bring home….
I’m a longtime church musician and would love to the the Hymnal 1982 revised–certainly, its design and layout are bad (silly S-numbers, as was pointed out above, overweight Rite 1 and MP settings, not to mention ugly computerized typesetting before the advent of DTP). Its contents are generally fine, however, though some judicious swapping and pruning could be done.
The problem with supplements is the problem of printing, waste, extra cost, etc. How many will a church supply per pew or seat? Photocopying into a bulletin?–definitely not green. Until we reach the point of having electronic/digital service bulletins on iPads or such, supplements simply say “moar music” and little understanding of a single core hymnal as an instrument of unity, like the BCP.
If we’re going to go anywhere, I’d pick more from the likes of The New English Hymnal, Common Praise and Hymns, Ancient and Modern. Did anybody watch the Royal Wedding a year ago? Blaenwern and Byrd have a lot more in common with today’s young than “B”Eagles Wings and Bread of Heaven. Watching the abject praise music failure in the church just brings up visions of some old geezer wearing a toupe’ to try to impress the young. And please, don’t dumb it down, I get so tired of hearing clerics complain about the “difficulty” of music. The young like a challenge, not a pandering contest!
I remember as a teen back in the ’70s when suddenly all these middle-aged clerics with beards and guitars were thrust upon us. They were there to make our worship “relevant” to us, and yet, my friends and I all hated the hippie guitar music and folk songs. The hippie priests took over church camp, so we stopped going. When we had a youth Sunday and we were asked to plan the service, we picked the Rite 1 liturgy over the Rite 2, and selected many of the grand and glorious hymns of the Anglican tradition, but, alas, we were told we couldn’t do that, and that we had to use “modern” stuff for “our” service. So, most of us didn’t go to church on youth Sunday.
Alas, this rings true. The church often feels like it’s still trying to figure out 1972….
That was my experience then, too. And in that era I left that particular “hippy” Episcopal church and drove 45 minutes out of my way to attend an Episcopal high-church where the acolytes still wore white gloves, and the congregation chanted the Psalm. And I LOVED it! It spoke to my 16-year-old heart much more deeply than guitars and tambourines.
We also had a fairly large group of young people in that church. And I’m not sure the church we (whole family of 8) left ever gathered the people it was aiming for. But it certainly lost quite a few.
Wolfgang Rubsam said:
I am most pleased to learn of the survey results and many comments.
Concerning desired supplemental service music, please visit our website
trinityepiscopalmc.org under Service Music.
Here you find three sets (Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei), dignified new settings/scores of mine for download as PDF. While they are “sets”, they can also be mixed as desired by preference.
Prof. Wolfgang Rubsam
Director of Music
Trinity Episcopal Church, Michigan City, IN
I don’t know who the young people are that responded to this survey, but if they are already participating members then of course they don’t want to see a change in the hymnal, they have made a very conscious decision to attend Episcopal churches because of the music. But last I checked my church didn’t have any such demographic. In fact the church as a whole is hemoraging members, 23% net loss over the last decade. So maybe we shouldn’t rely only on current members but ask those who left and those we’d like to see join. Otherwise I fear it won’t really matter if the hmynal is changed or not, in 30 years there won’t be an Episcopal church to use it.
My parish (St. Luke in the Fields in NYC) has a burgeoning 20s/30s group, and they by and large attend the service that features Latin choral Mass settings and lots of traditional hymns. That is the demographic in which we are growing, and boy howdy do they sing everything in the Hymnal!
I would join those who caution that chasing off those who are still here will not help TEC. If my church ever stopped doing Rite I, or started doing praise music, I certainly wouldn’t darken its door again — and I’m the verger. If TEC wants to grow (leaving aside the larger, systemic issues), I truly don’t see the merit in scrapping what differentiates us from other churches in order to be more like them; then, what would draw anyone to us over any other church?
Martha Scott said:
Spend a Sunday at The Parish Church of St. Helena’s in Beaufort, SC and you will see a RSCM choir singing Anglican chant at communion and families of all ages participating in Rite 1 and enjoying the traditional music which many of them say they find comforting. We lose very few of our teenagers and most know the service by heart. I believe we are up to 1900+ communicants and are celebrating our 300th year.TEC keeps trying to change us but that will not happen. We do have a contemporary service at 6pm for those that desire it but we also have a 1928 service on Wednesday evening for others.
J. Michael Povey said:
I was one of those who participated in the survey. My bottom line was “don’t prepare a new Hymnal, for at the very moment it is published it is already out of date. I also suggested that SCLM could/should issue and authorize a new hymn once a month for trial use in our congregations. That being said I understand the fondness for the hymns we sang 50, 75, 100 years ago. I think that we are fond of them because we “know” the texts and tunes. But I often “gag” on their imperialistic theology as in “Crown him with many crowns”, or “The Churches one foundation”.
I would echo David’s comments above. The young people cited in this survey have self-selected for a traditional liturgy and musical presentation. My concern is always for the Congregation of the Absent, which is countless times bigger than what we have in church today. Let’s face it, the Episcopal Church in the United States, despite its wonderful welcoming theology and its Christ-centered response to the issues of our day, is in a longterm structural decline. We ought to be able to figure out a way to use our legacy of excellent music to arrest and reverse this trend. As for the 1982 Hymnal, I would wish to update the words to many of the classic hymns. The tunes and arrangements are fine — stirring, even — but I don’t want to feel I am revisiting the 19th century or even the early 20th century when I hear the words in the congregation’s voice. And there are indeed many excellent new hymns, fully in concord with our tradition, written since 1980. I am not advocating for guitars and praise music. I don’t even like LEVAS that much — talk about unsingable!
As one of the young members I’d disagree, I absolutely don’t want to see the words changing much. That defeats the purpose and ‘updated words’ with old tunes and arrangements is just as bad as updated tunes and arrangements. When I want modern music I can get it everywhere but when I go to church I want to be able to think, mediate and worship. At some level I DO want to revisit the past couple millenia because one of the points is that we’re part of that tradition just as much as we’re part of our modern tradition. That doesn’t mean that we sholdn’t have new songs as well but don’t screw up the old ones (which editing the words almost always does). If that’s the case I’ll just head off to some other church or worship on my own.
Grace S. said:
It is always better to work with the people you do have than the ones you do not. I was part of a church who tried to change the style of music to reach a particular demographic, and not only did they have absolutely 0% success at bringing them in, they completely alienated the people who were already part of that congregation and a large number left the church over it, making it even smaller and less effective than before.
John Robison said:
Part of the problem with the “Congargation of the absent” idea i sthat it treats those who are present as both (a) disposable in thier needs and (b) none representative of those who are not in. We have flogged the praise band to death, and most of the congragations at services in the Dio of Maryland that have them are full of self satisfied Boomers congratulating themselves on thier “edgy relevance.” At one parish I know that there was considerable strife when the youth there asked for more traditional music at “thier” twice a month evening service. It was, from what I’, told, a very tense conversation involving tears on the part of one adault who felt “betrayed” that the service would not be what she had hoped.
Are we turning our services into an idol?
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Raymond T. Farrell said:
I’m a 48 year old craddle Episcopalian. LEAVE THE HYMNAL AND PRAYERBOOK ALONE !!!
I am curious. Is the impetus in the Episcopal church (among the majority) to be traditional, to be progressive or to be both, when speaking of liturgy, hymnody, and ritual? As well, what is the impetus ( again, among the majority) when it comes to conversion, faith sharing, evangelism (pick your favorite)? Are these two in sync, does the Episcopal church presume that hymns, ritual, sacrament, etc… will act as the means of conversion or does conversion (accepting Christ as Lord) lead one to embrace liturgy, etc…? I truly am curious and do not mean to imply any hidden meaning, argument or deception in my question.
Regardless of the answer, how is it working for the Episcopal Church? As I read the selected comments from those surveyed, I wondered if the interpretation of the survey follows the voices of those who called for a survey (is there a careful combing to find what we want to find?). I don’t know and raise this question as there is always a danger of ignoring voices which disagree, even voices which are civil, but feel differently.
And how is it working (to risk using that popular, though trite phrase) for the Episcopal Church? Is there renewal, growth, a significant voice of witness toward the cultures of our world. The Episcopal Church has chosen, even with the risk of rupture, to change some standings around significant social issues. So what now? Is the church making a significant impact on a very broken and hurting world? Is the voice of the Episcopal Church one which can and is being heard?
Our Hymns are important, very important, but are they the means of moving the church toward significance in fulfilling the call of Christ to make disciples? I would say they are a tool, but what is the core for the Episcopal Church, which would lead to a hopeful and transformative future? Hymns are important, but the money, time and energy spent on an issue will not ensure the future vitality of any church.
Dare I say, Hymns, liturgy, ritual, sacrament, apart from relationship is empty. I would say that it begins with loving God with all of our being and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Apart from that, the Hymnal becomes rote and hollow (My opinion). It is possible to create a hymnal which is sectioned, so that each worshipping body can pick the style preferred by the majority who attend. (The old Burger King mentality, where you can have it your way). It is possible to survey lots of people and pick the majority opinion so that the church can print a new or reprint the old hymnal. Does that imply hope, a future, a plan to grow? Or, is the Episcopal Church content in asking safer questions: is it time for an new Hymnal?
Bob Griffith+ said:
In the parish I service in Brooklyn, NY, our average Sunday attendance has nearly doubled over the past 10 years. Most of the increase comes from 20 & 30 somethings who were not Episcopalian or “Mainline Protestant.” We use the 1982 hymnal, the Rite I liturgies (Rite II for weekday services), and with a liturgy that remains “East Facing.” (We’re not reactionary – it’s just our tradition.) When we talk about changing to Rite II or some such thing, the younger people are the ones most opposed. It provides for them an alternative to trendy superficiality.
If one looks around Brooklyn and those churches that are full of young people & growing (as I have done over the past two years), they are becoming more traditional in their services – including more defined liturgy, traditional music forms, and with little technology. One of them in the Williamsburg neighborhood has been highlighted in the New York Times and Christianity Today as an example of the “hipster” church. The pastor says that if he ever leaves his denomination, he is going to the highest Anglo-Catholic church he can find.
While it is true that the survey heard from younger people who are motivated to retain that which drew them to the Church to begin with (I count myself in this category, though I am not young chronologically). BUT, we actually chose to come to this Church over all other offerings. If we want to know what those outside the Church are thinking and what may resonate with them, having open eyes and seeing where success is being realized is probably a wise thing to do, a good place to begin.
Bob, you speak my mind. And our experience in Berkeley, CA. Yes, you read that right, we’re a fairly-liturgically-conservative, highly-musical congregation. AND we have young people joining us in (small) droves — by far the largest group of our enlarging congregation. AND we’re in very hipster Berkeley, directly across the street from U.C. Berkeley. AND many of those young people are choosing to come join us singing hymns accompanied by a baroque organ, rather than going up the street to sing to amplified guitars and a drum kit. AND getting married and bringing their small children here.
Yet, the Episcopal Church still seems to deal only in OR. Ancient OR modern. Tradition OR progress. We need to embrace the AND, because this young generation can see right through decisions made to try to entice them.
Wow. I really did appreciate your thoughts on this, right up to the point where you bring up a same-sex “union”. It kind of caught me off guard. You worry about changing the Hymnal – and do surveys about whether that’s a good idea (implying not) – and then you toss off a line at the end about the lovely liturgy and music surrounding the blessing of the union of two young women? Really?!
Did you do a survey about whether or not to change the Bible? Whether or not to change the wording of time-honored marriage liturgies to contemplate the union of woman to woman, instead of the woman to man?
I leave you with your own line: “A changing world does not demand that tradition be undone.” And I’d love to know how you presume to undo God’s law.
That was rhetorical, by the way.
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Joshua Young said:
The hip, modern music idea is probably meant to be a Trojan horse to
convert the secular. The problem is that, to the target audience, God
rock type stuff is usually lame and patronizing and can never compete
with the real thing. You could make the case that people will be more
likely to hear this modern music vs. traditional, thus making it an
effective proselytizing tool, but I don’t believe this is true in any
practical sense. People who don’t already like that kind of music
would never start listening to it and anyone who would be converted by
a shaggy haired teenager playing an acoustic guitar would probably
also be converted by a pamphlet or street corner preacher.
Since nothing is sexier than novelty, the traditional will never be as
popular as the “new thing” (whatever that may be). But what is new
and popular is often very shallow and short lived. American
Evangelism relies on a lot of sales and marketing principles to become
widespread and it has been very successful. However, for those who
aren’t already loyal to this perspective, many of these “big box”
churches feel about as sacred as a new Walmart.
So I’m not surprised that there is a small but significant movement
toward depth and substance among young people. Besides the Church,
you can also see this in the explosive growth of yoga.
With tradition v. modern, there is definitely a variable of personal
taste, where many prefer a religion that speaks to them at their level
(in a high school gym, sitting on bleachers, talking about
themselves). But for others, there is something special in the
process of “going to temple”, i.e. a sacred “other” place that takes
you outside yourself and breaks this culture’s narcissism. Some find
this in nature, others in cathedrals with choirs. I know I never
found this in high school gyms.
I also prefer the King James Bible over any modern translation because
at least it’s beautifully written, despite its flaws.
Jeff Krantz said:
I am dismayed that no one seems to see the circularity of this survey’s results. Yes, of course there are 20 somethings who are still in the church and don’t want further revision (I don’t either, to be honest). I remember when this started in the 70’s. I was a teenager and I hated the green book, the zebra book, and the new hymnal. I was deeply invested in the tradition I’d inherited. But I was a rarity, and so are the young folks they found to survey.
Think for a moment. Where are the ones who aren’t satisfied? Most of them are already gone, so they weren’t available for the survey! This survey sample (how do you find “former Episcopalians” anyhow?) is just too skewed to be useful. It’s an invitation to ignore the reality that our (admittedly beautiful) liturgy only speaks to a small few. Unfortunately, it’s also a liturgy that can’t be sustained by a small few, because organs and spaces for them, and organists, cost money.
If we don’t wake up to the way we’re taking on water here, we really will sink. I’m not proposing that we just up and change everything, but we need to begin to repent of our tendency toward self-congratulation, and the way we even read the departure of so many from our church as a sign we’re doing something right. (I know we don’t do that intentionally, but we do seem to take solace in claiming the “high road” every time another group or age-group leaves.)
God help us.
Our church – St. Mark’s in Berkeley – has a wide-ranging musical tradition, but one that does not include amplified guitars nor a drum kit. We are in a time of transition, our last Rector having retired 19 months ago. Yet, even in these “modern times” and a transition — both of which should bode a loss of congregation — we also have a growing congregation.
The largest demographic of that growth is young people — individuals and families — in their 20’s and early 30’s. The reasons they come the first time are many and varied. The reasons they stay are because of the sense of warmth/inclusion to be found among the congregants, AND the traditions — especially the musical and liturgical ones.
Please, in the name of growth, let’s NOT go back to glued-acrylic-felt banners and guitars. If those days come back, I don’t know where I’ll go to church, but it would certainly mean leaving the one I’ve loved and served for over 50 years.
At 54, I guess I’m now a middle-aged congregant. I’m also a cradle Episcopalian. I didn’t respond to the survey, because nothing I have said in the past decades to the national church has made one iota of difference. But if I had responded, my response would have been not only “don’t dumb down the Hymnal” but also “please put BACK in hymns that were omitted in the change from 1940 to 1982.”
For instance, “Once to every man and nation” was suggested above. To that, I would add “Turn back, o man”, and a few others that seem to me to have been removed solely because they’re “downers”.
You may count me as the person who still sings (fairly loudly) “and our lives would be all sunshine” in that verse of “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”. After all, it’s what the POET who wrote it, wrote! (I memorized it years ago; it jars me to sing different words.) I also sing “Good Christian men rejoice” and other “non-inclusive” words from well-beloved hymns.
And, oddly enough, my 21-year-old daughter, and her young-20’s friends (all 10 of whom attend church weekly and sing in the choir!) would echo the call not to change the Hymnal. Well, except for my rants on the changes in specific words — they’re all too young to remember a time before The 1982 Hymnal. But they do disparage “Voices Found” as “Voices Lost”, and “Wonder Love and Praise” as “Wander Lust and Craze”, and prefer not to sing the modern stuff out of either! (Though we all love the Taize chants in WLP during communion.) They also (several high sopranos) LOVE descants, at any time. And Anglican chant, and Palestrina, and Tallis, and . . .
Besides, it would mean having to buy another set of leather-bound BCP/Hymnals. And our 4 copies (each family member has one) at ~$100 each still have MANY years of good service in them!
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Tony Hunt said:
As a 29 year old aspirant for holy orders allow me to add another voice of the young against revision.
Nigel Day said:
I’m a UK-based organist and choirmaster who, some years ago, bought my own two-volume full music edition of The Hymnal 1982. I don’t use it often, but it is always at hand for the times when I need to look outside the standard UK Anglican hymn-set. My thoughts on the issue of hymnal revision are as follows. (1) There are already too many hymnals to choose from, I think largely driven by publishing houses seeking to drive sales of “revisions” to satisfy their business needs. (2) When new hymnals are purchased, there is both a cost involved in the purchase and the matter of disposal of the old hymnals (or perhaps the question of what to do with the old hymnals). (3) Some “modern” hymnals are updated so often that you end up with editions with (almost) the same name having incompatible hymn numbers. “Mission Praise” and “Hymns Old and New” are two examples to mention. (4) The concept of a well-designed supplement has considerable merit. There is a supplement “New Hymns and Worship Songs” which contains 440 hymns, most of which do not appear in the traditional hymnals. So, if I had a free choice, I would equip my church with both New English Hymnal (or other traditional text) and New Hymns and Worship Songs. This has many advantages. There is very little duplication, and each hymnal is strong in their respective style of music worship. Sadly, many clergy prefer the “one book solution”, but that’s another story.
I’m a 37-year-old cradle Episcopalian. In my opinion, the parts of the ’82 Hymnal that are the least “singable” are the ones that were added to it. The ’82 Hymnal did away with some wonderful hymns, and replaced them with absolute dreck (“Earth and all stars”, anyone?). Same goes for the service music. Just as bad, the ’82 Hymnal altered the keys of several Lenten hymns to make them less minor (because Lent is just the time for a cheerful tune?!?) Given the tin ear demonstrated during my lifetime (both musically and liturgically), I shudder to think what they might do if given the chance to “revise” either the Hymnal or the BCP.
Either a tune is in a minor key or not. Exactly which Lenten hymns are you referencing?
I almost forgot: “Among female clergy, there is a strong sentiment in favor of revision and the report says, ‘Gender is strongly correlated to views on Hymnal revision among clergy, and with some relationship among music directors, but gender has no effect on the views of the laity.’”
And that, right there, is a big part of why I always say that I don’t have a problem with the ordination of women — just a problem with the women who are ordained. (FYI, I’m a woman.) Of course I want everyone to get what they need from church, but I freely admit that I include myself (and my parents, brother, and friends) in that “everyone” — and we’ve all had more than enough of people “improving” the church by destroying its heritage. Believe it or not, there actually is merit to transcendant beauty (be it musical, liturgical, ritual) — and those of us who appreciate it will not be moved by tossed-off dreck.
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Thomas Loy Bumgarner said:
As a Lutheran from the ELCA, my comgregation uses Evangelical Lutheran Worship(ELW), Lutheran Book or Worship(LBW), This Far By Faith, Service Book and Hymnal(SBH), Hymnal Supplement 1991, With One Voice, and Worship & Praise. Episcopalians could use 1940 and 1982 Hymnals, Wonder Love and Praise, Lift Every Voice and Sing II, along with a merged BCP/Book of Occasional Services/Enriching Our Worship(with music) in their pew racks for worship.
Wolfgang Rubsam said:
There is no need to change anything for the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal. While there are some questionable offerings, there are plenty of opportunities for wonderful hymns never sung yet.
Why confuse any congregation beyond that vast quite beautiful resource ?
Harvest the fruits of 1982 first well before you search for any better lean episcopal meat of musical and liturgical depth.
The 1982 Hymnal is velvet prime rib to me.
Prof. Wolfgang Rubsam
Thomas Loy Bumgarner said:
in addition to the above suggestions for Episcopalians would suggest GIA’s Cantate Domino that the Episcopal diocese of Chicagp was responsible.Proably will be at least 2020 before next hymnal, or maybe video/digital, or allow each congregation/parish create its own hymnal
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Father D said:
The Hymnal 1940 is still available, and the best that could be done would be to simply revert to it. Ditch the 1982 monstrosity and return to the beautiful, worshipful music of our past. I will not have a 1982 in my home I think they are so awful. The quality of the music is simply dreadful!
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