The Songs of Our Faith (Steeple 2015.10)
This summer, while doing some research and planning for fall, I recalled that this is the 20th anniversary year of our New Century Hymnal. I often enjoy recognizing anniversaries of composers and their works, but wondered, how best to observe a hymnal’s birthday? We’ll find out more, as we sing some of our favorites and try out some new ones this month, but for now, a bit of background regarding this book that we use every week.
Our NCH came about as a result of a Synod decision in 1977, but took nearly 12 years to get off the ground, being back-burnered multiple years in a row. When it finally came time to get down to business, James W. Crawford, whose name some of us will know as senior minister emeritus (then-pastor) of Old South Church in Boston, was selected as the committee’s chairman. The hymns selected and adapted for inclusion were groundbreaking for the time in their use of inclusive language. It’s hard to believe now, but given that the UCC imposes no requirement on specific hymnal usage, congregations in the mid 1990s we still singing from hymnals of their “predecessor traditions”. The Pilgrim Hymnal that most churches with a Congregational background were using at that time was published in 1958! But, the arrival wasn’t without its growing pains.
To this day, many long-time worshipers in the UCC still feel nostalgic for the lyrics they “grew up on”, but few will contest that there is a welcomeness that is extended by use of texts which are modernized and made more inclusive. Our services on October 11 and 18 will have a special connection to our hymnal, and the choir will be singing choral arrangements of very familiar hymn tunes. We hope to see you there!