Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013)   3 comments

Glory to God The Presbyterian Hymnal November 16, 2013

Above:  My Copy of the Hymnal

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I am, in the words of someone I know, a “liturgy geek.”  I am also the kind of Episcopalian who, though closer to Lutheranism than to the Reformed tradition, understands U.S. Presbyterian history better than most U.S. Presbyterians.  Part of my family tree is Presbyterian, so that interest comes to me naturally, even though my spiritual type is Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, in that order.  (Yes, I was born to be an Episcopalian, even though I had to convert to that denomination.)

My credentials for writing about U.S. Presbyterian worship are strong.  I have written at length on the topic at this weblog, focusing mostly on editions of the Book of Common Worship (1906, 1932, 1946, 1970/1972, and 1993).  My library includes official Presbyterian hymnals from 1874, 1901, 1927, 1933, 1955, 1972, 1990, and now 2013, not to mention all editions of the Book of Common Worship.  Reference works on U.S. Presbyterianism sit on shelves, as do copies of the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Once upon a time I was on a track to become a historian of U.S. Presbyterianism, focusing on the prehistory of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) via analysis of the racist and reactionary magazine which midwifed it, but that path ended when my major professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) cut my doctoral program short seven years ago.  Perhaps it is for the best that I have taken a different path; I prefer to focus on the positive side.  But, in the words of an old song,

No, no, no, they can’t take that away from me.

I remain well-informed on U.S. Presbyterianism.  And I still have every note card documenting every editorial defense of racial segregation (usually recycled defenses of slavery) and every criticism of the Civil Rights Movement.  (At least the PCA General Assembly had the decency to apologize for such racism about ten years ago.  I give credit where it is due.)

Presbyterian Books November 16, 2013

Above:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990), Book of Common Worship (1993), and Glory to God (2013)

Some explanation of the background of Glory to God might help.  The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972) was a combination service book-hymnal, a successor to the 1946 Book of Common Worship and The Hymnal (1933) and The Hymnbook (1955).  Unfortunately, the organization of hymns in The 1972 volume was alphabetical order.  The Worshipbook‘s two immediate successors were The Presbyterian Hymnal:  Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs (1990) and Book of Common Worship (1993).  Now the latter volume has a new companion:  Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal.

The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990) broke new ground in U.S. Presbyterianism by using the church year as an organizing principle.  Thus “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” was hymn #1.  Glory to God, without abandoning the church year, subsumes it inside the organizing principle of salvation history, focusing primarily on what God has done, sequentially, in good Reformed fashion.  Thus Trinitiarian hymns lead.  The first hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”  After the Trinitarian hymns come other sections (also under the heading, “God’s Mighty Acts”) labeled:

  • Creation and Providence;
  • God’s Covenant with Israel;
  • Jesus Christ;
  • Gift of the Holy Spirit;
  • The Church;
  • The Life of the Nations;
  • Christ’s Return and Judgment; and
  • A New Heaven and a New Earth.

Then the headings “The Church at Worship” and “Our Response to God,” each subdivided, follow.

The Theological Vision Statement explains the rationale for the salvation history theme:

This collection of hymns and songs, however, will be published different conditions than those that molded previous hymnals.  It will be offered in a world in which trust in human progress has been undermined and where ecclectic spiritualities often fail to satisfy deep spiritual hungers.  It will be used by worshipers who have not had life-long formation by Scripture and basic Christian doctrine, much less Reformed theology.  It is meant for a church marked by growing diversity in liturgical practice.  Moreover, it addresses a church divided by conflicts but nonetheless, we believe, longing for healing and then peace that is beyond understanding.

To inspire and embolden a church facing these formidable challenges, the overarching theme of this collection will be God’s powerful acts of creation, redemption, and final transformation.  It will also bespeak the human responses that God’s gracious acts make possible.  In other words, the framework for the collection will be the history of salvation.

Glory to God, page 926

Glory to God, unlike its 1990 predecessor, includes my favorite hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself Today.”  (Score one for the new book!)  In The Hymnal 1982, which I use each Sunday, that hymn has seven verses and fills three pages.  The Presbyterian version, however, has six verses and fills three pages.  The omitted verse follows:

I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;

the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;

the service of the seraphim;

confessor’s faith, apostles’ word,

the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;

all good deeds done unto the Lord,

and purity of virgin souls.

The last two lines cross run afoul of Reformed and Lutheran theology, for the the current U.S. Lutheran hymnals I have checked which include this hymn also omit that verse.

Glory to God contains more services than most of its predecessors, with The Worshipbook (1972) being the exception.  

  1. The Presbyterian Hymnal (1874) and The New Psalms and Hymns (1901) offered just words, music, and indices.  
  2. The Presbyterian Hymnal (1927) included responsive readings.
  3. The Hymnal (1933) included responsive readings, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, one page of Opening Sentences, and the two-page Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith (1902, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.).
  4. The Hymnbook (1955) contained responsive readings plus a short section called “Aids to Worship,” which included Calls to Worship, Invocations, Prayers of Confession, Assurances of Pardon, Prayers of Thanksgiving, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and the Apostles’ Creed.  
  5. The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972) incorporated the entirety of The Worshipbook–Services (1970), really the fourth Book of Common Worship.
  6. And The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990) included the outline of the Service for the Lord’s Day (with texts) as well as the Creeds in English, Spanish, and Korean.
  7. Glory to God offers the Service for the Lord’s Day, the Sacrament of Baptism, Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the Close of Day.  These services are edited versions of the full forms from Book of Common Worship (1993), sometimes with material not in the 1993 volume.  The new hymnal also offers the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the denominational Brief Statement of Faith in English, Spanish, and Korean.

I have read of some minor controversy regarding Glory to God online.  The hymnal committee, unable to acquire a copyright holder’s permission to alter a certain new hymn, chose to omit it.  C’est la vie.  The omitted hymn, in its unaltered form, affirmed the Penal Substitution understanding of the Atonement, a barbaric theology.  I am more of a Classic Theory of the Atonement man, so I have no problem with this editorial decision.  And I know that Presbyterians have been arguing about hymnals in North America since at least the 1750s, when the New York City congregation purchased an Isaac Watts hymnal which included hymns not based on Psalms.  Those who seek an argument will always find a basis for one.  I dislike contemporary praise music and most spirituals, preferring wordy European hymns.  Thus I would have made some choices which the hymnal committee did not.  But the book contains more meritorious content than dross, so I affirm the good and focus on it.

Among the meritorious aspects of Glory to God is its Lectionary Index, which lists hymns matched to the Revised Common Lectionary.  The three-year break-down by Sunday and holy day impresses me.  I think of The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), with its lectionary barely deserving of that title, and realize how far these Presbyterians have come.

I look forward to exploring the riches of Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013) for years to come.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28–THE TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Revised slightly on November 19, 2013

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