Archive for the ‘The Christian Century’ Tag

Joint Baptist-Disciples of Christ Hymnals   5 comments

Christian Worship

Above:  My Copies of Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941) and Hymnbook of Christian Worship (1970)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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My knowledge of denominational hymnals beyond my own turf has expanded greatly over the years.  One day on which it expanded came during the Summer of 1992, during my time as a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  My mother was nearing the end of her time as a student at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia.  I visited her one week that Summer, when she lived at the Presbyterian Student Center just off campus.  We spent part of days that week volunteering at an ecumenical Vacation Bible School hosted by First Christian Church.  The two Lutheran congregations (one Missouri Synod, the other Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), the three Episcopal churches, and the Disciples of Christ congregation cooperated on this effort.  There I found in an open room–yet not in any pew–a copy of Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970).  (I recall that the hymnal in the pews was the Gaither Hymns for the Family of God, 1976).  I was intrigued with the hymnbook not in the pews.  Eventually I found my own copy in a thrift store.

From the 1930s to the early 1950s the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Northern Baptist Convention (from 1950 to 1972 the American Baptist Convention) pondered merging.  They had much in common, given the Disciples’ position between the Baptist and Presbyterian positions and the Disciples’ practice of baptizing by immersion.  The Christian Century, in its July 22, 1936, issue, editorialized regarding a possible organic union.  The editorial, which discussed baptismal theology, concluded:

What really keeps Baptists and Disciples apart and, in the main, keeps all Protestant denominations apart, is not actual present differences but hangover attitudes developed in the day when there were differences.  Though difficult to define, these are very real obstacles to union.  There are also institutional obstacles of a more substantial nature.  Organizations and agencies have been built up at a great cost of effort and money.  These vested interests are the objects of a kind of family or tribal pride on the part of each denomination.  This pride is fostered by the large and influential secretariat  which has charge of the sacred vessels of the Lord.  Unless there is a conscience on Christian unity, some vivid sense of the sin of being Baptists or Disciples, or anything else than Christians, there is no hope of overcoming the inertia of the status quo.

Union between Baptists and Disciples is both desirable and possible.  No one wishes to rush it, and it will doubtless be years before the natural processes that make for unification can work out their full effect.  Perhaps the most that can be done now is to realize that these processes are natural and that the end is both desirable and possible.

But if the ultimate merging of Baptists and Disciples were to be considered as creating an immersionist bloc, as giving renewed emphasis to a single ordinance, and as producing a deeper cleavage between immersionist and non-immersionist bodies, its injuries would far outweigh its benefits.  To make this one practice which the two denominational bodies have in common the bond of unity between them would be to make it afresh a divisive issue in the Christian world.  The attainment of a larger fellowship does not lie in that direction.  When Baptists and Disciples unite, they should do so upon the realization that they are both free peoples giving liberty within their ranks for a wide variety of individual opinion and local congregational practice.  Most of their congregations practice immersion, but not all of them insist upon it.  The fact that the practice is general among them and that it has been prominent in their history gives them a feeling of kinship, but it is not the true ground for union between them, as it is not the ground of their present denominational unity.

To unite immersionists against the world would be a calamity to the Christian cause.  To unite Baptists and Disciples on the ground of their common faith, purpose and liberty would be a step toward still wider union on the same basis.  For the essential things that Baptists and Disciples have in common are not their exclusive possession.

The two groups did not merge, obviously, but they did produce two joint hymnals.  The first was Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941).

Christian Worship A Hymnal

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

It was, like many hymnals of its generation, classy–emphasizing the quality of hymn texts and a degree of formality of worship.  As the Preface said in part:

It [the hymnal] will be adaptable to the more dignified and formal worship of the stately church and to the simple service of the less pretentious.

My experience with the book has been positive, for I have located some wonderful hymns here, having not found them in any other hymnal in my collection.  This has proven quite helpful to the pursuit of one of my hobbies.

Hymnbook for Christian Worship

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Less successful, my Internet research has indicated, was the 1970 follow-up, Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970), which was more formal than many of its contemporaries in mainline Protestantism.  Whereas the 1941 hymnal had limited worship resources (just responsive readings, some invocations, a few Scriptural selections for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and a page of benedictions), the 1970 volume offered Scriptural readings for Adoration and Praise, a collection of litanies, pages of Affirmations of Faith, Prayers of Worship, some Psalms, and Biblical excerpts arranged topically:  Offering, The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Benedictions.  Archaic language remained, for God was often “Thee.”  Hymnbook for Christian Worship was a volume which reflected a previous age in a time of rapid change.  Sometimes its stylistic conservatism was justified, especially given certain excesses of innovative worship in the 1960s and 1970s.  Yet it, like its Presbyterian contemporary, The Worshipbook, showed its age rapidly–yet in a different way.  The former was nouveau; the latter was ancien.

Subsequent denominational developments in worship have revealed that Hymnbook for Christian Worship was a dead end.  The American Baptists have not authorized a hymnal since 1970.  Their congregations use a range of hymnbooks.  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) published Chalice Hymnal (1995) and Chalice Worship (1997).  The former, unfortunately, has been out of print for a few years.  Yesterday morning, while not even looking for it, I found a copy of Chalice Praise (2003) at a thrift store.  Editor David P. Polk, in A Word to Worshipers, wrote:

You hold in your hands not just another supplement to a recent hymnal.  This set of musical resources for the church’s worship is a different type of collection.  It specifically offers a gathering together of the best and often the freshest of songs that characterize contemporary Christian music.

–page vi

That last sentence is oxymoronic.

Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941) and Hymnbook for Christian Worship (1970) are volumes I am glad to have in my hymnal collection, for I consult them while conducting research into hymnody.  I am, with regard to hymnody, much like the archaeologist of a certain joke; the older his wife became, the more interesting he found her.  Chalice Praise (2003), however, reminds me of what Thomas Day, in the subtitle to his book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing (1990), called

the triumph of bad taste

Why is bad taste so ubiquitous?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LYDIA, DORCAS, AND PHOEBE, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF ANDREI RUBLEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ICONOGRAPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GILDAS THE WISE, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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