Have you ever dreamed of impacting history? Has it ever been your desire to leave a major mark upon future generations? Well, the opportunity to do just that is before us within the United Reformed federation. At the invitation of the synodically-mandated songbook committee, you can leave a lasting and enduring legacy for your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren.
You can leave this life-changing legacy by encouraging your church’s elders to participate in the comment period set up by the songbook committee for the songs that have been put before the churches in the Hymn Proposal. Time is of the essence in this, however, as the deadline for participation in this endeavor is quickly coming upon us.
A Brief History
In 1999 Synod Hudsonville first voted to organize a committee to produce a new songbook for our United Reformed Churches. The delegates to that synod were confronted with the reality that our tried and true blue Psalter Hymnal found in our pews was fast becoming more and more worn out and that new ones were no longer being printed by the Christian Reformed Board of Publications. Because those delegates also realized the great spiritual value for our churches to sing from a common hymnal, and also because they recognized how long it takes to produce a songbook of our own, Synod Hudsonville authorized the organization of this songbook committee and gave it the mandate to produce a new songbook for our churches. Synod wanted not just a simple and slight reworking of the old blue Psalter Hymnal. Rather, they were asked to create our own new and unique songbook, which our people could use to praise our God for years and decades to come.
Over the past twelve years since synod formed this committee, because of intense demand for more blue Psalter Hymnals, the Board of the Reformed Fellowship has worked with the Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church to produce several limited reprintings of the old Blue. In fact, the Reformed Fellowship is currently taking orders right now for another such reprinting. However, with each new order placed with the CRC the price for the book dramatically increases.
The Board of the Reformed Fellowship has even looked into purchasing the copyrights to the old blue Psalter Hymnal, but because CRC Publications does not own the rights to the music and lyrics but merely licenses them from the original sources, they cannot sell the rights to anyone else. So the need in our federation for a songbook all our own is still urgent.
The Present Situation
Finally, after many years of intense labor, our songbook committee presented the first part of its work to the URC Synod of 2010 held in London, Ontario. Last summer the delegates of each organized church represented at Synod were given three binders with copies of the hymn selections that the committee was proposing to our churches. Each church plant was given two copies of these hymn selections. This book is called the Hymn Proposal (hereafter HP).
This HP has raised concerns among some of our churches. As an article by another writer in the last issue of this magazine so clearly showed, these concerns are legitimate. The HP is not a perfect work. It needs our constructive input!
Knowing how powerful and personal the music of the church is to godly worshipers, Synod 2010 set down a clear process for how the HP can be improved and modified. If you have access to the Internet, you can see this process explained clearly in questions 6 and 7 in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Songbook Committee page on the URCNA website at www.urcna.org. Look for the Psalter
Hymnal link in the left column.
To summarize this process, the committee is basically asking for the people of our churches to look over the HP and to bring their thoughts for improvement to the elders of their church. The elders then evaluate the pros and the cons of these suggestions, and if they deem them to be valid, the consistory is to prepare an overture to bring to their next classis meeting. In order to help the elders with this task, a sample overture is conveniently included in Question and Answer 7 of the FAQ page. If, after considering the proposal together, the delegates to that respective classis meeting also determine that the suggestion is a good one, then the overture is sent along to the songbook committee to be processed.
What You Can Do
It is important that you take notice that this whole process begins with you! Here is how you have the opportunity to impact the history of the spiritual formation of generations yet unborn. Martin Luther is well known for saying that second only to the preached Word, it is the songs of the church that the Holy Spirit uses in order to touch and change lives for Jesus Christ.
By looking over and examining closely the HP presented by our songbook committee, you can begin the positive process set out by Synod, which will result in a finished product that God the Holy Spirit will use to mold and shape your children, grandchildren, and many more generations to come as well.
Even if you are not familiar with or trained in music theory yourself, you can yet encourage your church’s elders to work closely with the musical accompanists of your church to sit down and do the hard work that it will take in order to have a book that all of our churches can not only call their own, but can also jointly use to praise our great and glorious triune God together.
As I mentioned, however, time is of the essence. The songbook committee has asked that these finalized classical overtures be sent to them by the end of October of this year (2011), so that they can present a finalized list of hymns to Synod 2012 in New Jersey. This means that each individual classis will have to hold a meeting to go over the various overtures presented to them by the elders some time in late summer or early fall. This means that individual consistories need to be consulting with their accompanists and formulating these beginning overtures even right now. So there is no time to lose.
Find those Hymn Proposals that came home with your church’s delegates to Synod. Look them over closely. Be part of the process that the Lord will use to impact history!
Rev. Edward Marcusse is pastor of Faith URC in Holland, Michigan. He is a member of the board of trustees of Reformed Fellowship.