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Sneak Peek - PC USA Hymnal

I love that the Presbyterians (PCUSA version) are doing a slow unveil of their new Hymnal, Glory to God.
This week's sneak peek is a listing of the hymns they will include.  I was a little concerned when I saw the title A Prophet Woman Broke a Jar but I felt a little better when I noted it was written by Bryan Wren. 
A prophet woman broke a jar, by Love’s divine appointing.
With rare perfume she filled the room, presiding and anointing.
A prophet woman broke a jar, the sneers of scorn defying.
With rare perfume she filled the room, preparing Christ for dying.
Though woman wisdom, woman truth, for centuries were hidden,
unsung, unwritten and unheard, derided and forbidden,
the Spirit’s breath, the Spirit’s fire, on free and slave descending,
can tumble our dividing walls, our shame and sadness mending.  
New hymns are important for us, they speak to important changes and new insights and revelations.  It is also important to embrace the contributions of hymnody's past, even when it recalls language that may unsetlle us with graphic images (a fountain filled with blood) or language that some deem offensive because it suggests sexist language (God our Father, Christ our Brother).
I particularly hate what the Presbyterians did to one of my favorite hymns, Be Thou My Vision, in their last hymnal:
This is the language I know and love that was deleted (compressed) in the last hymnal:
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won, May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Yes! I know that some get offended when we call God the word KING and that the original poetry says "man's empty praise."  But shouldn't hymnody allow for older language as well?  For me, the answer is yes.
So go ahead, PCUSA, show us your new glorious hymnal.  I look forward to it with joy . . . and some apprehension.
on April 13, 2012 5:18am
In the interest of fuill disclosure, the organization that I serve as Executive Director has an ex officio seat (without vote) on the Presbyterian Committee for Congregational Song, so I may be a little biased in this response.  Like you, I am very excited about the contents of Glory to God.  I think it represents much of the best in both historical and current congregational song.  Were I the king oif the world, some of the decisions would have probably been different, but the committee did an outstanding job.  Hymns and songs that don't particularly appeal to or speak to me will probably speak deeply to the person next to me in the pew.  But, I believe the hymnal represents an outstanding variety of congregational song with theological, musical, and cultural credibility for an incredibly diverse church.  In addition to the Brian Wren text you mention above, I think you will be equally taken with his text "Woman in the Nght."  It is in Evangelical Lutheran Worship and set to an Al Fedak tune.  Mel Bringle's text "When Memory Fades" speaks to those caring for friends and family members with Alzheimer's.  The hymn is also in ELW to the tune FINLANDIA.  As you go through the contents, you will also see a dramatically increased variety of settings of Psalms and Psalm-inspired texts.  As to "Be Thou My Vision," I don't think you will be disappointed.
Bill McConnell
on April 14, 2012 2:05pm
Thanks for the response, Bill.  Please share more information with us soon and I'll do my best to spread the word here on ChoralNet!