Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Singing the Faith

I've just been at the Local Preachers' Meeting, where we were discussing the new Methodist hymn book which is coming out next year. A small sampler has been distributed, with a full index and a small selection of hymns.

When I first became a Methodist, in 1982, they were still using the Methodist Hymn Book, published in 1933, just after Methodist Union. I always felt it was dreadful; lots of saccharine Victorian sentimentality, and unremitting individualism. Hymns and Psalms, published in 1983, is better. It's got a scattering of more modern hymns, some of which are pleasantly aware that we're part of a wider community, but it's still rather traditional. At my church we supplement it with Mission Praise. This is all right as a collection of hymns, but it's all me and my Jesus, and wouldn't do on its own. Every edition seems to have different numbering as well, which makes things difficult. It's not as bad as the old Pentecostal one, Redemption Hymnal, which is so narrow in its scope that it doesn't have enough hymns for a Christmas service. I gather they have to be extra careful devising an official Methodist hymnbook, since our foundational documents state that the doctrines of Methodism are to be found therein. I'm not exactly sure what those doctrines are, but it's obviously no good having a book which leaves a bunch of them out!

I'm no good with hymns, and I'm finding it hard to assess the new one. I'm told it's more eclectic, with hymns from round the world, both old and new. Given the multicultural nature of my church - with members from three continents - that can't be bad. I'd be very surprised if we don't have a set at my church by the end of next year, so I'll be able to say more then.

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