Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Dream for the Next United Methodist Hymnal

This is my brainstorm about the next United Methodist hymnal that is a “bridge hymnal” into a new kind of hymnal resource. It would be a hybrid.

1) We would honor historic tradition and serve churches who enjoy a touch and feel, paper, bound hymnal.

2) However, purchasing and owning these hymnals would also be purchasing an entry key into a vast and evolving internet based resource. It would not just “come with a multimedia CD” because that would be obsolete in a few years. Rather, it would be an internet based resource so it could grow and change and supplements and songs could be added continually. It could literally have a web page address printed in the front of the hymnal and something like a password just for your congregation.

3) The internet resource would have all the advantages of Song Select (permission to download and print song words in inserts, bulletins, or for projection legally) but would have so much more for Wesleyan worship. The resource would cull the world of song for the best (of various styles) and also only include that which is sound theology and fosters Wesleyan spirituality.

4) Each song in the printed hymnal would have an array of downloadable resources related to it (such as alternative tunes, jazz or praise band arrangements, and translations into other languages). Sometimes these could be printed just for choirs and accompanists and sometimes for the whole congregation.

5) When a congregation knows and loves a certain tune, there can be downloadable resources related to that (such as other traditional and contemporary hymn texts that go well with that tune).

6) When a congregation has a unique flavor (such as a love for global song, Taize, contemporary praise band worship, or songs in Spanish or Korean) there are vast resources for them to use rather than the few songs a printed hymnal is limited to.

7) All supplementary material previously in printed hymnals would be online only (such as indexes, seasonal prayers, alternative Great Thanksgivings, and orders for daily prayer). This would both expand room for music in the printed version and also allow these resources to be much more thorough.

8) There could be so much more creativity in how psalms are arranged (rather than using the same model for all of them) including options across the board from contemporary praise versions to antiphonal chant.

9) The internet resource could be funded through advertizing bars like other successful sites that are free to the user (though it’s not really free because you bought the hymnal that gives you the rights to it). For churches that just don’t want a printed hymnal, you could have a fee for legally accessing and use the resource site as a church.

10) Much of what is presently in the Board of Discipleship Worship Website would also be included in this internet resource (such as publishing songs and liturgy that people freely submit).

11) This makes your hymnal completely customizable for the local church’s setting. My gosh, you could even have your printed hymnal (or a section of it) customizable and have choices about what is included in your printed version!

That’s my dream! It’s doable, and it’s a bridge into a whole new way of thinking of “hymnal.” But it has clear advantages over internet-only resources and honors our tradition of a bound book.