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WordAlone Members
Working On New Hymnal

by Gracia Grindal (WordAlone board member)

August 6, 2005

Over the past two years a task force of WordAlone has been thinking about providing liturgies and hymns that are evangelically sound. Some have argued that we should produce our own hymnal. From my experience on the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) committee, I know how difficult the process could be. At the November 2003 WordAlone theological conference, I suggested that congregations choose 30 hymns they think that everyone in their congregation should know. After that speech a WordAlone (WA) member challenged me to provide my list of 30. I was reluctant to do so, fearing that it would be taken too seriously by those who read it. The woman who asked me, however, said it would only serve as a way to help her think about the 30 hymns she would pick.

Since the meeting, I did provide about 30 hymns that I thought worth teaching to our congregations (See “Hymns that teach and preach the faith”). I used a historical grid as a guide, one of the ways hymn text committees check to see if they have produced a hymnal that represents the major movements in the life of the Christian church, because I thought it was important to value the classic hymns of our Lutheran traditions and teach them to our children.

After that list was published on the WA website, several WA members asked that we actually prepare a hymnal, something the WA board of directors had authorized a task force to consider. The question was, for me, a call that I felt suddenly empowered to answer yes, because the people who asked would be able to do a lot of the work, and do it well. The task seemed possible. We have been meeting over the summer, and have decided to proceed, devising a process that would involve the members of the WA Network.

We have decided that the liturgical issues are most crucial. Thus, we are planning to have liturgies—at least one for Communion and possibly others for baptisms, burials, and weddings—ready for the November 2004 WA theological conference, and music for these liturgies by our April 2005 annual convention. Hymnals are quite another matter, but the committee decided that we would devise a process in which we would ask our membership to provide us with their lists of their 30 favorite hymns and submit them to the WA office by mail or e-mail. [Please include hymnal references if available, e.g., LBW 543 or SBH 87. Please type or print legibly your lists, and include the full title of each hymn. If a hymn is not from a familiar Lutheran hymnal, send a copy of the hymn.]

“What hymns do you need in order to have church,” as the black community says? One of my favorite questions is: What hymns do you need to die with? Then of course there is the church year: What hymns do you need to have for Christmas, or other hymns for the church year? What for Easter? Pentecost? What hymns do you need to face various times in your Christian life, or for the topics of the Christians life?

For example, Lutherans used to sing "Dearest Jesus at Thy Word" before the sermon, and "Children of the Heavenly Father" for baptism. What hymns do you need for communion? What do you need for comfort in rough times? “Great is Thy Faithfulness?” “If You but Trust in God to Guide Thee?”

We all have our favorites. Most people think of the tunes first, and that is understandable. We hate to sing good words to dreadful melodies, but we should also look at what the hymn teaches, and how Lutheran hymns traditionally preach the faith. That is, the language of the hymn is directed to the congregation, rather than God, and tells the congregation what God has done for us, not what we are doing for God. The Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession say that hymns are to contain the Word of God and cause the people to “experience faith and fear, and finally even pray." (Apology, Art. 24) That's what the Gospel does, as it is preached. While there are many wonderful hymns that do not preach, it helps as you are deciding to think of these ideas as you are choosing your 30 hymns.

The following hymns are my own personal favorite hymns I could not do without. I do not have a favorite for each section, but this list will give you an idea of what our task force is requesting from you.

ADVENT

  • LBW 25 Rejoice, Rejoice Believers
  • LBW 26 Prepare the Way, O Zion
  • LBW 32 Fling Wide the Door
  • LBW 27 Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

CHRISTMAS

  • I've Found Now the Fairest of Roses
  • My Heart Is Filled with Wonder
  • LBW 60 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • LBW 39 Joy to the World
  • LBW 65 Silent Night, Holy Night
  • LBW 50 Angels from the Realms of Glory
  • LBW 52 Thy Little Ones Dear Lord Are We
  • LBW 69 I Am So Glad Each Christmas Eve

EPIPHANY

  • LBW 75 Bright and Glorious Is the Sky
  • LBW 76 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star!

LENT

  • LBW 99 O Lord, throughout These Forty Days
  • LBW 116/117 O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
  • LBW 123 Ah! Holy Jesus
  • LBW 482 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  • LBW 92 Were You There
  • SBH 87 O Darkest Woe

EASTER

  • CON 196 Easter Morrow Stills Our Sorrow
  • LBW 134 Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Dark Bands
  • LBW 138 He Is Arisen! Glorious Word
  • LBW 128 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Alleluia!

ASCENSION

PENTECOST

  • LBW 161 O Day Full of Grace The Sun Now Shines in All Its Splendor
  • LBW 459 O Holy Spirit, Enter In
  • LBW 486 Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart
  • LBW 365 Built on a Rock

ALL SAINTS

  • LBW 314 Who Is This Host?
  • LBW 330 In Heaven Above
  • LBW 174 For All the Saints

JUDGMENT SUNDAY

HYMNS TO DIE WITH

  • WOV 746 Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment
  • WOV 771 Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • LBW 474 Children of the Heavenly Father
  • CON 348 I'm a Pilgrim, I'm a Stranger
  • LBW 448 Amazing Grace
  • LBW 342 I Know of a Sleep in Jesus' Name
  • LBW 325 Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart
  • LBW 518 Beautiful Savior
  • LBW 346 When Peace Like a River
  • WOV 690 Shall We Gather at the River
  • LBW 453 If You But Trust in God to Guide You

HYMNS FOR WORSHIP

  • LBW 166 All Glory Be to God on High
  • LBW 187 Dearest Jesus We Are Here
  • LBW 102 On My Heart Imprint Thine Image
  • LBW 543 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
  • LBW 559 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

BAPTISM

  • LBW 194 All Who Believe and Are Baptized
  • WOV 741 Thy Holy Wings
  • LBW 474 Children of the Heavenly Father

COMMUNION

  • SBH 262 Deck Thyself with Joy and Gladness
  • LBW 212 Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees
  • LBW 220 O Jesus, Blessed Lord to Thee
  • CON 101 The Thought of Jesus, O How Sweet

FUNERALS

  • What Joy to Reach the Harbor

MORNING

  • LBW 545/546 When Morning Gilds the Sky

EVENING

  • SBH 234 Day is Dying in the West
  • LBW 276 Now All the Woods Are Sleeping
  • LBW 278 All Praise to Thee

KEY:

  • LBW – Lutheran Book of Worship (Green)
  • SBH – Service Book and Hymnal (Red)
  • WOV – With One Voice (Blue)
  • CON – Concordia (Blue)