on making a new hymnal for a global church…

Over at UMC.org, Dean McIntyre has offered us some updates and thoughts on the development of the new United Methodist Hymnal. I was intrigued by the results of the surveys that have been conducted:

With that in mind, here are just a few of the statistics and findings from recent surveys:

  • The top three favorites in the current United Methodist Hymnal are “Amazing Grace,” “Here I Am, Lord” and “How Great Thou Art.”
  • The top three favorite hymns from The Faith We Sing songbook are “The Summons,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “As the Deer.”
  • The top favorite of United Methodists under 30 is “Be Thou My Vision.”
  • The No. 1 requested hymn to include in a new hymnal: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”
  • Top three requests to include an updated United Methodist Hymnal or in The Faith We Sing: “Love Lifted Me,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “God Bless America.”

Others findings indicate that the:

  • Most frequently sung non-Christmas hymns over the past three years are “Amazing Grace,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “Blessed Assurance.”
  • Most frequent songs from The Faith We Sing are “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” “Sanctuary” and “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.”
  • Ten percent of pastors, worship planners and chief musicians expressed interest in multiple languages in the Psalter.
  • Thirty-six percent prefer the Psalter as it is now presented, 27 percent prefer not to include the chanting, 38 percent would like Psalms set as hymns and songs.
  • Seventy-five percent would like to have Healing Services in the hymnal.
  • The least-used worship service in the hymnal is Word and Table IV, unused by 34 percent.
  • Forty-three percent want more praise choruses in the hymnal; 34 percent do not.
  • Seventy percent sing the melodies of our hymns; 61 percent will sing harmony when it is provided.
  • Seventy percent are comfortable using male-only language for God, 25 percent are comfortable using female language for God, and 42 percent are comfortable using male or female language for God.
  • Twenty-eight percent prefer to sing lyrics on a screen; 70 percent prefer to use a hymnal or songbook.
  • Sixty-five percent prefer Wesley texts with their traditional tunes; 33 percent prefer contemporary tunes.
  • McIntyre notes that these studies offer a window into the practices of the local church. However, he adds that these surveys are only a part of what needs to be considered for a new hymnal:

    More questions: What are the denomination’s membership demographics today, and what are they projected to be over the next generation? What is the current state of technology and how does that compare with the technological capacity in the local church? What price will ensure affordability for customers, as well as ensure the publisher’s ability to recoup the hymnal’s research, editorial and production costs and fund future publishing efforts?

    Similarly, it is worth considering: What is the precent of the overall demographic that replied to the online surveys? What about any hard copy surveys? Do those percentages have enough of a cross-section of the entirety of the population to carry a very strong role? Maybe the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    No matter what the situation is here, the UMC should be commended for having a very open process here, both in terms of their surveys and the process involved. Good job, folks.


    3 responses to “on making a new hymnal for a global church…

    1. oh God please not ‘God Bless America’ that is so typical of egocentric americans not even considering a global church context.

    2. I hear you gav.

      I’m curious about the inclusion of the psalter. I hope that it makes it in a way that people will enjoy using. I haven’t personally seen it used in UMC worship and it is too much of a treasure to loose!

    3. While 19,000 responses sounds good, the problem is that it is a tiny fraction of 8 million UMs. When you look at the raw data, it is hard to see the crying demand for a new hymnal. This is just another thing for us to argue about instead of working together to bring more disciples to Jesus.

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