Methodist Church

New hymnal proposed for United Methodist Church

NASHVILLE (Tennessee) – The United Methodist Church could have a new hymnal by 2013 under plans endorsed by the denomination’s Board of Discipleship.

Directors of the board voted recently to ask the 2008 General Conference to form a hymnal creation committee next year to begin developing a new hymnal.

If the committee’s work is approved by the denomination’s top legislative body in 2012, the new resource would replace The United Methodist Hymnal published in 1989. It would be the second official revision since the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches in 1968, not including new songbooks for specific racial/ethnic or language communities.

The Rev Karen Greenwaldt, chief staff executive of the Board of Discipleship, pointed out that the current hymnal would be almost 25 years old – “ normally the life of a hymnal” – by the time a new one could be ready for distribution.

“What is the message being sent to young people who come to church and see a hymnal from 1989 – a hymnal that is older than they are?” she said in an interview with United Methodist News Service.

“We need a new hymnal that picks up new hymns, new texts, new melodies, new words to old tunes that are being created and being sung in our churches. It is time to engage the General Conference in this question.”

The United Methodist Publishing House has already endorsed the project. “Our research shows that The United Methodist Hymnal is widely used in all membership-size churches, but that there is also the strong desire for additional and new hymns and tunes to augment worship in a variety of styles and settings,” said Mr Neil Alexander, President of the church’s publishing agency.

He suggested a new hymnal would include musical styles such as jazz, spirituals and contemporary harmonies and a greater variety of accompaniment settings for guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments. It also would draw more music from racial/ethnic communities and would better serve contemplative settings such as Taize worship and special services for baptism and communion.

Emerging needs

The denomination recognised the need for new music amidst widening worship styles in 2004 when the General Conference formed a committee to study:

♦ Trends and measurement of congregational singing;
♦ Psalter, services, ritual and service music;
♦ Texts and tunes (including global and ethnic music);
♦ Implications of digital and other emerging technologies for worship and congregational singing; and
♦ The Wesley hymns.

The committee, with membership from the Board of Discipleship and the Publishing House, conducted research and listed 19 needs that include “new UM worship and music resources; … providing resources in a variety of ethnic and cultural styles; and new UM resources for ethnic, global, praise, and contemporary music”.

While the committee agreed on the needs, it opted not to make recommendations to the 2008 General Conference and instead referred its findings to the Rev Greenwaldt and Mr Alexander, who then proposed the development of a new hymnal to their respective agencies.

Under the resolution endorsed by the Board of Discipleship, the General Conference will be asked to create a committee to develop a “single volume hymn and worship book with provisions for supporting resources in multiple media for adoption as an official hymnal of The United Methodist Church and for congregational use in The United States of America”. – United Methodist News Service.

Andrew J. Schleicher, the former editor of The United Methodist Newscope, is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.


LONDON – An Irish Methodist peace activist has been recognised for his work in Northern Ireland with a 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honours award in Britain.

The Rev Gary Mason, who has worked for two decades to bring an end to violence and division in Northern Ireland, was noted for his “service to community relations”.

He received an MBE – Member of the Order of the British Empire – for “outstanding achievement” and “hands-on local service which stands out as an example to others”.

Delighted by the announcement, he said he is pleased not only for himself but for the recognition it brings to the peace efforts of his parish, the East Belfast Mission, and all who have been part of that ministry.

The Rev Mason has served as a Methodist pastor to churches throughout Belfast during the turbulent years of “The Troubles”.

He has promoted ground-breaking, cross-community programmes linking Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

He has also forged relationships with outlawed paramilitary communities responsible for much of the region’s terrorism and violence. – United Methodist News Service.