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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Lift Every Voice and Sing!

Last night and this morning, Seabury is hosting a symposium; we're learning about one of the hymnals (named for the above song) authorized for use in the Episcopal Church. It's being led by the Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis and Dr. Horace Boyer, both of whom were integral in its compilation (and thoroughly interesting men, I'm finding). The songs in this text come largely out of the African-American gospel tradition, so it's often thought of as a hymnal for black congregations; but you're really missing out if you stereotype it that way. Regardless of its roots-- or maybe because of them-- there's some wonderfully stirring, worshipful music in there, for all sorts of communities and occasions.

Actually, the ECUSA currently offers at least five collections of hymns for use in worship:

Hymnal 1982
Wonder, Love and Praise
Lift Every Voice and Sing II
El Himnario
Voices Found

One of the things I love about the Episcopal church is the fact that music is so important to us. No, we don't always do it well (making "a joyful noise" is sometimes less than "tuneful"); and yes, we spend a lot of time, it seems, bickering over just what is "good" and "proper" in our singing-- liturgically and theologically, as well as musically. But that is precisely because the sung expression of our relationship to God is so integral.

So, do you have a favorite hymn? Please, share-- that's what congregational singing is all about.


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