The Presbyterian Hymnal Sampler

Glory to God, the Presbyterian Hymnal sampler with the same name as the forthcoming hymnal, is being given out to everyone at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which begins today in Pittsburgh. A copy will be mailed to each PCUSA congregation after the assembly. I got a copy this week at Yale, where I was on the faculty for the Congregations Project at the Insttitute of Sacred Music.

The Presbyterian Hymnal Project has been ably led by David Eicher, and Glory to God will appear next year.

60% of the 1990 Presbyterian hymnal will brought into the 2013 hymnal. This will comprise 40% of the new hymnal – sturdier and thinner paper makes possible a larger book which still isn’t unwieldy. (Although Catholics are physiologically weaker than Protestants, and physically less able to hold a hardbound hymnal, but that’s a topic for another day.)

The Service for the Lord’s Day is at the front of the book, then Baptism and Reaffirmation of Baptism, then Daily Prayer. Then the Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs. It’s always interesting to see how the hymns are laid out – Glory to God begins with “The Triune God” under the heading “God’s Mighty Acts.”

Many will remember, for it was not so long ago, that Presbyterians celebrated Communion four times a year, and more recently perhaps once a month. Mainline Protestants have come a long way as a result of the ecumenical liturgical movement of the 20th century. Glory to God, following the Presbyterian 1993 Book of Common Worship, will say “The Service for the Lord’s Day” is a service of Word and Sacrament. Together they form a unified liturgy; one is incomplete without the other.” Within the Service for the Lord’s Day there is this rubric: The norm of Christian worship is to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on each Lord’s Day. If the Lord’s Supper is omitted, the service may include a prayer of thanksgiving… concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

The elements of the Service for the Lord’s Day are: Gathering, Word, Eucharist, Sending. Catholics conscious of how the Mass of Paul VI has inspired Protestant liturgical reform will be struck by several things. (It should be noted that the instructions in the Presbyterian hymnal explicitly allow for local freedom and do not make the ‘official’ service mandatory.)

No Sign of the Cross, but at the Confession and Pardon, water is poured into the baptismal font. No sprinkling option as in the new ELCA/ELCC hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Kyrie, Trisagion, or Agnus Dei may be sung, then Gloria in Excelsis or Gloria Patri. (Latin titles are used, btw, followed by translations in parentheses.)

The Scripture readings are concluded with The Word of the Lord./Thanks be to God, or Holy wisdom, holy word./Thanks be to God.

The order states The Nicene Creed is particularly appropriate for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. When the Sacrament of Baptism is to be celebrated, however, the Apostles’ Creed is used within the baptismal liturgy.

After the Prayers of the People, the Peace of Christ is shared if this has not happened earlier.

The Offering has a Berakah-like prayer, “Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things. Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts…” The Great Thanksgiving begins with the dialogue used by English-speaking Catholics until last Advent, with the exception of the change “It is right to give our thanks and change.” Then follows what we call a preface, then the Sanctus. There is a full eucharistic prayer with supper narrative, Memorial Acclamation (the first is Christ has died, Christ is resen, Christ will come again”), epiclesis, “Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,” and three-fold Amen. Lord’s Prayer, Breaking of Bread, Communion of the People.

Pretty much the Mass of Paul VI, broadly speaking.

The hymns have information on text and tune, of course, below each hymn. But first there are a few lines of explanation and background about each hymn. I think this is a good idea. There is a danger of didacticism, for we gather to worship God, not to learn about the history and musicology of our worship. But I think these brief comments will help worshipers enter into worship with understanding, and prevent misunderstandings that sometimes cause irritation.

“Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty” / LOBE DEN HERREN has this: “This very strong 17th-century German hymn employs many phrases from the psalms, especially Psalms 150 and 103:1-6. It did not receive an effect English translation until the mid-19th century, but has remained popular ever since, thanks in part to its stirring tune.

“I Will Come to You” by David Haas has this: “Presuming to speak in the voice of God, as this song does, can only be done with integrity if the singers understand their words as an expression of what they believe about God’s nature and God’s intentions. It is an occasion for affirming faith, not for wishful thinking.”

“They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” has this: “A parish priest of St. Brendan’s on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s was very involved in the local Civil Rights movement and needed something for his youth choir to sing at ecumenical, interracial events. Finding nothing, he wrote this song in a single day.”

“Be Thou My Vision” / SLANE has this: “These stanzas are selected from a 20thcentury English poetic version of an Irish monastic prayer dating to the 10th century or before. They are set to an Irish folk melody that has proved popular and easily sung despite its lack of repetition and its wide range.

There is a Lamb of God by Yusuf Khil with text in English and Arabic and this explanation: “This 1956 setting of the Agnus Dei by an Arab composer was created for the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Whether sung in Arabic or in English, it helps us to join our sung prayers with Arab Christians and all others seeking God’s mercy and peace.” – We’ll be using this setting at the abbey, I guarantee.

Well. There is so much here and I could keep quoting at length, but I’ll stop. Pre-order your copy here.










21 responses to “The Presbyterian Hymnal Sampler”

  1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    The contents of the 2013 Presbyterian Hymnal may be found at:

    I have no doubt that the 2013 Presbyterian Hymnal will be a standard and resource for many more hymnals that will be produced in the future.

  2. Rachel Barber Avatar
    Rachel Barber

    Thank you for this lovely review, which DOES make me want to buy a copy of the Presbyterian Hymnal for my collection. As an RC who has played the organ for extended stints for Lutheran, UCC, and even Unitarian Universalist congregations, I am touched by all that we have in common (ok, maybe not the UUs as much) and all that is expressed similarly in our liturgies.
    As for your comment about how weak Catholics are, I had to laugh. Our parish uses (paperback) OCP worship aids, but we bought Gather Comprehensive 3 for the choir (providing easy “special music” to work up). I was sooo excited when they finally arrived late last fall, and I was able to distribute them to the choir members. I swear that the first comment out of someone’s mouth was, “It’s so heavy. I’ll never be able to hold it.” Aargh!

  3. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    Many thanks for this enlightening review. I’m suprised that this new Presbyterian liturgy has, even, a eucharistic prayer of sorts (no doubt without any intimation of sacrifice) because even some Lutheran synods have apoplexy at any more than ‘the words of institution’. It is, as you point out, nothing short of miraculous that many Protestant churches have covered so much liturgical and theological territory in the last half-century.

    I hate to admit it, but even in the Episcopal church (other than in really Anglo-Catholic dioceses) mass often was only celebrated monthly until 50 or 60 years ago, though it was held in high esteem. However, having communion at the ‘early service’ every week was very common and well attended. Queen Victoria is said to have said that having it too often would make it less special. An interesting point of view!

    I think that having a few words of commentary about each hymn is a very good feature, and not just as a fine scholarly attribute: they should be of interest to the congregation and even make learning this particular ‘new’ hymn more of a treat.

    As for the weight of this or any other hymnal, I have sub-zero sympathy for the childish, self-made weaklings who can think of nothing else to complain about.

  4. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    It is also nice that they refer to the parts of the liturgy (Gloria, Sanctus, etc.) by their Latin incipits. This has been standard Anglican usage for 500 years, and is not at all uncommon amongst many Protestants. It seems, bizarrely, that only Catholics have to make a silly, self-conscious fetish out of refering to ‘the Glory’, or ‘the Holy’. The utter contempt for Latin by many Catholics is irrational and does not speak well of them.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      I have no contempt for Latin, as I’m sure everyone knows. If all goes well, my collection of Latin chants for parish use, “Canticum novum,” will appear from GIA in a few weeks, in time for the NPM convention. I pray the Office in Latin when I’m away from the abbey.

      But MJO, I disagree with you when you write: “The utter contempt for Latin by many Catholics is irrational and does not speak well of them.”

      Everything happens for a reason. The people with contempt for Latin have life experiences which are not mine, and have reasons which are not mine. I respect them. (Some of them, fwiw, are my elderly great-aunts, devout Catholics all). I think it better to ask with any open mind, “Why do some Catholics have contempt for Latin. There must be a reason. What is it?”


      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        If I might add, it’s only worth asking the question if one asks it with a spirit of genuine curiosity, rather than asking in order to argue with those of whom it is asked.

      2. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
        M. Jackson Osborn

        Fr R –
        Many thanks for your perspective. I stand chastised.
        You must admit, though, that it is a perplexing irony that many Catholics have a aversion to Latin that is not shared by their Protestant brethren.

        Your Canticum Novum will, you may be sure, find its way into my library; and, will likely become a resource at St Basil’s School of Gregorian Chant at St Basil’s Chapel at Houston’s UST.

        (P.S: I never did think that you had contempt for Latin.)

      3. Shane Maher Avatar
        Shane Maher

        “I think it better to ask with any open mind, “Why do some Catholics have contempt for Latin. There must be a reason. What is it?”
        A good question – especially if the one asked presumes himself to be a supporter of V2.
        I’d recommend also asking a similar question – just replace “Latin” with “contemporary hymns” in the question penned above.

    2. Bill Kish Avatar
      Bill Kish

      I have no contempt for Latin and do not personally know any one who does. I do prefer the Mass in English. There is a choice and some prefer it in Latin. I know of no one who wants to do away with the Latin Mass, but have read blogs and comments from those who would like to see the English Mass eliminated.

  5. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman


    Honestly I never met a Roman Catholic who referred to “the Holy, (Holy)” or “the Glory (to God)” out of “utter contempt for Latin.”

    Since those are the incipits for musical settings in English, what’s wrong with using them, as we do the incipits for Latin settings? Really, I ask this question with no contempt at all for Latin.

  6. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    Fr Krisman –
    I’m sure that you have no contempt for Latin, and perhaps you have never (so it would seem) met any Catholics who did. But I have, both in person and on this very blog. Their aversion to Latin is implacable, determined, and irrational. There are, even, numerous priests and some bishops who forbid the use of so much as an inkling of Latin in their parishes or dioceses… in disobedience to the wishes of VII and every pope since.
    You are the first person I have encountered whose substitution of English for Latin incipits seemed not to be a self-conscious avoidance of the forbidden tongue. Many are those who have a disdain for Latin which would not at all be shared by enlightened Protestants.

    1. Shane Maher Avatar
      Shane Maher

      How can a bishop forbid his priest using Latin?

  7. Robin Craig Avatar

    So enjoyed reading this!

    I think the brief explanations of the hymns are great — partly because so few people anymore are knowledgeable about our music, and partly because the new hymnal includes such a diversity of international music new to almost all in the U.S. Our small congregation sang one of the new hymns on Trinity Sunday, and folks were delighted by the background info as well as by the beautiful melody.

  8. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    “It is right to give our thanks and change.”

    Do the collection during their Eucharistic Prayer, then? 😉

  9. Tom Kostrzewa Avatar
    Tom Kostrzewa

    Thanks for the great review of the new Presbyterian Hymnal. From your description, the new hymnal fleshes out Order for Worship on the Lord’s Day a bit more than the current Presbyterian Hymnal. Just to clarify a bit on MJO’s surprise at the presence of “a eucharistic prayer of sorts.” Actually, the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (which might be thought of as the Presbyterian equivalent to the Roman Missal (or Sacramentary for us pre-RMIII folks), but with even more material in it – the psalter, morning and evening prayer, etc.) contains more “Great Thanksgivings” than you can shake a stick at. The Great Thanksgiving is pretty much the same as the canon/eucharistic prayer (sans mention of sacrifice, popes or bishops, of course – after all, we are Reformed – LOL – but yes, prayers for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church are mentioned. Besides having a proper GT for each of the season’s of the year (and Presbyterians do do Advent (blue is the color here)/Christmas/Epiphany, Lent/Easter/Pentecost/Trinity Sunday, there are 10 different GT that can be used either during Ordinary Time, or in one of the seasons. The last two GT’s provide a general structure for praying the great thanksgiving in a free and spontaneous style (which certainly wouldn’t fly in Belleville) but you will also find a very short GT to use in a hospital or home visit setting, a translation of the ancient eucharistic prayer of Hippolytus of Rome (dating 215), another adapted from the Alexandrine Liturg of St. Basil the Great (4th century), one prepared by ICEL before it was “reformed” as well as one or two others that bear a striking resemblance to the eucharistic prayers we use to hear before Advent, 2011. While there are no words of “consecration” the wors of institution can be spoken either at the beginning of the GT in the Invitation to the Lrod’s Table, the place where RC’s expect it to be, or just before the fraction. More coming….

  10. Tom Kostrzewa Avatar
    Tom Kostrzewa

    I actually think that any sort of “consecration” occurs not at the words of institution, but in the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine (really juice) and/or in what RC’s would call the fraction rite . The presiding minister raises the loaf of bread (a real loaf of bread) and breaks it in full view of the people saying, “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” Then pouring the wine into a cup, again in full view of the people, says, “the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?” Then the minister holds the bread and cup aloft and says, “The gifts of God for the people of God.”
    The Book of Common Worship – nicely bound in BVM blue faux leather, with a celtic cross on the cover and two ribbon markers (one red, the other blue – how Catholic is that?) reflects the re-discovery of liturgical tradition among Prebyterians. It strives to be inclusive (not only in language but also in honoring the various expressions of Presbyterianism as they exist in the US today.) There are lots of options and choices in terms of prayers to use, confessional formualas, creeds, etc. The hymnal is the companion volume to the BCW. One will find a service for Ash Wednesday, complete with imposition of ashes, Passion Sunday procession with palms, Maudy Thursday service with washing of the feet, Good Friday service (sans communion) and an Easter Vigil complete with fire, paschal candle and Exultet.
    The BCP is also something the Presbyterian church is growing into as well, and it is taking quite a bit of time. While the Revised Common Lectionary (very, very similar to the RC lectionary) is encouraged, it is not mandated, so a pastor can feel free to choose any reading(s) he/she wants to preach on. Communion 4 times a year tends to be the reality in a bunch of places, though once a month is making headway. One more, and that will be it, I promise..

  11. Tom Kostrzewa Avatar
    Tom Kostrzewa

    It will be years before communion is celebrated every Sunday, despite what the BCW, the hymnal and the Book of Order (the how and why things are done the way they are done in the Presbyterian Church) say. We have to remember that at the time of the Reformation, Catholics “had” to receive communion at least once a year. Plus things bordered on superstition with regard to viewing the raised host and cup at mass. The Reformers were reacting to the times in which they lived. So mandating communion 4 x a year was seen as an extravagence.
    It’s also a challenge to convince Prebyterians that the reformers were not out to start new churches, they were, in reality, trying to reform the RC church. (Had they been successful in that, Luther, et. all, would probably be saints with their own stained glass windows and holy cards.) Since they were first of all trying to reform the RC church, the whole history and tradition of the first 15years of Christianity is part of their heritage as well. This is a very hard sell, to say the least. So while the books say “communion every Lord’s Day” and talk about the Easter Vigil, etc., the reality is that it’s going to take a long time for that to become standard practice. Even something as simple as the Paschal candle can draw suspicion of the rank and file members, despite how much catechesis one does. In providing for tons of variations and options, not to mention really lacking a consistent central authority (like the Vatican) as well as each congregation really being guided and governed by elders elected from the congregation, there is a great amount of autonomy. It is a very different mindset than one would find among, say, Roman Catholics, who despite our best efforts, tend to still be the “pray, pay and obey” sort of mindset.
    Well, that’s more than enough from me. I trust there are more learned minds here who could say more. Thanks to all who have persevered in reading my three posts. Hugs, Tom K.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      TK –
      Thanks for a very enlightening treatment.

  12. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    Tom, thank you very much for your analysis.

    While on summer vacation in rural New York, I would often go to Sunday service with my good friends and hosts. The hamlet’s church is affiliated with the PCUSA, but served as the generic town church. Yes, I drove the 15 mi each way to the nearest Catholic church for their Saturday said vigil Mass. Still, I rather looked forward to the Sunday service instead, as the town church was truly the nexus of community life in the small farming town.

    The eucharist is celebrated only once a month at the town church, so I only had the opportunity to attend one or two communion Sundays. It appeared to me that the community at that time was much more comfortable when the eucharist was not celebrated. On communion Sundays the community abruptly changed from enthusiastic hymn-singers to very quiet observers. The pastor would quickly recite both his and the assembly’s parts for the entire communion service from the preface dialogue forward with not a word from the assembly. I suspected that the congregation, the pastor, or both were not entirely comfortable with any ritual gesture besides the verba and the serving of communion.

    I had the pleasure of fellowship with a wonderful pastor and his very welcoming and loving community. Still, I sensed that the community was not accustomed to or ready for a more “liturgical” communion service. Perhaps the characterization of Catholics as unenthusiastic congregational singers should be seen in the light of the reticence within this Protestant community towards a certain order of eucharistic celebration. My limited experiences suggest that Christian communities often struggle with congregational participation. The circumstances, however, vary among traditions.

  13. Cathy Wattebot Avatar

    The forthcoming Presbyterian Hymnal sounds really good – “We are one in the spirit” is not in any catholic hymnal I’ve seen, so good to see it here. The arabic Lamb of God (sorry Agnus Dei) is great (are the english words acceptable to the liturgical police though…? The melody would point OK in latin too I guess) and it will help to be in solidarity with oppressed people in Palestine. I study arabic, and although I have an arabic bible, I have not had any access to arabic catholic liturgy before. It’s interesting that the languages have different nuances. With my limited knowledge, I think it’s fair to say that خطليا includes notions of what’s wrong or mistaken as well as sin, while ذنب is more about guilt and offence. The word for lamb, حمل , is curiously part of the same family as حامل (porter, bearer more than “takes away”, and a root with a truly huge range of meanings), and the word ارحمنا for “have mercy on us” is part of the رحم family, relating to womb and compassion, and one that is so prominent in muslim greetings and blessings and references to God.

    One difficulty around latin is that a few seem to use it as a political
    statement. Excellent as latin hymns may be, their meaning was never very accessible to the majority of church goers. Personally I would prefer not to hear de Angelis or Credo III as they have created a deep track in my mind from endless repetition, but others like to hear them again. I’m not sure any music can survive excessive use without losing most or all of its value.

  14. Tom Kostrzewa Avatar
    Tom Kostrzewa

    Jordan – I think you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for what you shared. TK

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