The Once and Future Hymnal

Developments in Culture, Language, Theology, Technology, and Musical Style

On October 23-24, sixty-five clergy and musicians from around the country gathered at VTS for a consultation centered around The Hymnal 1982 and its supplements. The premise of the gathering was to hear from experts as to what had been happening in culture, language, theology, technology, and musical style since the approval of the hymnal in 1982.

Dr. James Litton, who had served on the committee to revise the hymnal gave the keynote address and described the process, surprising many with the observation that conversations about a “new” hymnal had begun as early as the 1960s.  The Achievements of the Hymnal 82 and its Supplements (Marilyn Haskel and William Bradley Roberts), the Developments in Culture in 1982 (Frank Wade) and the Developments in Theology (Katherine Grieb) comprised the remainder of the plenary addresses.

The rest of the conference included panel discussions about developments in language (Mel Bringle, Susan Palo Cherwien, Carl Daw), developments in musical style (Michael Hawn, Carl MaultsBy, Andrew Sheranian, Keith Tan), and developments in technology (Nancy Bryan, David Eicher, Marilyn Haskel, Martin Seltz).

In addition, conferees heard from ecumenical partners, Martin Seltz from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and David Eicher from the Presbyterian Church USA about the recent revisions of the hymnals in those denominations.

A hymn sing, Singing with Martin Luther, led by Gail Ramshaw, with accompaniments by organist, Thomas Smith, provided a wonderful end to the first day of the conference.  This event included hymns by Martin Luther as well as hymns by 20th century Lutherans.  Two hundred people gathered in Immanuel Chapel for some energetic singing.

After a lovely closing dinner, conferees heard a short recital by baritone, James Martin, accompanied by David Lang.  This recital included arrangements of spirituals as well as an art song by Herbert Howells.