Recently our congregation paused in worship to consecrate the new African American Ecumenical Hymnal–One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism for corporate worship. In thanking the Diaconate whose dedicated vision, energy, study and resources made the new hymnal available for use in our congregation, we also gave thanks for the wider ecumenical church–consisting of composers, poets, artists, editors, publishers and committee members whose tireless labor, under the guidance of the Spirit, brought the hymnal from conception to fruition.
While many Churches are storing away heavy hymnals in favor of popular praise and worship melodies on screens and handheld digital devices, Christian Fellowship is restoring church hymnody in our worship life with 21st century language set to traditional well-known tunes. The result of this restoration we believe will be not only a relevant “cultural memory bank” for future generations, but also a theologically rich vocabulary from which to worship, praise and speak about our God.
While it is imperative that the church not only have a rich theological vocabulary shaped in part by neatly packed, theologically robust church hymns–there is a clear recognition that the language and musical style of most standard church hymns often date an already ancient institution as less than relevant for our time. To correct this, Dr. James Abbington of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University brought together a richly diverse Core Committee who worked very hard to ensure that this new African American Ecumenical Hymnal contained diverse styles and genres, including traditional ecumenical hymns, contemporary texts written for the twenty-first-century church, praise and worship selections, music from Taizé, choral responses, responsorial psalmody, traditional and contemporary gospel music, and Negro spirituals.
While the hymnal does not adequately address the question of inclusive language, it is a beautiful refresh to the nearly 25 year African American Heritage Hymnal seen in many Black Churches today. This hymnal, featuring a golden ankh debossed on its cover, will be a welcomed aid for 21st century Black Churches who want to stir people’s hearts, instruct their minds, and strengthen their spirits in ways that 7-11 songs cannot.