Friday, January 25, 2008

Using a hymnbook for devotions

We do not use the 1995 "With One Voice" hymnbook in our Sunday worship at UALC. In fact, we rarely use a hymnbook at all since the words of the hymns are cast on a screen (I don't like this, but someone thought Lutherans needed to have their hands free of books--smile). I'll address the Confession at a later time after I've done a little research. I checked out a copy from the church library. A few of the hymns are . . . underwhelming. Others fresh, even if the range looks a bit challenging for us older folk. I did notice the awkward detours around male pronouns--then you see Father and Son are also scarce. (Diety in many modern hymns and prayers if mentioned is gender neutral and described by function.) The exceptions are Spirituals, or something very old and unsingable from the Didache or possibly a Latin chant. This removal of the male pronouns puts a heavy burden on the overworked first person pronoun--I, me, my, we, us, etc. Then the gender and diversity themes start to rise.

Oh, Praise the Gracious Power (Text by Thomas H. Troeger, b. 1945)

vs. 3
Oh, praise inclusive love,
encircling ev'ry race,
oblivious to gender, wealth,
to social rank or place.

This one will probably not make the next cut (after all, this hymnbook is already 13 years old and missed the gay marriage battle).

As Man and Woman We Were Made (Text by Brian Wren, b. 1936)

As man and woman we were made
that love be found and life begun
so praise the Lord who made us two,
and praise the Lord when two are one:
praise for the love that comes to life
through child or parent, husband, wife.

This one is quite scriptural, but I haven't tried to sing it.

"I Am the Bread of Life" (text: John 6, adpt. S. Suzanne Toolan, SM, b. 1927)

"I am the Bread of life.
You who come to me shall not hunger,
and who believes in me shall not thirst.
No one can come to me
unless the Father beckons."
"And I will raise you up,
and I will raise you up,
and I will raise you up
on the last day."

I say Amen to that!

Some familiar gospel hymns appear too, always a joy to read through, such as "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling," or the wonderful sending hymn (Welsh tune) we often use at UALC, "Go, My Children, with My Blessing," or the great Fanny Crosby's "Blessed Assurance." She was blind and wrote 8,000 hymns, so it would be difficult to leave her out of a hymnbook that wants greater representation by women. I also hummed through a few toe tapping Catholic hymns we sing in Cursillo.

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