A diverse group of laity and clergy, musicians, scholars, teachers, and worship leaders blended their varied experiences to affirm in one voice that it is God’s ruach—God’s breath—that brings all creation to life, inviting every living thing to praise the Lord. With joyful thanksgiving that all creation comes alive when we inhale God’s Spirit and then exhale in unbounded praise, the Hymnal Revision Committee of The United Methodist Church held its inaugural meeting March 19-21 at The United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville.
The meeting launched months of activity to identify songs and ritual resources that can be made available in multiple media, including digital downloads and streaming. In addition to hymn texts and tunes, the team will identify and recommend a wide selection of liturgical resources that provide an essential collection to connect and serve diverse United Methodists in worship. The assortment will be dynamic and augmented at every General Conference going forward.
Committee members were enthusiastic about the possibilities. “When the 1989 hymnal came out, I didn’t have a computer or a cell phone,” commented Karen Chraska. “Now the world is accessible! We can be innovative in how we collect, distribute, teach, and utilize the amazing resource that will be the 2020 UM collection. God’s Spirit was at work throughout our time together.”
Bishop William McAlilly of the Nashville Episcopal Area convened the meeting on behalf of the Council of Bishops, calling the participants to imagine a resource that fosters koinonia and transformational worship for all United Methodists and our ecumenical partners.
The 15-member committee, representing all 5 jurisdictions in the U. S., 11 states, and comprised of persons representing variety in age, cultural origin, ministry setting, and experience, expressed its urgent desire that the revised and expanded collection will serve the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and that it will resonate with an array of cultural and contextual settings while lifting all United Methodist people to say, “These are our songs and prayers!” The committee’s many tasks will include work on theology and praxis, reviewing and selecting texts and tunes as well as liturgical resources, and listening deeply to and engaging with congregations to understand their needs and support their ministries.
“Although the work is a little overwhelming, I am hopeful as we are guided by the Holy Spirit that this collection will touch hearts and transform lives,” said committee member Monya Davis Logan.
The event was punctuated with vibrant worship and both planned and spontaneous singing, highlighted by a nighttime celebration led by choirs and musicians from Gordon Memorial UMC and the Wesley Foundation of Tennessee State University, both in Nashville, and First UMC, Franklin, Tennessee.
Member Diana Sanchez-Bushong reflected, “I am feeling excited by the myriad of possibilities as we curate a new collection of hymns and worship resources for our denomination. It’s a huge, complex task but one that this amazingly talented committee can work through, knowing we do it for the mission of The United Methodist Church!”
“The HRC meeting was informative, inspirational and thought-provoking,” said member Beverly Clement McAlilly. “I am humbled to be a part of this committee and excited about the vast possibilities of offering a twenty-first–century groundbreaking musical and worship resource to The UMC that can reflect our unity and diversity.”
The Reverend Junius Dotson and the Reverend Brian K. Milford, chief executives respectively of Discipleship Ministries and The United Methodist Publishing House, pledged their support and active involvement to assure the committee’s progress. Next steps for the committee include establishing selection criteria, implementing a process for evaluating current and new materials, and interacting with local churches across the connection. The group will work largely via internet conferences and regular conference calls to update and report progress as well as in several on-site meetings at The United Methodist Publishing House as the project develops, leading to recommendations to the 2020 General Conference.
Members of the committee include:
Neil M. Alexander, President and Publisher Emeritus, The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville.
Rev. Karen Chraska, Associate Pastor of Worship and Music, Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church, Flower Mound, Texas.
Rev. Nelson Cowan, provisional elder, Florida Annual Conference, and doctoral student in liturgical studies, Boston University School of Theology, Boston.
Rev. Melissa Drake, Field Outreach Minister, Iowa Annual Conference, Atlantic, Iowa.
Dr. Lim Swee Hong, Associate Professor of Sacred Music, Emmanuel College of Victoria University, University of Toronto, and member of Hewitt First United Methodist Church, Hewitt, Texas.
Louisa Locklear, Music Director, Pembroke First United Methodist Church and public school music teacher, Pembroke, N.C.
Monya Davis Logan, Minister of Worship and the Arts, St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, Dallas.
Rev. Geoffrey Moore, President of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, provisional elder serving as Creative Director of A Ministry of Congregational Singing & Worship, an extension ministry in the North Texas Annual Conference.
Rev. Lydia Muñoz, Lead Pastor, Church of the Open Door, Kennett Square, Pa.
Dr. Diana Sanchez-Bushong, Director of Worship and Music, Westlake United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas.
Rev. Theon Johnson III, Associate Pastor, Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, San Francisco.
Beverly Clement McAlilly, Director of Music Ministries and Organist, First United Methodist Church, Tupelo, Miss.
Mark Miller, Associate Professor of Church Music and Composer in Residence, Drew University, Madison, N.J.
Rev. Anna Moon, pastor, TroyHope Ministry (English Ministry) at Korean United Methodist Church, Troy, Mich.
Rev. Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, Professor of Worship, Boston University School of Theology, Boston; clergy member of Illinois–Great Rivers Annual Conference.