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Church Wins Hearts at Hymn Society

Church Wins Hearts at Hymn Society

By David Bolton, Integrated Formation Ministries

The Hymnal Steering Team presented Community of Christ Sings July 16 at the ecumenical conference of the Hymn Society in Columbus, Ohio. The showcase was a chance to thank Hymn Society members for their support, share our work ecumenically, and tell who we are as Community of Christ.

More than 360 attended. They included 23 representatives of Community of Christ, 31 people who contributed words or music to our hymnal, and many more hymn enthusiasts. Attendees calling it, “surprisingly emotional” and “a stand-out hymnal.”

Martin Tel, editor of two hymnals for the Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church of America, said he really enjoyed singing “The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning” (CCS 382). “It was rousing and gave a sense of the tradition Community of Christ comes out of.” A Presbyterian, who happens to be called Joseph Smith, jested, “Joseph Smith approves of your hymnal.”

Jane Gardner, of the Hymnal Steering Team, described our journey with four national conferences convening on the issue of same-sex marriage and ordination. “We have had overwhelming support towards this move for inclusivity within the denomination and as of last March [for the USA] we now have policies and procedures that go with that.”

The conference—featuring many struggling with the same issues—thoughtfully applauded. Gardner added, “It has been a long journey, I don’t want to diminish that.”

The next hymn, “God, We Gather as Your People” (CCS 274) was emotional for several, and by the last refrain the assembly had risen to its feet. In closing remarks for the conference, song leader Amanda Powell said, “There was a hymn about inclusion at the Community of Christ hymnal showcase. It really drew me in.”

To introduce the Interfaith-respect topic in the hymnal, David Bolton of the Hymnal Steering Team, commented: “There are five hymns (CCS 341–245) that you might use for an interfaith gathering or for particular occasions when it is important to emphasize our unity in our diversity—an Enduring Principle of Community of Christ.”

Keyboardist and songleader, Jorge Lockward, commented to Community of Christ member Andrew Murphy, “I learned so much about Community of Christ from the hymnal showcase.” Several commented to Hymnal Project Manager Lauren Hall, “If I wasn’t already involved in my church I would join Community of Christ.”

Ken Nafziger, professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University and the artistic director and conductor of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, told Lauren he would begin to use Community of Christ Sings in his church immediately. In addition, Michael Hawn, a global music expert from the Perkins School of Theology, heralded the hymnal as “visionary” and “leading the way” in Christ’s mission.

As stated in the acknowledgements for Community of Christ Sings, “The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada has had more impact on this project than any other organization by providing a collaborative, creative environment for poets, composers, scholars, and church musicians throughout the ecumenical community.” The hymnal team was grateful for the opportunity share its journey and latest hymnal with the ecumenical community.

David Bolton is a music and worship support specialist, who began working for the church in 2010, Community of Chirst Sings includes a dozen of his arrangements
First published in Herald (December 2014), 161:29.