Community of Christ

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Community of Christ Sings Review by Sherman Hesselgrave

Community of Christ Sings has been reviewed by Sherman Hesselgrave for the Hymn Society in the US and Canada and published in the most recent edition of the periodical, The Hymn. He is the Incumbent of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto, and Chaplain to the Royal Canadian College of Organists. His review:

Community of Christ (CoC) is the name the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been using since 2001 and the 664 hymns in this collection represent some of the finest new hymnwriting as well as treasures from the storehouse of hymnody. Because CoC has an international presence there are 229 hymns in non-English languages, from Arabic to Zulu (with 93 Spanish and 72 French). Each hymn page has up to twenty fields of information, including copyright holders, country of origin for text and music, and guitar chords, in addition to the customary tune name, meter, and topical heading.

Readers of THE HYMN may recall that Lauren Hall from the hymnal steering team wrote the Hymn Interpretation column in 2012, using four hymns from this volume – “Take my life, that I may be;” “Touch me, Lord, with thy Spirit eternal;” “For Everyone born, a place at the table;” and “We call out to you.” At the 2014 Hymn Society Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, the hymnal was presented in showcase.

The Preface states that “[m]ore than 16 percent of the texts in this book were written in whole or in part by Community of Christ authors and over 13 percent of the tunes were composed, arranged, or adapted by Community of Christ musicians.” The vast majority of hymns might be found in any mainline Protestant or Roman Catholic hymnal. There are a dozen entries from the Taizé Community; 14 by John Bell of the Iona Community; Mary Louise Bringle, 17; Carl Daw, 19; Ruth Duck, 15; Marty Haugen, 9; Hal Hopson, 11; Tom Troeger, 13; Ralph Vaughan Williams, 11; and Brian Wren, 17.

Except for six pages of Communion Prayers in English, Spanish, and French at the beginning of the book, and the Indexes (the Scriptural Index includes the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants) at the back, the entire book consists of congregational songs divided into seven groupings. The first group addresses the persons of the Trinity and Continuing Revelation. The Praise section is subdivided into Gather, Rejoicing, Thanksgiving, and Sacredness of Creation. The third group, Confession—Renewal, begins with Centering hymns, but also includes timely hymns of lament, like “When memory fades and recognition falters,” and “When senseless violence takes those we love.” The next section, The Church, opens with hymns of invitation and hospitality, includes a large selection of texts with themes of social justice and mission, and even five hymns addressing interfaith respect, e.g., “Too often, God, your name is used to sanction hate and fear.” The next hundred hymns are arranged according to the church year. The last two groupings cover the Sacraments and Discipleship—Commitment.

With regard to language, the editors have aimed for “inclusive references to humanity, relationships, and the Divine. At the same time, consideration was given to words and music that represent with integrity the period of history and cultural context from which they come” (Foreword). So, John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” becomes “Dear God, embracing humankind,” but across the page, “Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy” is unaltered.

There are a few oddities, like only three stanzas of “O come, all ye faithful,” but the hymnal’s production values are very high. The typography and music engraving, and the brightness and opacity of the paper make for excellent readability. And the many fresh texts make Community of Christ Sings a commendable resource.

—Sherman Hesselgrave, The Hymn, Spring 2015, Vol. 66, No. 2, page 27.