Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"My Hymn-Book"

Presbyterian Advance | September 28, 1933 | By Jesse Halsey

Some day some wise publisher is going to arrange a hums book my way. It will make money for him and be conducive of orderly worship. (Most worship in non-liturgical churches is almost fussy.)

These ideas have been negatived (in practice) by so capable an editor as Augustine Smith and turned down (to use the vernacular) by several publishers including The Century Company. But I still maintain that I am right.

There is no need for improvements. Be honest. Did you ever attend a service in either Sunday school or church where there was not difficulty in identifying the Responsive Reading?; where the leader did not find it necessary to say something like this—“Selection number Seven on Page Eight of The Psalter which is found in the back of the book, on page five hundred sixty, numbered at the bottom of the page . . . page 560 selection VII in the back of the Hymnal.” (etc., etc., ad infinitum . . . ad nauseum.)

How much better if every unit of worship had an individual number printed in bold type in the upper left-hand corner (as is done with hymns). First would come the hymns numbered (say) from 1 to 500 consecutively. Next would come musical Responses and Chants each numbered (say (501-550. Then would follow the Psalter 551-599 (or whatever the numbers might be). The point is this: From start to finish the book would be a unity. Each several unity would have a definite designation easily announced and easily found.

With all its very excellent qualities The (new Presbyterian) Hymnal fails in this regard. There are hymns consecutively numbered from 1-513. Then there comes a section of Responses and Ancient Hymns and Canticles” numbered consecutively 1-95. Then follows another unit, The Psalter “Selection 1—Selection 75.” Three distinct units!

In my hymn book each unit of worship will be carried on one page whether the page is completely covered or not. The only exception to this rule will be in case of short hymns where two (or more) can be printed on a page, then each hymn will have a separate and distinct number in the same conspicuous black face type.

(At the bottom of each page, inconspicuously printed, will be noted the page number, but this only for printer’s reference.)

One short explicit direction will identify, to the worshipper, the item in the leader’s mind and in the minimum of time said worshipper will turn with assurance to the correct page and be ready to participate in the worship. Announcing a responsive reading or chant will be as simple and sure as giving out a hymn. Why hasn’t some printer done it long ago?

And my Psalter (using the Authorized Version, which is unsurpassed for liturgical purposes) will have the response printed in boldface type so that the worshipper may participate with tease and enthusiasm; and without eye strain, or doubt as to which lines he is to read.

These changes of form are not of minor importance. The Psalter in “Common Worship” so well selected by Dr. Erdman I would have reset so that minister and congregation can read with ease. Or if that is impossible I will use the responsive readings of the new Methodist Hymnal which have a short line that the eye can easily follow.

The hymns I am not competent to edit, and I shall take over The (New) Hymnal with all of Dr. Clarence Dickinson’s painstaking and hidden care—if the board and Dr. Laufer will let me.

–Cincinnati Ohio

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