Overture Overview: #4 on Hymn Selection

The URCNA Hymn Proposal

The URCNA Hymn Proposal

Below is my synopsis of the content of Classis Southwest US’s overture on Hymn Selection in the provisional agenda for Synod 2012.

Summary: Classis Southwest United States overtures Synod 2012 to remove about 70 hymns from the hymn section of the proposed URC Psalter Hymnal.

Key ideas: “We are concerned that the committee may have selected too many Hymns”; “our Church Order calls for the psalms to have principal place in public worship”; “book size may well require the elimination of some songs.”

Grounds: All proposed removals are accompanied by grounds.  Two songs (Hymn Proposal #20 and #21) are said to be “excessively repetitive”; 12 more are recommended for removal since “they paraphrase Psalms and thus would detract from the use of the Psalms themselves”; 20 are listed as “having poor or rather wooden poetry”; 8 are said to reflect “the excessive emphasis on Christmas in our society”; 7 are considered theologically unsound; and 22 are said to be “not very Christocentric and redundant of themes fully covered in the Psalms.”

My questions: The majority of these removals seem reasonable and well-grounded.  But do psalm paraphrases really detract from psalm singing, or do paraphrases help “bridge the gap” between the familiar hymns and the not-so-familiar psalms?  Good, literal psalm settings are extremely important in a Psalter Hymnal, but could there be a place for paraphrases as well?  (Where these paraphrases should be placed within the hymnbook—in the hymn section or in the psalm section—is another matter altogether.)  Also, the rationale that non-Christocentric hymns should be removed excludes quite a few beloved and Biblically sound selections (such as “All Creatures of Our God and King” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”).  Should the fact that these songs repeat themes found in the psalms really prevent them from being included in the new songbook?

See pp. 47-49 of the Provisional Agenda for the entirety of this overture.


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