The Center for Congregational Song, an initiative of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, has recently published Crafting Songs and Hymns: A Collection of Short Essays to Inspire and Challenge Church Musicians. As Brian Hehn, the Director of The Center for Congregational Song remarks in his “Forword” [sic] to the collection, “[t]he authors represent over nine different denominations, six countries of origin, three generations, and over three-hundred and fifty years of cumulative ministry experience.”
A mark of how dedicated to supporting and sustaining music ministry The Center for Congregational Song is appears in the fact that the collection is free for interested individuals to download. The fourteen articles run two to three pages apiece, crafted by worship music leaders both familiar (John Bell, Adam Tice, Gloria Gaither, Ken Nafziger) and less so, but I found all of the articles stimulating. The perspectives being shared primarily represent various forms of “Protestant” worship (Episcopalian/Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, and post-denominational). Topics run the gamut from apologiae for new congregational songs through technical issues (“What makes a good text/tune good? What makes for a compelling text/tune pairing?” “Bilingual song”) to visionary concerns (“The Church’s song in the world,” “Decolonizing the Worship Movement”).
The only parallel I can think of to Crafting Songs and Hymns are the three small booklets published by the Liturgical Press entitled The Heart of our Music: Underpinning our Thinking, Practical Considerations, and Digging Deeper. Under the editorship of John Foley, S.J., various members of the Composers Forum explore some of the same topics as the authors in Crafting Songs and Hymns. What fruitful dialogue might occur if these two groups were to be in conversation with each other! What a blessing for our churches!