Perhaps the only thing more inspiring than singing with a group of other Christians is praying together. While our hymn festivals are often conducted in a spirit of prayer, morning and evening provides times for us to be intentional about our work as worship.
Morning prayer was coordinated by Anissa Bacon, a UCC pastor, who involved the society’s scholarship recipients, past and present, in leading these services. Many of these young people are not only the future, but also the present, of musical leadership in their respective denominations. The services blended a diverse selections of hymns with readings taken from college students’ reflections on the relationship between humankind and nature. Evening prayer was led by Crystal Jonkman, an organist for an Episcopal church, based on a liturgy from Evangelical Lutheran Worship.
As always, there were a number of new products to learn about. Representatives from OCP Publications shared the story of the third edition of the Flor y Canto hymnal. A number of hymnwriters and composers shared new collections, including Dan Damon (United Methodist pastor and jazz pianist) and Benedictine Sister Delores Dufner. Sida Hodoroabã-Roberts led an anthem-reading session through a variety of hymn-based concertatos and anthems.
A wide variety of breakout sessions covered topics as diverse as 19th-century children’s hymns to the hymnody of Charles Price Jones to Genevan Psalmody in 20th-century Hungary to solo settings of hymns.
In our free time, many conferees rode the train to the top of Pike’s Peak; others visited the Garden of the Gods or participated in an organ crawl through Denver churches.
Our closing hymn festival was at the United States Air Force Academy’s chapel. In this majestic space, we sang hymns inspired by another Shirley Erena Murray text which begins “Look in wonder, hold in honour all the beauty of the earth!” Comprised largely of recently-composed texts and tunes, this festival invited us to contemplate again “all the wonder that surrounds us.”
For more information on The Hymn Society in the United States in Canada, please visit www.thehymnsociety.org or look up the group on Facebook. Next year’s meeting of the Hymn Society will be in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on July 15-19, 2012. The theme will be “The Meeting Place,” and the focus will be on how congregational song brings people together.