PT: Congratulations on your appointment! How does it feel to be incoming editor of The Hymn?
AT: Thank you! It feels both daunting and exciting to take on this role. I have been skimming some of the earliest issues of the journal, and I’m humbled to think of the legacy that I get to tend for a little while.
PT: Tell us a bit about yourself and your story. What do you bring to this position?
AT: My primary vocation is writing hymn and song texts. I have combined that with other, related areas of work. I was a pastor for five years and still hold ministerial credentials with Mennonite Church USA. In addition to this editorial role I am also text editor for the forthcoming Mennonite worship and song collection. I’ve kept a toe in academia with a few journal articles, primarily in the realm of Mennonite hymnody. I have been on The Hymn Society’s editorial advisory board for a year and a half now; I didn’t realize when I was initially invited that I was being prepared for taking the helm!
PT: Tell our readers about The Hymn – who reads it?
AT: Subscriptions are tied to membership in THS. The Society is made up of academics, practitioners of congregational song, and lay aficionados.
One can find top-notch organists, choir directors, scholars, composers, and writers, alongside folks who simply love to sing together. Our annual conferences are wonderfully collegial. The Hymn includes a wide range of material, reflecting both top-notch scholarship and practical issues like song leading practice.
PT: Where do you hope to take The Hymn? What are your dreams and goals?
AT: The Hymn should be essential reading for anyone involved in congregational music leadership and scholarship. (Is that lofty enough?)
PT: I have the impression that The Hymn Society is in an exciting phase of growth and development. Does that sound right to you?
AT: I think so. There’s something of a youth movement. (I’m getting to be on the older edge of that!) Our Lovelace Scholarship program brings a significant cohort of young people to our yearly conference – that was how I first attended, at Collegeville back in 2004 – and many get hooked and return year after year. We are also developing our understanding of what we mean when we say “hymn.” Expanding our definition to include all realms of congregational singing means that we can apply our tools of critical evaluation to genres previously deemed not serious enough for our attention. Top-notch scholars like Lim Swee-Hong and Nate Myrick are engaging the content and experience of “contemporary praise and worship.” One of our emerging scholars from a recent conference, Marissa Glynias Moore, published an article in a recent issue on the transmission of global song. We even tolerate the occasional article about chant. There’s this monk that keeps showing up…
This doesn’t mean leaving strophic hymnody behind–far from it. But I’m convinced that expanding our circle of understanding will also give us new tools to evaluate the material we already know well.
PT: But print media everywhere is in decline. How will you deal with that? Will The Hymn remain an exclusively print journal?
AT: Actually, I’ve been hearing that real paper books are making a come-back. At least, I hope so! I think there are some interesting ways to integrate online media with print, some of which would be quite natural for a journal like The Hymn. For example, wouldn’t it be helpful to provide links to videos and recordings of songs discussed in articles? The Hymn Society’s director for the Center for Congregational Song, Brian Hehn, has been hard at work developing online resources. I see ample opportunities to integrate material with The Hymn.
But when it comes down to it, I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned. I’d still much rather get a physical copy in my mail box to flip through. (When will Pray Tell start offering a print edition?)
Past issues of The Hymn are already available online. I hope readers will visit here – and while they’re on the Society’s website, they can also sign up for a membership!
PT: People will want to know – will you be adjusting The Hymn’s balance of “academic” and “practical” articles going forward?
AT: That’s a big question, isn’t it? I’m interested in hearing from our members about what they want and need from us. I’m committed to being the go-to journal for scholars, while remaining accessible to practitioners of all stripes. It is important for academics to note the interdisciplinary nature of the field. We include theologians, musicologists, poets, anthropologists, and historians. Each of those areas has its own vocabulary and lingo. In a journal like ours we try to connect all of those areas, which can mean striving to find common language.
PT: You’re a hymn text geek. What will be your editorial policy be on the burning questions of the Oxford comma and the split infinitive?
AT: Such things as proper word order, Oxford commas and subject-verb agreement is to always be observed.
PT: Good to know. Thanks, Adam. All best in your new position!
Anthony Ruff, OSB, conducted the interview for Pray Tell.