Brief Book Review: Piety in Song

Piety in Song: Spiritual Themes in Brethren Hymnody
by Peter E. Roussakis

Who should read this? Serious students of hymnody, members of the Brethren, those interested in studying how the contexts of history, place, time, and ritual influence the creation of hymns and vice versa; anyone interested in hymnody.

What’s the main point? The author closely examines the hymnals and hymnody of 300 years of Brethren Church history to show how the spirituality of the Brethren Church was expressed in its hymnody and how shifts in that spirituality can be seen in their hymnals and approaches to hymn writing.

Why is this book useful? The study of Brethren Church hymns and hymnals will be of interest to members of the church. In addition, anyone studying the hymnody of a particular denomination can learn from the author’s careful methodology.

What intrigued me most? The common issues that challenge all churches to address changing times and places and the need to address these challenges while respecting one’s spiritual heritage and worship practices.

Kudos: The author is to be commended for his close analysis and in-depth study of his topic. The book provides an important resource for titles of significant hymns, as well as the names of influential composers and text writers. In addition, the author demonstrates the clear link between the developing spirituality of the church and the hymns sung by its congregations.  Its very extensive index is also very useful.

Roussakis, Peter E. Piety in Song: Spiritual Themes in Brethren Hymnody. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2019. (Previously published by Apostolos, 2016). 158 pages. ISBN: 9781532669828.

REVIEWER: Judith M. Kubicki, CSSF, PhD

Judith M. Kubicki, CSSF, Ph.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus, Fordham University, Theology Department. Her most recent publication is The Song of the Singing Assembly: A Theology of Christian Hymnody (2017), GIA.

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