The pace of musical change is one reason hymnals are being now being recreated every generation, as opposed to remaining intact for a half a century or so as in the past, said historian John Witvliet, another member of the "Lift Up Your Hearts" team who leads the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Recent decades have seen a number of other factors that have caused musical earthquakes, he said, including a multimedia revolution in worship facilities, the global surge of Pentecostalism, the rise of "megachurch" congregations driven by "seeker friendly" services that value relevance over tradition and increased ecumenical contacts between Catholic, evangelical and liberal Protestant churches.
Thus, the 965 numbered selections in this new hymnal include 137 selections from its 1957 counterpart and 302 from a 1987 volume. However, it also includes at least 100 contemporary "praise choruses" and 50-plus hymns from around the world, with texts translated from 30 different languages. Every hymn in the book is annotated with guitar chords.
"There is no period of time in church history -- ever -- in which there have been this many waves of change shaping Christian worship at the same time," said Witvliet. "A generation ago, we assumed that the hymnal in the pew WAS a church's musical repertoire. No one assumes that now."
But no matter how rapid the changes, he added, hymnals are symbols that the "church needs a common body of music to help keep it united. There must be some ties that bind."
(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)
(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Kendra Phipps at email@example.com.)
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