Some may not be fully aware of the various features of the new "Church Hymnal" which were included to aid in a better understanding of the hymns and to facilitate the use of the book.
Turn to the back of the hymnal, and you will find a series of indexes, immediately after the responsive readings. The Topical Index is helpful in guiding in the choice of hymns suitable to various topics and for various occasions. Hymns of Worship are grouped under the topics, "Adoration and Praise," "Opening of Worship," etc. This does not exclude the use of other hymns for worship, but a topical guide is very useful in a hymnal.
The Index of Authors, Translators, and' Sources is a convenient reference when one is seeking for all the hymns by a certain writer such as Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, or Charles Wesley. Suppose a minister is desirous of referring to the missionary endeavors of Zinzendorf and wants a hymn by Zinzendorf to use. This is the index to be consulted.
Similarly, the Index of Composers, Arrangers, and Sources of Tunes will be found useful in discovering tunes by certain composers, such as Dykes, Barnby, Mason, Horatio Parker, etc.
Every hymn tune usually has a name by which it is known. The hymn has a name also, which usually is the first line of the hymn. For example, the hymn, "Abide With Me," will be found by consulting the Index of First Lines, which is the last index in the book, except the Index of Responsive Readings. Now this hymn, Number 5o, is named after its first line, "Abide with me; fast falls the eventide," and thus it is listed in all good hymnals. But the hymn tune (not to be confused with the hymn) goes under a different name, "Eventide," and is so listed in the Alphabetical Index of Tunes. Those who know their hymns thoroughly know the names of the tunes also, and find this index very useful. Often we refer to "Old Hundredth." This is the name of the tune to which we sing the words, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."
The use of the Metrical Index of Tunes is not so obvious. Under this index each hymn is classified according to its meter or the number of syllables in each line. For example, S. M. means short meter, or four lines of six, six, eight, and six syllables. S. M. D. means short meter double, or eight lines, 6. 6. 8. 6. 6. 6. 8. 6. C. M. means common meter, or four lines, 8. 6. 8. 6. L. M. means long meter, or four lines, 8.8. 8. 8. P. M. means particular or peculiar meter, or an irregular arrangement of lines and syllables. The other meters listed all refer to the number of syllables in each line.
This index becomes useful when one writes an original hymn and is searching for a tune to fit the hymn. If the original hymn has eight lines, alternating between seven and six syllables in each line (7. 6. 7. 6. D.), then the index can be consulted to find a tune to which the words can be sung. The hymnal contains twenty-five hymns in this meter, 7. 6. 7. 6. D., and from this list a suitable tune might be selected.
Now, turning to hymn Number 261, we find this information at the top of the page: The topical classification, "The Gospel—Faith and Trust ;" the hymn number, 261; the hymn title, "A Mighty Fortress ;" the tune title, "Ein' Feste Burg;" the meter, 8. 7. 8, 7. 6. 6. 6. 6. 7.; the composer of the music, Martin Luther (always found in the upper right-hand corner) ; the date of composing or publishing, 1529, and the author of the words, Martin Luther (always in the upper left-hand corner) ; the date of writing or publishing, 5529; and other information, such as translator, Tr. by Frederick H. Hedge, 1853, or "alt." in case the words have been altered from the original form. The life span of the composer or author is sometimes given in parenthesis.
All of this information is useful to the alert minister who is interested in using the hymnal intelligently. A knowledge of the background of a hymn should lead to a more intelligent use of the hymn. Hymns reflect the times in which they were written and the personalities of their authors. A progressive minister will acquaint himself with his hymnal and its background.