How to use the new hymnal

Our new Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal is fresh off the press, and brimming with good music, new and old. You will find many new features in it. This article will help you get more value from each page of the hymnal.

Wayne Hooper is executive secretary of the church hymnal committee.

Most of us learned early how to use the Bible. We learned to say the books of the Bible in order so we could easily turn to a text. I remember in the junior Sabbath school the games we played in which we would see who could be the quickest to find a text called out by the leader. The text-finding skills I developed then have been helpful to me ever since. Later I learned how to use a concordance and Bible dictionary to help in locating texts on a given subject and to help me understand the names and places used.

Our new Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal is a tool for worship that we will use with a frequency next to the Bible. Almost every time we meet together as a church family, we open the hymnal and raise our voices in song. The new hymnal contains several features that are designed to make it a more useful worship aid than any other hymnal you have ever used. Several new indexes and cross-referencing systems will make it easier for you to find the best hymn to fit a particular need. In this article I want to help you explore some of the hymnal's special features so that you can begin to use it to its fullest potential.

Table of contents

You might call the table of contents a bird's-eye view of the general organization of the book. Under each general topic heading are the subtopics, and the hymn numbers where they can be found. Following the topic headings is a list of the responsive Scripture readings. They are numbered in continuing sequence after the hymns, for ease in finding. A list of the indexes completes the table of contents. This table of contents makes finding hymns to fit a theme easy. For example, to find hymns on the Second Advent, look under "Jesus Christ," and you will see a subtopic "Second Advent" and hymn numbers (200-220) where you will find them. (Another way to find all the hymns on this subject would be to look in the Topical Index under the same subject. There the hymns are listed in alphabetical order.)

Hymn pages

A survey of a typical page of the hymnal will aid the worshiper in singing with understanding. Titles are taken from the first line of the hymn poem except in those gospel songs in which a phrase from elsewhere in the text is more familiar. The alphabetical index includes references to both the first-line title and the familiar title. To the left of the hymn page is found a Bible reference if the hymn is based on a specific passage. Below that appear the author's name and if available the date of writing and the author's birth and death dates. Original sources of the text and the name of the translator also appear here.

On the right is the name of the hymn tune if it has a name. Next comes a set of numbers or letters indicating the metrical pattern of the poem, which is simply the number of syllables in each line (such as L. M., for long meter, or By referring to the Metrical Index in the back of the hymnal, you may find other tunes in the same meter that might fit that text and add interest to the singing. Where the same tune is actually printed with a different text elsewhere in the hymnal, the tune is sometimes written in a different key or with a different harmonization, and a cross-reference is noted at the bottom of the page. Cross-references are also used to suggest alternate tunes that are especially adapted to a particular text. Just above the musical staff on the right of the page is the known information about the composer or source of the music.

Sometimes the word unison is printed above the staff to indicate music that is best interpreted if all sing the melody together. Of course, hymns written in four-part harmony can be sung in unison whenever desired. And, the low voices will be glad to know, the pitch of many hymns has been lowered to make unison singing more enjoyable for all.

To the left, below the music, is the copyright information if the hymn is still protected by copyright. This means that the publisher has secured (and in most cases paid for) a license to print the hymn in this book only. For any other use of the hymn, including making copies of any kind, permission must be secured.

At the very bottom of the outside edge of the page is the topic, which corresponds to the listings in the Topical Index. Throughout the hymnal, hymns, gospel songs, and spirituals stand together in topical clusters. In other words, you will not find all the spirituals together in one section. Look for "Were You There?" in the "Sufferings and Death" section, and "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" with the Christmas carols in the "Birth" section, under "Jesus Christ."

Worship aids

This important section follows the hymns, and the readings are numbered consecutively in sequence with the hymns. This will avoid the confusion of announcing page numbers, as opposed to hymn numbers. Worship aids include: Scripture readings on various topics (including several Biblical canticles, or songs), calls to worship, words of assurance, offertory sentences, and benedictions. The committee chose readings from eight different versions of the Bible. As a basis for the selection, they looked for clarity of thought, ease of comprehension, readability, beauty of language, theological accuracy, appeal to all age groups, representative coverage of our beliefs, and subjects for responsive readings when we worship together.

There is a Scripture index for all the worship aids. In addition, all the Scripture readings are indexed topically with the hymns, in an italics section following the hymns listed under each topic. For example, right under the "Power in Nature" hymns in the Topical Index, you will find in italics a listing of the Scripture readings on this same subject. This will assist worship leaders in choosing hymns and responsive readings to achieve unity in subject and mood. In these days when we bring so many different versions of the Bible to church, having all these worship aids in the hymnal is about the only way we can read together in unison.


The most-used index is that of first lines and titles. You will find "The Old Rugged Cross" under that old, familiar title, and also under "On a Hill Far Away." In the index of tune names, Cwm Rhondda, the great Welsh hymn tune, is listed with three numbers: 201, "Christ Is Coming"; 415, "Christ, the Lord, All Power Possessing" (C. Mervyn Maxwell's new hymn on the threefold ministry of Christ); and 538, "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. "And if you look under the letter V, you will see one named Vandeman. It was given this name by the famous American composer Gordon Young, who wished to show his appreciation for George Vandeman's excellent presentations on the It Is Written telecast. A book telling the fascinating stories of how many of these tunes got their names is now being researched and prepared for publication. Indented titles in this index are other names by which a tune at that number is known.

The Metrical Index of Tunes is a mystery to many worshipers. But it need not be. In reality it is an engrossing study of how the poetry of our hymns is constructed—how many syllables are in each line or phrase. Look near the beginning of this index at the group headed "C.M." Those letters mean common meter, probably because so many hymns are written in this meter. Theoretically, all the hymns in this meter are interchangeable. That is, you could sing the text "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" usually sung to the tune Arlington, with every other tune under the C.M. heading—provided that the accents fall on the right syllables.

Before trying an alternate tune on a congregation, the leader needs to test and make sure that it really works and that the mood of the new tune matches the text. Once in a while it is good for us to get out of the old rut and sing a favorite text to a new tune and thereby infuse the singing with enthusiasm and fresh vigor. Be courageous and try it!

Just browsing through the Composers, Arrangers, and Sources of Tunes index can be an exciting adventure.. It gives you an overview of the people who gave us all this beautiful, singable music that gives wings to the text and makes it remain in our memory. You'll find a veritable who's who of the great com posers there.

In the Authors, Translators, and Sources of Texts index, those who contributed the most are Isaac Watts, with twenty-five; Charles Wesley, with nineteen; Fanny Crosby, with nineteen; John Mason Neale, with thirteen; and F. E. Belden, with twelve. Four contemporary British hymn writers have been consistently included in all of the recently published hymnals. They are writing in the language of our time, about the concerns of our time, and in a fresh and creative way. The committee chose fifteen from Fred Pratt Green, ten by Brian Wren, six by Alfred Bayly, and five by Fred Kaan. You will surely want to look these up, study the poetry, and sing the music.

Then again, our own Seventh-day Adventist authors are well represented: D.A.R. Aufranc, F. E. Belden, Fannie Bolton, Roswell Cottrell, Henry de Flutter, I. H. Evans, Gem Fitch, LeRoy E. Froom, Wayne Hooper, Pearl Wag goner Howard, W. H. Hyde, L.E.C. Joers, C. Mervyn Maxwell, Carol Mayes, Harold Miller, Marcel Pichot, John Read, Annie R. Smith, Uriah Smith, Mary Speidel, Ottilie Stafford, Espi Wasmer, and Melvin West.

Sometime you might want to build a hymn sing around the recognized great poets in our hymnal. We have hymns by Robert Bridges, William Cowper, George Herbert, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, John Milton, Christina Rossetti, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

The Canons index will help you find five canons (or rounds) that are always a joy to sing. Also, there are six regular hymns listed here that can be sung as canons. One of the canons, "Hark, the Vesper Hymn Is Stealing," can be sung by any number of voices or groups up to eighteen! The day our hymnal committee voted this one, there were eighteen of us. You should have been there to see how much we enjoyed the lovely harmony and counterpoint created as we sang!

The final section of hymns in the book is called "Sentences and Responses." Most of these were chosen with the hope that they would be sung by the congregation as introits, calls to worship, prayer responses, sentences before the reading of Scripture or before and after a sermon, and benedictions. The best worship experience is something you do, not just something you watch. The whole congregation can become more involved in these beautiful and meaningful parts of the service. In addition to this section are many hymns from which one or more stanzas can be used as sentences and responses. For example, the first stanza of No. 10, "Come, Christians, Join to Sing," makes a bright and vigorous call to worship. So we prepared the Hymns Suitable for Sentences and Responses index to help you choose the hymns most appropriate for your order of service and your congregation.

Believing that our children are the church's most priceless asset, we are including a Hymns Suitable for Young Worshipers index. It begins with this paragraph: "Worshipers from preschool through junior high can enjoy learning to sing the great hymns of the church. These hymns then become lifelong companions and make it easier for the children and youth to be involved in the services of the church. The following hymns are recommended for family worship, school, Sabbath school, and choirs. The hymns marked with asterisks are suggested as suitable for young children." Then follows a list of 143 hymns that have been selected especially because the words and music are easily understood and sung by our younger people. It is hoped that every family will have hymnals at home so that these hymns can be learned and loved in family worship. Then at church time the coloring books can be laid aside, and the children can stand and sing the hymns they have already made their own at home or at school.

Last but not least, I want to tell you about another worship aid we haven't had before—the Scriptural Allusions in Hymns index. This will help you to find the Bible texts that are the basis for phrases in the hymns. The index is a double one so that you can find the texts from hymn numbers or by the books of the Bible. For instance, a minister who wants to close a sermon by singing a hymn based on Rev. 5:11, 12 could just look for that text in the index. Charles Wesley's great hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" is listed there. This index will prove to be invaluable to all those who lead out in the services of the church.

Mostly it is the music that fascinates us and makes the whole experience of hymn singing memorable. Sometimes we get so enraptured with the melody, harmony, and rhythm that we sing the words without a thought of what we are singing. One of the finest uses we can make of this treasure-house of great religious poetry is to make it a book of devotional reading. Make it a habit often to open the hymnbook and memorize a stanza of some great hymn that speaks to your heart. Later it will come to your memory and be a sure source of strength and help in a time of need. I never tire of repeating the words of Whittier's "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind." At a time of stress it is calming to pray,

"Breathe, through the heats of our desire,

Thy coolness and Thy balm;

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

O still small voice of calm!"

Turn to some of the brand-new hymns and get thoroughly acquainted with them as devotional poetry. When the time comes to learn and sing them in church, they will already "belong" to you. Then with your heart and voice you will enjoy swelling the glorious sound of all God's people singing His praise.

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Wayne Hooper is executive secretary of the church hymnal committee.

August 1985

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