A Repository of RCA Hymnody?

If you check out the account of my presentation to the CI gathering this past October, you will notice mention of my concern that the hymnody of the Reformed Church in America, including texts by the Livingstons, George Washington Bethune, Denis Wortman, and Daniel Meeter, may not survive into the next generation. There is very little of it in Lift Up Your Hearts, our new denominational hymnal, and even less in other books. While much is available in older sources and/or on-line, most worship planners do not tend to look beyond the hymnal in their pews. A generation from now, people may not know there ever was a “Searcher and Savior of my soul.” In two generations, “God of the prophets” (especially in its original form) may just be a memory.

If you cannot guess where I am going, read the title of this post. Would it be wise to create a repository of hymnody of the RCA, collecting it somewhere where people could see it and learn from it and maybe make use of bits from time to time (including many hymns that bring a perspective on unique RCA theological perspectives)? If so, what sort of media would we use?

I could see, wherever it would be, some short biographical sketches, along with a bit of analysis of the texts (I am starting to contemplate possible sabbatical projects).

Or would it be best to let theological evolution take its course, and to allow all of this to slip away for a millenia or three?


2 thoughts on “A Repository of RCA Hymnody?

  1. I like the idea, James. I expect that you have in mind something like a web site. And maybe hymnary.org would be a good model in terms of user interface and capabilities.

    At this point, how many hymn texts do you expect would be included in such a collection?


  2. I kind of go two ways about this (a few days in, that is): an on-line repository might create something where hymns could be downloaded for use in worship and might actually get used (though many would take adaptation to be used in modern worship), A book–e-book or the old kind–on the other hand, could be like a Corwin’s Manual of RCA hymnody (Rett Zabriskie’s suggestion on Facebook) and could be a chance for people to look at, learn, and appreciate the “voice” of our congregational song . . . if people are ever interested in learning that.

    Alas, either version requires skills and resources that I lack. If I could find a subvention, I would suggest “The Church Sings,” a Historical Series volume akin to what “The Church Speaks” is for our theology. This, however, would mean that the Commission on History and the Historical Series would need to survive until my sabbatical in 2015, and I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.

    In a perfect world, I would try to do both. I would leave my own stuff out, as I cannot be expected to look at it properly, and it has a publisher for the moment. So, my guess is we are probably looking at 100-150 hymns.

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