Letter to the Editor: ACNA Hymnal

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Sirs:

Thought I’d calm you gentlemen’s fears about the new work on the ACNA Hymnal. I can speak to this as I am the head of the ACNA Music Task Force and also serve as the Hymnal editor. Rest assured that new hymnal will be a hymnal, and not a scripture chorus book.  Scripture choruses and contemporary songs change so frequently that any book put out is often out of date in short order.  Therefore, on the acnamusic.org website we have a list of contemporary songs by church season that we have generated.  The songs are of tested quality are are on the ACNA music resources website so that we can update and change the list with frequency.  As an aside, there is a great deal of helpful information on the acnamusic.org website for priests, musicians, and seminarians regarding all aspects of church music in Anglican life.

As for the hymnal project, we have made reports to the last three college of bishops meetings with the Archbishop‘s blessing.  We are working diligently to comb through The 1940 Hymnal, The Hymnal 1982, the new REC hymnal as well as newer hymnals from the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc. One of our major goals is to learn from these publications, both the good and the bad, and to pull out those tunes that have revealed themselves as unsingable or mostly unused, to keep quality texts that are connected to poorer tunes and connect them to more well-known tunes, and to make every page of the hymnal worthy of our worship of God so that there are as few wasted pages as possible.  Both the Music and Liturgy Task Forces are involved in the review of both the service music sections and the hymns section of the hymnal.   To that end, the service music section will include some dozen communion settings all the way from early Anglicanism to more contemporary expressions as well as five versions of each of the Nunc Dimittis, Magnificat, Lord’s Prayer, etc. These will be expressed in Gregorian Chant, Simplified Anglican Chant, as well as a metrical version of each, a traditional English version of each, and a contemporary version.  All selections have quality melodies, singable melodies, and texts that are well married to their tunes addressing the variety of musical needs across our Province.

We are excited at this opportunity to improve upon previous hymnals and have done our best to really listen to much input from across the Province. I have been in receipt of some 60 communications since the announcement went out last week and the vast majority have been congratulatory, pointed out that it’s in due time, and although several have sent suggestions of hymns to include or to not include in the hymnal, we have found we are pretty much on target.

So as it could be a project filled with landmines, so far we have been met with the joy of the Lord in our work together, clarity, and a deep sense of quality mission. A fun aside, several hymnologists have served as rector of Christ Church Savannah: The Reverends John Wesley, George Whitfield, and Bland Tucker. I am sincerely humbled to follow in their footsteps as the our new Hymnal editor. 

You gentleman might also find it interesting that we have been singing the Office of Compline at historic Christ Church by candlelight every Sunday night for the last 18 years. The service has become our Seeker service as so many young folks and older folks too are looking for authenticity and connecting history from the Church.  The service is much like Evensong services in Britain where a trained choir offers the service weekly whether there are people in the attendance or not. Fortunately, we always have many in attendance and broadcast the service weekly on YouTube. Just look for Christ Church Savannah Compline and you’ll find us.

Thanks for all you guys do, it is sincerely appreciated. Peace to you in this holy season of Lent,

Mark Williams
(Christ Church Anglican, Savannah, 1733)