New hymnals, a.k.a. “Worship Books,” are forthcoming from numerous church bodies, including two Lutheran groups (among them my own ELCA). Having studied none of these books, I write with vincible ignorance about the details. Having studied church history, however, I write with invincible knowledge of how all of them will be greeted in some sectors of each church group. Those old enough to have savaged the books being replaced will now mourn their loss, just as they will—if they live long enough—grieve over the shelving of the ones they are now trashing.
In what one official called the “penultimate” step toward full communion with the United Methodist Church, delegates at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial assembly overwhelmingly approved an interim agreement to permit the sharing of the rite of communion.
Hymns are “important in the history of ideas, the formation of culture, and the inner life of individual readers,” J. R. Watson reminds us in this time when the disciplines of hymn writing and singing are undervalued by many Christian worshipers.
I’ve seen a lot of religious improvements come and go. I remember the “last day” emphasis in teen camp sermons. I was around for the concept of “sancta-nasium,” when the church sanctuary was combined with a teen-centered gymnasium.