Hymnology (1989)

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Denominational Hymnals

The following Mennonite denominational hymnals have been published since the mid-1950s:

The Hymn Book (1960, Winnipeg) is an English version of the earlier Gesangbuch der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde (1955, Winnipeg) published by the Canadian Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church. All 555 hymns were translated and numbered exactly as in the Gesangbuch, a unique arrangement making it possible for bilingual congregations to sing in both languages at the same time.

Gesangbuch der Mennoniten (1965, Newton) is a collection of 599 German hymns produced by the Conference of Mennonites in Canada to serve German-speaking congregations. A committee of 10 led by H. H. Epp, chairman; George D. Wiebe, vice-chairman; and Walter Thiessen, secretary, compiled this hymnal. The table of contents reflects a very clear and useful organization of hymns (19 sections with subheadings). A distinct feature is the inclusion of one or more Scripture verses for each hymn, reflected in an index which is helpful for planning worship services. Another unique feature is a historical survey of 8 different periods, from pre-Reformation to hymns of England and North America, including a brief description of each period. The hymns for each period are listed as such.

The Mennonite Hymnal (1969, Newton and Scottdale) is the culmination of many years of work by committees of the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) and the Mennonite Church (MC) which began working jointly in 1961. The resulting hymnal replaced The Church Hymnal (MC, 1927) and The Mennonite Hymnary (GCM, 1940). The organizational structure included a joint Hymnal Committee of 10 people, two denominational music committees (9 in each), a Text Committee (7), a Tune Committee (6), and a Worship Aids Committee (4). Vernon Neufeld served as chairman of the joint Hymnal Committee; Mary Oyer as the executive secretary. The project benefited greatly by Mary Oyer's research, especially during a sabbatical year in Great Britain under the tutelage of Erik Routley.

The Text Committee made an effort to maintain the integrity of original versions; some alterations were made for theological, linguistic, or traditional reasons. The Tune Committee also examined original settings of the music, preserving 12 out of 653 as unison melodies. All other music was arranged for 4-part singing. The original rhythmic structure of several German chorales was restored. The collection was published both in round note and shaped note editions. The collection is somewhat innovative for including 3 Ausbund texts, 6 Genevan psalm tunes, 6 non-Western hymns, 4 plainsong chants, 2 Gatineau psalm chants, and 5 four-part Anglican chants. The committees made a conscious effort to include contemporary materials. Seven of 58 20th-century texts and 11 of 52 20th-century tunes were written after 1950. Several new tunes were commissioned to be composed for specific texts. From the earlier end of the historical spectrum the collection includes 8 Greek and early church texts. Thirty texts are translations of original Latin hymns. Ninety-one of the texts (14 percent) were originally written in German, 30 of them translated by Catherine Winkworth. Fifteen of the original German texts are included. By far the greatest number of texts are British (340 [52 percent]), 37 by Isaac Watts, 24 by Charles Wesley, 171 from the 19th century, and 23 from the 20th century North American writers contributed more than 100 texts. Almost 10 percent (60) of the hymnal consists of 19th- and 20th-century gospel songs.

The Tune Committee chose 63 folk tunes, including 20 American, 7 English, 2 Negro spirituals, 4 Welsh, 3 Chinese, and others (German, French, Bohemian Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Scottish, and Swedish).

Forty-seven pages of the hymnal are devoted to additional worship resources, including 65 Scripture readings (making use of 5 translations, mostly Revised Standard Version) to be read in unison, responsively, or antiphonally. Four affirmations of faith, 10 congregational responses for various occasions, and 18 prayers are all intended for corporate usage.

Worship Hymnal (1971, Hillsboro) was compiled and edited by the Hymnal Committee of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church. It was the first "fruitful, cooperative effort in hymnal production between Canadian and United States churches." it is the successor to two Mennonite Brethren hymnals, The Hymn Book (Canadian, 1960) and the Mennonite Brethren Church Hymnal (United States, 1953). A Hymnal Committee of two church musicians and one theologian from each area conference developed the hymnal. Paul Wohlgemuth served as chairman and editor. The denominational tone is evident in the selection of hymns--the evangelical emphasis given to various sections, and the original contributions by members of the Mennonite Brethren Church through translations, poems, and musical settings. The most innovative feature of this collection is a group of 23 hymns in the "Children" and "Youth" sections. These include several rounds, folk hymns, hymns in the style of contemporary popular music, Scripture songs, and Negro spirituals, all presented with only the melodic line and chord indications for guitar or keyboard. Aids to worship make up 52 pages, including 82 Scripture readings, 3 affirmations of faith, 13 congregational responses, and 11 prayers.

Hymnal: A Worship Book Prepared by Churches in the Believers Church Tradition (1992, Elgin, Illinois, Newton, Kansasn, and Scottdale, Pennsylvania) began in 1983 when the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church (MC) agreed to work with the Church of the Brethren and the Churches of God General Conference (who had been using the Brethren Hymnal) in planning for a hymnal. Text, music and worship committees, as well as publishers worked jointly, meeting at least twice a year. The Churches of God withdrew before the hymnal was completed. It included 658 hymns and 203 "worship resources." Prior to publication a Sampler was released to introduce the proposed volume. Three audio tapes which featured a variety of choral groups introduced many of the newer hymns. Rebecca Slough served as managing editor of the project.

Inspiring favorites (1992, Elmira, Ontario) was published by the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference of Ontario. It consists of 324 hymns, and was compiled "as the result of wanting some songs that are no longer in print. It is a selection of old favorites that our parents used to treasure."

Worship Together (1995, Fresno, California) was published by the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Clarence Hiebert chaired the task force that created the hymnbook, which consists of 700 hymns and sixteen pages of responsive readings based on the Mennonite Brethren confession of faith.

Hymnal Companions. Several supplementary resources were published some years after the The Mennonite hymnal. The Worship and Arts Committee (GCM) initiated Exploring the Mennonite hymnal, which consists of two volumes. The first, Essays (1980, Newton and Scottdale) by Mary Oyer, is an extended discussion of 34 hymns with "tangential material." The second, Handbook (1983, Newton and Scottdale), by Alice Loewen, Harold Moyer, and Mary Oyer, contains brief comments on all the hymns in the collection, much in the style of the Handbook to the Mennonite hymnary (1949) by Lester Hostetler.

Assembly Songs, a Hymnal Supplement--Hymns Both New and Old (1983, Scottdale and Newton) is a collection of 161 hymns prepared for "Bethlehem '83", the first joint meeting of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church (MC). Eighty-three hymns selected from The Mennonite Hymnal together with 44 contemporary and cross-cultural, 14 historical hymns, and 20 new hymns written for Bethlehem '83 made up the volume. Language in about 20 hymns was altered in response to concern about the issue of inclusive language.

In 1983 the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies (Hillsboro, Kansas) published Worship Hymnal Concordance, compiled by Paul W. Wohlgemuth and Steven P. Wohlgemuth with the help of a computer. It is an alphabetical arrangement of 4,324 key words of the hymn texts, intended for ease in finding appropriate hymns for varied uses.

Hymnal Companion (1996, Elgin, Illinois, Newton, Kansas, and Scottdale, Pennsylvania) was issued to supplement Hymnal: A Worship Book. Compiled by Joan A. Fyock, it included articles on each of the hymns, information about the worship resources and biographical information on most of the authors, composers, translators and arrangers included in Hymnal: A Worship Book.

Hymns for Children and Youth

The Youth Hymnary (1956, Newton), edited by Lester Hostetler, was intended for use by children of ages 9 to 15. in addition to 100 standard hymns, 14 of them with a descant, the book includes 24 spirituals, 32 carols, 76 part songs (40 SSA, 14 SAB or SSAB, 22 SS or SA), 5 responses, 8 choruses, and 24 canons.

Our Hymns of Praise (1958, Scottdale), edited by J. Mark Stauffer and illustrated by Esther Rose Graber, "represents the generous labors of the Music Committee of Mennonite General Conference" (MC). It is a collection of 200 hymns for 11 primary and junior children of grades one to six to eleven," intended for a cappella singing, arranged for one or two or three parts.

The Children's Hymnary (1968, Newton), edited by Arlene Hartzler and John Gaeddert and illustrated by Ruth Eitzen, was planned for use with kindergarten-, primary-, and junior-age children (each hymn classified according to appropriate age groups). The collection includes "carols, folk tunes, and great hymns of the church" as well as table graces, offertories, and prayers. All hymns have simple accompaniments. Thirteen German texts are included.

Songs to be Sung (1969) and More Songs to be Sung (1971), originally appeared as a part of With magazine (Scottdale), each including 20 songs with unison melody line and chord indications for and by Mennonite young people.

Contemporary Hymnody

During the 1960s and 1970s there was a gradual influx of hymns in styles that traditionally were considered to be secular: folk, pop, jazz, etc. Originally these appealed mostly to young people, but some were used by congregations. The guitar became a popular instrument within the church, together with other instruments. Contributing to new and different ways of singing was the charismatic movement with Scripture songs, often sung to simple memorized melodies from texts projected on a screen.

Goshen College (Goshen, Indiana) was the site of large gatherings in three successive years (1972-74), the Festival of the Holy Spirit for the first two years, then the Festival of the Word in 1974. For each of these gatherings, planned and sponsored by Goshen College, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (Elkhart, Indiana), the Central District Conference (GCM) and Indiana-Michigan Conference (MC), songbooks of contemporary hymns were compiled, to be used along with The Mennonite Hymnal. Festival of the Holy Spirit Song Book (1972 and 73), and Festival of the Word Song Book (1974, Goshen), include hymns by several Mennonites as well as hymns from other renewal movements of the time.

In 1975 Herald Press (Scottdale, Pennsylvania) asked Orlando Schmidt to compile and edit a songbook, which would reflect recent developments, for congregational use. Titled Sing and Rejoice (1979, Scottdale), this collection reflected not only the developments in North America, but drew on the worldwide resources represented by Cantate Domine, the hymnal for the gathering of the World Council of Churches in Kenya (1975), as well as International Songbook (Lombard, Illinois, 1978) used at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Wichita, Kansas 1978.

Private Publications

Two titles, not published by church agencies, were planned by Mennonites for the Mennonite community. The Christian Hymnary (Uniontown, Ohio, and Sarasota, Florida, 1972), compiled by John J. Overholt, includes 1,002 hymns. The compiler has included 12 hymns from theAusbund, two by Menno Simons, and two by Dirk Philips, with Overholt's own translations and musical settings. Anabaptist Hymnal (Hagerstown, Maryland, 1987), edited by Clarence Y. Fretz, is the largest collection of Anabaptist hymns translated, versified, and set to music for English-speaking Mennonites. Anabaptist texts include: 45 from the Ausbund, 18 from Die Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder, and four others. The Unpartheyisches Gesangbuch (1804, Lancaster), an early American Mennonite hymnal (German) is the source of 24 texts. These and 28 other texts are included, since "among American Mennonites [they] show typical Anabaptist moral and spiritual earnestness."

See also Church Music; Hymnology of the Anabaptists; Hymnology of the Mennonites in the Netherlands; Hymnology of the Mennonites of West and East Prussia, Danzig, and Russia; Hymnology of the North American Mennonites; Hymnology of the Swiss, French, and South German Mennonites

Additional Information

The following hymns are from Hymnal: A Worship Book (Elgin, Illinois, etc. : Brethren Press, etc., 1992). 161 pieces from the hymnal were performed on the 3-tape Hymnal Selections (Elgin, Illinois, etc. : Brethren Press, etc., 1992) by a variety of North American choral groups. 

Menno Singers singing "In thee is gladness" (#114 in Hymnal: a worship book -- Used by permission and taken from the Hymnal selection tapes, Hymnal a worship book. Published by Brethren Press, Elgin, Illinois; Faith & Life Press, Newton, Kansas; and Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1992). (1:30 minutes)
CMBC Ensemble singing "Bwana awabariki (May God grant you a blessing)" (#422 in Hymnal: a worship book -- Used by permission and taken from the Hymnal selection tapes, Hymnal a worship book. Published by Brethren Press, Elgin, Illinois; Faith & Life Press, Newton, Kansas; and Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1992).(1:40 minutes)
CMBC Singers singing "In the rifted Rock, I'm resting" (#526 in Hymnal: a worship book -- Used by permission and taken from the Hymnal selection tapes, Hymnal a worship book. Published by Brethren Press, Elgin, Illinois; Faith & Life Press, Newton, Kansas; and Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1992). (1:35 minutes)

Author(s) Orlando Schmidt
Date Published September 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Schmidt, Orlando. "Hymnology (1989)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 1989. Web. 14 May 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hymnology_(1989)&oldid=170665.

APA style

Schmidt, Orlando. (September 1989). Hymnology (1989). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 14 May 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hymnology_(1989)&oldid=170665.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 409-411. All rights reserved.

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