Danny E. Olinger
On August 1, Orthodox Presbyterian minister and chairman of the Special Committee on the Psalter-Hymnal, the Rev. Dr. Alan D. Strange, and United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) minister and chairman of the URCNA Psalter Hymnal Committee, the Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen, officially began their labor as coeditors of the proposed Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Earlier in April, an agreement between a commission of the Committee on Christian Education (CCE) and representatives of both the URCNA trustees and the URCNA Psalter Hymnal Committee, had been reached that Dr. Strange and Mr. Vander Meulen would serve in this role.
Mr. Vander Meulen stated, “Our committee enjoyed working with the OPC committee as we labored through the process of song selection these past few years. Now that we have progressed to the production stage of the project, I am greatly honored to serve as coeditor with Dr. Strange. Dr. Strange is a man of integrity, a churchman who understands church music.” Mr. Vander Meulen added that Dr. Strange’s “wit and humor bring enjoyment to the work of this important and weighty project.”
Dr. Strange said, “It has been a joy to work with the brothers and sisters from the URC on this project under the able leadership of Derrick Vander Meulen. This is a most important ecumenical and liturgical undertaking. Pastor Vander Meulen has become a friend, whose musical sensibilities and churchmanship are vital in this project. He is a delight to work with, and I much prefer winter where he is [Hawaii] than where I am [Chicago area].”
It was also agreed that the work would proceed with the goal of producing a single volume that would contain both the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordt) and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism. If space allows, the Larger Catechism might be added.
The two sides further agreed that the content of the Psalter-Hymnal would be controlled on an equal basis by the CCE and the URNCA throughout the lifetime of the project, including future printings. Copyright permissions will be sought in the name of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Corporation of the United Reformed Churches—United States.
The summer began with the presentation of a “First Reading” of 428 hymns to the Eighty-second General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, meeting in Sioux Center, Iowa, on June 5. Nearly 80 percent of the hymns presented (339 of the 428 hymns) appear in the revised edition of Trinity Hymnal.
Fourteen of the hymns presented appear in the original Trinity Hymnal, but were not included in the revised Trinity Hymnal. These fourteen hymns are “Before Thee, God, Who Knowest All” (#409), “Behold the Amazing Gift of Love” (#442), “Far and Near the Fields Are Teeming” (#668), “Glory Be to Jesus” (#190), “Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand” (#612), “Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard” (#28), “Lo! What a Glorious Sight Appears” (#601), “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (#91), “O Thou the Eternal Son of God” (#191), “Savior of the Nations, Come” (#165), “’Tis Midnight; and on Olive’s Brow” (#182), “To Your Temple I Repair” (#313), “Weary of Earth, and Laden with My Sin” (#467), and “Zion, to Thy Savior Singing” (#361).
Of the new hymns presented, twenty-six are compositions from the last twenty years. They include “A Shoot Will Spring from Jesse’s Stump” (2014), “All Glory Be to God” (2012), “All Praise to Christ” (1999), “Before the Throne of God Above” (1997), “Behold My Servant” (2015), “Blest Be the God of Israel” (2015), “Cast Down, O God, the Idols” (1997), “Christ Is Our Cornerstone” (2011), “Come to the Waters” (2000), “Consider Well” (2006), “Give Praise to God” (1999), “Hallelujah!” (1999), “Holy Spirit of Messiah” (2015), “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (1995), “How Great the Bright Angelic Host” (2004), “How Marvelous, How Wise, How Great” (1999), “In Christ Alone” (2001), “My Child, Do Not Forget God’s Word” (2006), “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord” (2014), “Now I Make My Good Confession” (2004), “O Praise the Father” (2011), “O Spirit, Fill Our Hearts” (2010), “Praise God for Joy of Sabbath Blest” (2008), “Speak, O Lord” (2005), “Union with Thee” (2014) and “Up to the Mountain Went the Lord” (2005).
The complete list of the hymns presented, with full text and music, is available at psalterhymnal.org for review. In order to gain access, a username (“psalter”) and a password (“hymnal”) is needed. Congregations are invited to sing the proposed hymns, but permanent copies may not be stored. Comments and feedback from both individuals and congregations concerning the textual and musical composition of the hymns can be sent to email@example.com before December 31, 2015.
Any amendments to the proposed hymns list that are agreed upon by the OPC’s Special Committee on the Psalter-Hymnal and the URNCA’s Psalter Hymnal Committee will be sent to the CCE for its approval. If the CCE approves the final list, it will be put before the Eighty-third (2016) General Assembly for approval. The URNCA Psalter Hymnal Committee will put forward the same list of hymns to Synod 2016 for approval. Both the OPC General Assembly and the URCNA Synod will then vote on the Psalter-Hymnal as a whole. If both vote “yes,” it will enter into production for use by congregations sometime in 2017.
The author is the general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. New Horizons, October 2015.