Supporting Volumes: How to Worship With Your Hymnal
The WELS Hymnal Project has established an ambitious goal of declaring the grace of God to a generation yet unborn. The project has identified a number of valuable tools to reach that goal. Among those tools, we are excited to find 1) a well-organized lectionary, 2) an excellent corpus of hymnody, 3) diverse settings of the psalms, 4) well-established and up-to-date liturgical rites, 5) well-designed technological tools, and 6) a rich repository of accompaniment resources.
Anything else? What about a user’s manual?
Most hymnal projects have recognized the important role of supporting volumes. Since the mid-1970s, each major hymnal project has been accompanied by other volumes of literature. The basic book that everyone calls their “hymnal” is usually supported by other books called “manuals”, “guides”, “companions”, “commentaries”, “handbooks”, or “sourcebooks”... the list goes on. Titles such as these don’t always lend a clear understanding to the particular function of each book. But among all their titles, these literature volumes tend to serve one or several of the following functions: theological instruction, historical information, practical insights, and devotional study.
Hymnal projects of a generation past (Lutheran Book of Worship, Lutheran Worship, and Christian Worship) tended to achieve these four functions with two basic volumes. One volume would provide all the information for hymnody, the other would provide all the information for everything else. In this way, Christian Worship (1993) relied on two volumes, Christian Worship: Manual (Baumler, 1993) and Christian Worship: Handbook (Aufdemberge, 1996).
In our project, four volumes are being produced to accompany the new hymnal instead of two. We are designing the books with the worshiping audience in mind, by providing support for the people who play particular roles in a congregation’s worship life, and who will be learning to using the new hymnal in unique ways:
- In one volume, pastors will find the theological, historical, and practical insights they need to shepherd their congregations in worship life.
- In another volume, people serving on committees and worship teams will find practical guidance in carrying out their tasks.
- In a third volume, musicians will find professional resources which allow them to improve their playing and artistry.
- In a fourth volume, those who worship will find devotions written to help them to grow in their faith and understanding.
Each of the volumes will be designed to interact with the others, and will take into consideration the other forthcoming worship education resources being produced by the WELS. We hope that the research and recommendations that go into these books will inform, instruct, and inspire the worship of God’s people for generations yet to come.