WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

Insights, analysis, techniques, opinions, and experiences from the team behind the WELS Hymnal Project.

Since 2013, the WELS Hymnal Project website has included a public submissions form for individuals to submit original and third-party content for consideration for our synod's next hymnal. Since that time, more than 800 hymns, psalms, and other worship items have been submitted. We are grateful for what we have received and review of those materials is an ongoing process.

The window for public submissions will come to an end on June 30, 2017. If you have or are aware of hymns, psalm settings, or other worship materials worthy of consideration for the next hymnal, we invite you to submit them between now and then.

Public Submissions Form

Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem on a path covered with cloaks and palms. The crowds greet him with cries of “Hosanna.” Then he rises from the dead, and the church shouts, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Part of the account of Jesus’ Holy Week is noticeably absent in that description. For many of our worshipers, however, that is the narrative they hear because they don’t attend midweek services. The passion history of our Lord is not appointed in the lectionaries that churches use for Sunday services. Instead, they are appointed for use during the weekdays of Holy Week. How many people in your congregation will go from Palm Sunday to Easter without hearing those key chapters of the Gospels?

The proposed lectionary for our new hymnal project adds the option of celebrating Passion Sunday on the first day of Holy Week, offering the passion history to more of the congregation. The readings for Passion Sunday come from that year’s Gospel author (Matthew, A; Mark, B; Luke, C) and place the whole passion narrative before the people.

This doesn’t mean that you “lose” Palm Sunday. On Sunday at Faith, Sharpsburg, Georgia, we started with the Procession of Palms and the reading of the Palm Sunday Gospel from John 12. Palm branches were waved and laid; children sang hosanna. After the Prayer of the Day, we began the series of readings from the passion history. Broken up into six parts with hymns between that matched the readings, we followed Jesus from his triumphal entry, to the Upper Room, Gethsemane, trial, and Golgotha.

A sermon isn’t necessary. I gave a six-minute introduction to the series. The whole service lasted about 55 minutes. We used two lectors for the readings. I was the narrator, and our vicar read the words of Jesus. Some congregations print the whole reading and have the congregation read the words of the crowd. This service has been well received in our congregation—even among those who attend every midweek service.

This option for Palm Sunday is currently found in Christian Worship: Occasional Services in the notes following the order for the Procession with Palms. Consider using it occasionally as a cure for a “passionless” Christ.

Jonathan Schroeder
Chair, Scripture Committee

Greetings in our Savior Jesus!

The next issue of Viva Vox is posted in the resources page of our website. While I can't necessarily promise that we'll post all of the issues over the next several years, the posting of this fourth issue is meant to be at least somewhat well-timed, containing, as it does, a five-page section entitled "Planning the Music for the Easter Season." As a sidelight, you may note that fully printing out festival services which have special features is certainly not a recent innovation.

And how shall we notify the congregation in advance of the changes or variations which we agree upon for each Sunday? Will it be possible to eliminate the need for disruptive announcements as the Service progresses? Will printed directions in the Sunday Bulletin be sufficient, or will it be advisable to print or duplicate the complete order of service to insure the continuity of the Service and to make it possible for all worshipers to participate with confidence and without distraction or embarrassment? (p. 12)

In the weeks ahead, watch for the Forward in Christ series that will feature articles specifically on hymns. Those articles will refer you back to our project website, where we will be publishing the list of current Christian Worship and Christian Worship: Supplement hymns. The list will indicate which hymns have been selected for printing in the next hymnal and which ones have not. As was done in the years leading up to the publication of Christian Worship, we will give people an opportunity to offer feedback on this list.

Blessings in Christ,

Pastor Michael Schultz
Director, WELS Hymnal Project

The WELS long range plan, adopted by the 2011 convention, included a goal to “establish a committee to publish a new hymnal by the 500th anniversary of the first Lutheran hymnal (1524).” NPH agreed to fund the position of a project director and the work of various committees to prepare the hymnal and accompanying print volumes: pew edition, accompaniment edition, altar book, occasional services volume, pastor’s companion. The work began with the installation of project director Michael Schultz in April, 2013 and the formation of project subcommittees – 60 people serving various aspects of the project.

Now, roughly three years into the project, it is apparent that additional worship resources beyond printed volumes will enable planners, leaders, and worshipers to make best use of a new hymnal’s potential. Three additional resources are under consideration, pending sufficient funding to make them a reality. Research into recent hymnals and supplemental products created by other church bodies has discovered similar resources and shows the value of our WELS project producing such tools.

  • A “service builder” computer program to expedite production of worship folders that take advantage of the hymnal’s flexible and vast resources, both print and electronic.
  • A “musicians’ resource” – a powerful tool that allows musicians to print scores for a wide variety of instruments to better enable them to contribute their talent in worship.
  • A personal digital edition of the hymnal – an app for tablet or smartphone. The goal for this resource is to make it easier for people to use hymnal contents as a personal devotional resource. Unlike a printed book, it could include audio files for personal or family devotions.

The “service builder” will greatly facilitate service planning and will vastly reduce the amount of time needed by the pastor and church office to create worship folders. It will assure that worship folder design is of the highest quality. In addition to presenting wonderful new hymns to our church body, this “service builder” is one of the most exciting goals of the hymnal project. (You can view a demo of a similar product created by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.)

Our synod's Christian Giving Counselors are assisting us in making this appeal for gifts that will provide the funding necessary for the development of these digital resources. “For a generation yet unborn” is the hymnal project motto. Your gift will help the project’s resources to be the best they can be as older generations pass to younger generations the awesome privileges of planning and leading…and worshiping. Development and production of all three resources is projected to cost several hundred thousand dollars.

To support the WELS Hymnal Project, click on the button below and select "CW: Hymnal Electronic Resources" as the designation for your gift.

Donate

If you'd like to pass along this information to someone who may wish to support the work of the Hymnal Project, the brochure from the Congregation and Ministry Support Group in which it appears can be downloaded and printed below.

From May 31 through June 2, the Executive Committee of the hymnal project met at the synod's Center for Mission and Ministry. Highlights from the meeting included reviewing fresh content brought to us by various subcommittees, meeting with the production director from Northwestern Publishing House in order to better understand their production process, and further clarifying the relationship between the printed version and the digital version of the hymnal in a discussion led by the technology committee.

The final day of our meetings began with Professor Keith Wessel of Martin Luther College, chair of our Occasional Services subcommittee, presenting a devotional introduction to Isaiah 40:1-11. In his devotion, Prof. Wessel beautifully captured the purpose and benefit a hymnal serves among a group of believers. Excerpts from that devotion are shared below in the hope that they will be as much of a blessing to you as they were to us.


A hymnal is more than a book that gathers songs into a convenient place. A hymnal is all about voices – united voices speaking together. A hymnal is the voice of God’s people, the voice of the Holy Christian Church, the voice of faith. It is a voice of confession, in that it echoes what is in our troubled hearts, gives voice to what we humbly need to confess before our holy God – that we not just are sinners, but sinful and unclean. Words spoken together with one voice by the body of Christ… and yet so personal at the same time. A hymnal teaches us to sing together with one voice the contrite whisper of the publican: Oh God, be merciful to me. A hymnal teaches us all to cry from depth of woe, and flee for refuge to Thy infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It also is a hymnal that speaks with God’s voice. Marvel of marvels that our pitiful confession is not met by a wall of silence – deserved silence – from a God who has every right to turn his back on us. But as Adam heard the voice of God in the Garden not only confronting him with his sin but also speaking the first words of the eternal Gospel, so also in our liturgy and song we hear the voice of God speaking to us his word of peace. So much does God want us to hear his voice in the Gospel that he even sends a called personal representative to that very place where we are confessing our sins to speak – not the pastor’s words – but to speak in the place and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to announce the grace of God unto all of you, to each of you: Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.

It is from a hymnal that we learn to respond to such grace with a common voice of faith – the Gloria, the hymns, the offering (that too is a way we speak). It is from the hymnal we learn to pray together with one voice, a common voice: Create in me a clean heart, O God… and of course, Our Father, who art in heaven. It is from a hymnal that we learn to kneel side by side as one body and receive in faith the same bread, the same wine… just as we were all baptized with the same water into the name of one Lord. It is in the hymnal we first learn the unified voice of our common faith: I believe… We believe… And this is not a “WELS voice”; it is the voice that has gone out into all lands. It is the lingua franca of the Una Sancta. And it is from a hymnal, from a liturgy that we first learn to listen to the last word of the service – the words that God himself reserves the right to speak – the words of the Benediction.

Brothers, we aren’t really cutting and pasting into a book what we feel, in our sanctified estimation, are the best songs and liturgies for worship. We are shaping a voice – the voice of faith but also the voice of God’s people in the Wisconsin Synod. Not a solo, maverick voice that screams “Me!”, of course – as much of a challenge as it is in a self-absorbed age. But a voice that is clear, distinct, yet blends with the one voice of faith we can hear wafting down on the winds of the ages in one ongoing song; that one can hear echoing even now in all lands: …and from morn till set of sun, through the Church the song goes on... It began with Eve’s simple song: I have gotten a man from the LORD - a statement of thanks and praise spoken in response to God’s mercy and goodness. The song continues today. And it will never end.

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