In 1993 the bar was set pretty high. Within several years of the release of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, more than 95% of WELS congregations were using it.
Just eleven at the time, I wasn’t aware of that fact much less how truly remarkable it was. But as I was asked to consider leading the communications committee for our synod’s next hymnal project, you better believe that statistic was on my mind. Ninety-five percent. Is it even possible to repeat that in 2024?
In some ways, we might be at a disadvantage this time around. By 1993 more than five decades had passed since the release of The Lutheran Hymnal in 1941. Many things had changed. I would imagine most people were more than ready for a new hymnal. Will that be the case in 2024, barely three decades since the release of Christian Worship?
In other ways, we might be at an advantage this time around. In 1993 the Internet and email were just emerging as ways to share information. No one even knew what a smartphone, tablet, or Facebook page was. This project’s communication committee can and will make use of some pretty powerful tools to carry out its work.
I suppose more than trying to recreate a remarkable blessing of the past, this hymnal’s communications committee will strive to help the people of the Wisconsin Synod appreciate the gifts that the Holy Spirit continues to pour out on the Church in the realm of music and worship. The other six committees within this project will be carrying out important and exciting work. Those of us on the communications committee will try to give you, the people we serve, as much input and insight into that work as possible. Whatever the next hymnal ends up looking like, it will belong to our entire church body. And that is as true today as it will be when it is released ten years from now. We will strive to make that reality apparent from day one.
During the first few years of this project, the communications committee will focus on research. How are the churches and schools of our synod making use of Christian Worship? What will they be looking for in our next hymnal?
The next few years will focus on education. A hymnal project is a natural opportunity to explore the theology and practice of worship. As the other six committees carry out their work, they will no doubt learn a great deal and be very eager to share it with you.
The final few years will focus on introduction. By that time, many of the decisions determining the content of our next hymnal will have already been made. The communications committee will do all we can to help the churches and schools of our synod grow familiar with what is new or different prior to publication.
Thank you for taking an interest in this important work. Over the course of the coming weeks, the chairmen of the other six committees will introduce themselves and their committee’s work. They, along with all those involved with the project, certainly appreciate your ongoing prayers.