WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

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

At the recent WELS National Conference of Worship, Music, and the Arts, project director Michael Schultz delivered the keynote address. Entitled "The Sabbath Was Made for Man, Not Man for the Sabbath," the essay reviews key Lutheran worship principles. That essay is now posted on the hymnal project website in the resources section.

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.


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.