Attention spans are a funny thing. So is time. 12 years ago, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark commissioned a group with task of producing a new hymnal. 12 years is, give or take, usually the duration of such an undertaking. But admittedly a long time in a fast-paced world such as the one we live in.
This week, the hymnal is finally complete, finished in printing, and being sent out to those who have pre-ordered. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sitting on the Hymnal Committee since 2000, being its secretary and responsible for the layout, among other things. It is not without a certain degree of professional satisfaction that I now hold the finished product in my hands. I am in no way neutral, but I do think this is one of the best hymnals out there.
Many things have happened since 1995. Pop and rock music have replaced hymn-singing in some churches (including my own). New technology (PowerPoint) has, to some extent, diminished the need for printed hymnals in churches. And a new generation have grown up. Some—especially among these—may question the need for a new hymnal. And they may have a point. But I still believe that publishing the new hymnal is a milestone and that it will become an asset for the church.
Although other genres have made their way into the church (which is a good thing), I don’t believe hymns will—or should—vanish altogether. The collective memory and rich tradition entrenched in the heritage of hymn-singing has a lot to teach even our generation. Hymnals are always updated at certain intervals, and this new publication will help keep the tradition alive. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
As for technology, PowerPoint is good, and there are plans to release an official CD-rom with .ppt files. But there is still a need for the selection and quality control that a thoroughly researched publication offers. Furthermore, a hymnal is not only for use in church, but also in the home—for family vespers, or for personal inspiration. For this, it still needs to be in print.
There are many good things to say about the hymnal, and a lot of hard work that now, finally, bears fruit. I hope that the release can help revive worship and singing in Seventh-day Adventist Churches and homes across Denmark. I will do my best to promote it, and look forward to opportunities to use it and promote it in my own church and others.