Six Reasons for Hymnals



Hymnals bridge the centuries. There is no more accessible way of engaging church history than by singing the songs that saints have sung for generations. Hymnals give people access to a “cultural memory bank” that they desperately need. Many spiritual nomads are longing for a sense of history. Hymnals can also be appealing to seekers as the hymnal can testify that the community takes its faith seriously, invests in enduring art forms, and is willing to encounter difficult texts and themes.


Hymnals involve the whole congregation. Using hymnals draws in the entire church and helps catechize both new and lifelong Christians. Hymnals encourage family participation and intergenerational worship and put historic texts and melodies in front of our children and youth in an accessible way.


Hymnals equip and teach music. Much music goes on around us, but very few of us are engaged in making it. Singing in worship is one of the few places we are not music consumers but music makers in mind and heart. Even an untrained person can look at the words and music in a hymnal and learn to follow melodic direction and rhythmic values. Words-only takes away helpful notation for even basic readers who are often the ones leading singing.


Hymnals involve tactile action. Just as liturgy is the work of the people, hymnals also involve people in the work of worship. Picking up a hymnal, finding the right page, and holding it up to sing grounds the worshiper in time and space and engages his or her body in the corporate activity of singing; the primary instrument in corporate worship.


Hymnals are portable. Using hymnals allows people to sing anywhere. Hymnals can travel easily into Sunday School rooms, summer camps, meetings, small groups, and homes.


Hymnals are tools of consistency. Hymnals are well-organized scholarly publications including music from chant, to chorales, to spirituals, to folk songs, all organized by seasonal and other significant topics. Hymnals present in one volume a body of organized and consistent quality music. Unlike printed text alone, a hymnal provides everyone with the same notation, giving all a shared knowledge of how each song should be sung.

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