|Voices United: A Balanced Collection||Sylvia G. Dunstan: A Priest Forever - Lynette Miller|
|Voices United: A Warm-Hearted Book - Mac Watts||The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version edited by Victor Gold, et al - Blanche Jenson|
|Singing Our Faith: The Music of Voices United - Bruce Harding||Sir Ernest MacMillian: The Important of Being Canadian by Ezra Schabas - Clara Thomas|
|Voices in Harmony: Methodist and Presbyterian Hymn Books Prior to Church Union - Jennifer Riel||Jesus Christ and Creation in the Theology of John Calvin by Peter Wyatt - Ross Smillie|
|Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli - Erin Phillips|
|A Future For Socialism? Political Theology and the Triumph of Capitalism by Harold Wells - Vernon R. Wishart|
|Farewell To God: My Reasons for Rejecting Christian Faith by Charles Templeton - Vernon R. Wishatt|
VOICES UNITED: A BALANCED COLLECTION
Editor's Note: This issue of Touchstone is intended to help the Church in its reception and use of Voice United. To that end two articles on the new book are to be found in the body of the journal, and the Editorial below has been kindly provided by John Ambrose, who was Managing Editor of Voices United.
The work on Voices United (VU) began in earnest in April, 1991, when the twenty-four members of the Hymn and Worship Resource Committee gathered for their first meeting at Eden United Church, Mississauga, Ontario. With one exception, the newlyappointed members were venturing into territory never traversed by any of them before. Each member had personal thoughts on the meaning of the committee's mandate. There was, however, no uniform vision. This would take time to develop. Some members came to the task as musicians, some as pastors, and some as educators and scholars. All came with a considerable degree of both excitement and apprehension. Although it was a great honour to participate in the project, members wondered just how one would go about organizing such a large, comprehensive and complex task.
Several things became apparent in those early days. First, the talent and experience on the committee was considerable. The Church could take comfort that it had assembled an exceptionally wise and gifted group to undertake such a critical task. Second, though representing quite diverse viewpoints and expectations, members of the Committee were prepared to model a spirit, and a process, of co-operation. Thus, it was agreed at the outset that the Committee would work by consensus as much as possible. Third, it was clear that the Committee wanted the new resource to reflect and empower the worship life of the United Church, and, above all, to help revitalize the Church's song. Fourth, members were determined to be in conversation with the whole Church. Only through broad consultation could the Committee be sure that the outcome would actually serve the whole, rather than the preferences of particular groups.
To give expression to its perceptions both of the mandate it had been given by General Council, and of the Church's needs, the Committee developed a set of working principles. In summary, it pledged itself to create a resource that would truly enable our worship of the triune God, express our faith as a prophetic/pastoral/evangelical Church, nurture and challenge our Christian discipleship, and unite us in praise while acknowledging our diversity of gifts, cultures, and traditions. The texts of hymns, psalms, and liturgies would embrace all God's people, employ a wide range of images of God, and ect a sensitivity to age, race, gender, and physical abilities. The music would be engaging, singable, and playable in congregational and other settings. Unstated in the list of principles, but nonetheless influential, was the Committee's wish for hymns that touched the heart as well as the mind. Finally, particular attention would be given to the work of Canadian poets and composers.
Consultation with the Church took many forms over the five years of the project. In British Columbia and Alberta, children and young people gathered in workshop sessions to sing and evaluate hundreds of hymns and songs. In Winnipeg, a "heritage" group examined hymns of the classical tradition, including in particular our Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational forebears, and advised the Committee on what hymns from this rich legacy ought to be retained. Volunteer groups in all parts o Canada looked through recent hymnals and supplements, grading texts and tunes, and sharing their assessments with the national Committee. A working group from the Consistoire Laurentien reviewed and recommended inclusion of some hymns of French origin, as well as French translations of several well-known English hymns. Suggestions for hymns to be printed in Cree, Qjibway, and Mohawk were forwarded to the Committee from both lay an clergy working with aboriginal congregations. Small panels c advisors from our Chinese, Japanese, and Korean congregations selected hymns from current hymnals and supplements. along with hymns in aboriginal languages, were printed in the form of phonetic transliterations in order to encourage congregations to try singing the hymns in their language of origin. Finally, two samples were distributed for study, use and comment. The first was sent to all pastoral charges in the spring of 1993. The second, and larger, one was used at the 34th General Council meeting in Fergus, Ontario, August, 1994. The comments generated by the samplers profoundly influenced decisions of the Committee, e.g., the use of "wretch" in Amazing Grace.
The Committee strove for balance in the collection - balance, in the first instance, with the mix of old and new. A Churchwide survey in 1989 provided the Committee with a clear picture of hymns from former hymnals and supplements which were still in active use. As a result of the survey, some older hymns not included in the red Hymn Book (HB) were restored, while others were dropped. Newly half of the hymn collection is made up of new material, more than seventy items from Canadian authors and composers. New hymns were chosen on the basis of freshness of text, richness of images and ideas, contribution to the themes, issues and needs of the Church today, and the singability and playability of the music. There was no reluctance to include the many different styles of music accepted in worship today.
Balance was sought in matters of language, both in terms of inclusivity and current English usage. The Committee was concerned not to create new forms of exclusivity by arbitrarily banishing hymns which could not be updated or made inclusive. It recognized that some hymns could not be edited without offence to the poetry or to the Church's memory. It also learned that some authors were not willing to allow changes to their texts, especially those already in wide circulation. The result is that many older hymns have been rendered into current English and made inclusive, while others have been left as they were. And some newer hymns carry masculine references to God. In a few instances, old and revised texts have been placed side by side.
Balance was also the goal in overall content. The divisions on The Christian Year, The Church In Worship, and The Church In The World contain a wealth of old and new resources. It was the Committee's hope that worship planners would find in VU an abundance of useable resources beyond anything they have known before. To aid planners in their work, a very large Index of Topics and Categories was developed. It was also the Committee's hope that some hymns which might be deemed too difficult, at least initially, for congregations, would be used as anthems by choirs.
Because VU was intended to be a comprehensive resource, the Committee, in response to its mandate, included psalms and scripture songs (most of which are new translations by members of the Committee), prayers on varied themes and for various seasons, service music for use in the different moments of the liturgy, choral settings of Holy Communion, creeds in several languages, and services of Daily Prayer. Of special interest are the psalms with their choral refrains. Psalms were not only part of Hebrew worship, but were the first hymns of the early Church. Normally the psalms have been sung. Psalmody without music is a more recent practice and, I would suggest, an aberration. A sincere effort has been made to reclaim some element of musical expression through the provision of refrains and metrical versions.
It would seem the Church has responded positively to the efforts of the Committee. At the time of writing (end of November), 140,000 copies have been sold, and a third printing is on its way. Is there something the Committee might have done differently? Yes, of course. But I don't know what could have been done differently that would have made the book any more acceptable to the Church as a whole. All of us regret the loss of some hymns which have been important to us as individuals and to the Church. It has always been thus with new hymnals. My own view is that the Committee has done its work exceedingly well. It listened, it prayed, it thought carefully, and then it decided. The result, I believe, is a resource that the Church will welcome, use, and continue to discover, for the next two decades.
I have been singing hymns all my life. My mother, for about fifty years, was organist of the church in the rural Manitoba community where I grew up. Thus she and my father were always at Sunday service, and throughout my childhood and teen years, I was there with them. After my voice changed I joined the choir. The singing conventions of the Church then began to open up for me as a matter of specific interest. Over half a century later, I am still an avid explorer of the Church's song, looking with pleasure at much of what the Church has sung, and watching with anticipation for what it yet may sing.
In a denomination like ours, the hymn book is the primary worship book. For Catholics and Anglicans, even perhaps for Lutherans, the hymn book is important, but it takes a secondary place; all three of those denominations have a fixed liturgy, so the prayer book, or Mass book, is the primary worship document. For us it's the hymn book. That being the case, I believe that those who lead worship regularly need to be students - not just users, but students - of the hymn book. With the publication of Voices United (VU) worship leaders need to pore over it with care. The texts, which are accessible to everybody whether we read music or not, need our attention first. Even though the combination of text and tune is what ultimately makes a hymn work, the words should take first place in our evaluation of a hymn.
In any event, those who read music may also be able to go to a keyboard, or perhaps a guitar, and work through the tunes. Those who do not possess that skill should take the earliest opportunity to sit down with the organist and/or music director and move steadily through the book. Even if the focus is largely on the unfamiliar material it will take quite a number of sessions, but the pay off will be enormous. By working at this together, the worship leader and the organist/music director will attain an awareness of the contents of the whole book as they talk with one another about it. Where there is not sufficient rapport between the worship leader (particularly the one who does not read music) and organist/music director for them to do something like this together, I strongly recommend that the worship leader identify a congenial and musically literate person in the congregation with whom this might be done. 1
Given the way the worship life in our Church has evolved, the organization of VU makes a lot of sense. Instead of The Christian Year division coming last, as it did with the red book, it is first; the book opens with the renowned advent hymn "0 Come, 0 Come Emmanuel. 2 The next division is God's Creating and Redeeming Love, with three sections: one on God (with four headings); one on Jesus Christ; and one on the Holy Spirit. If the sections devoted to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit seem rather brief, we need to. remember that the structure of the Church Year is grounded in the Christian salvation story, and thus most of the hymns about Jesus are to be found in various parts of The Christian Year division. Similarly, hymns devoted to the Holy Spirit are to be found in both divisions. The third and final division of the hymn part of the book - and the longest - is entitled The Community of Faith, and it has three sections: The Church in Worship (containing the hymns for Baptism and the Lord's Supper, Marriage, Funeral, Ordination, Commissioning, and Special Days); The Church in the World (Discipleship, Renewal, Commitment); and A New Heaven and a New Earth (Death and Eternal Life, Communion of Saints, Completion of Creation). After all that, however, there is still the very substantial division entitled Psalms and Scripture Songs.
In this one aspect, VU is organized like the 1930 Hymnary (HY), with a separate and distinct division for the Psalter at the back. The 1971 HymnBook (HB) had no such division; there was a modest representation in that book from the old Scottish metrical psalter (e.g. "The Lord's My Shepherd", "All People That On Earth Do Dwell") - sixteen in all - and a dozen of the Scottish Paraphrases. But there wasn't a specific division awarded to the Psalter, and no prose psalms were included; the Anglicans didn't need the prose psalms in the HB because they were already in the Prayer Book; and it was presumed that we didn't need them either, because just two years prior to the publication of the HB, the Committee on Worship of the United Church had issued the Service Book For the Use of the People [known as the "Green Book" before that label became the possession of Songs For A Gospel People (SFGP)]. Among other things, that book contained ninety-two selections of prose psalms. The Editorial Committee of the HB hoped that the Service Book For the Use of the People would be sitting in the pews side-by-side with the HB. As we all know, that happened in only a minority of congregations. And because changes in language were taking place rather quickly just at that time, many folk came to look upon it as being outmoded. Another factor that led to its neglect had to do precisely with the setup of the psalter, where different parts of the psalm of the day would be designated for choir, congregation, lay reader or minister. I was one of those who supported the idea at the time of the book's publication, and Bernhard Anderson, the well-known Old Testament scholar, wrote enthusiastically about it. But it didn't work well. On paper, it may not have looked contrived, but it felt contrived when used on Sunday morning. So both with congregations who had that "Green Book", and with those who did not, the psalter seemed to disappear from use for awhile, except in the form of the metrical psalms - which often were not observed as belonging to the psalter. Having a full, rich psalter back in the congregation's main book is a significant gain. 3
In the 1930 HY, the Psalter division was in two parts: the first contained the metrical psalms, which to the untutored eye looked simply like a continuation of the hymn collection; the second part contained a selection of prose psalms, every item in it having a tune (or tunes) printed above the text. With VU there is no such separation of prose psalms and metrical psalms; beginning with Psalm No. 1 they are presented in sequence - whether in metrical form, prose form, or both - running through to Psalm 150, with some omissions here and there. And there is another difference: in the old HY the tunes provided with the prose psalms belonged to the musical genre known as "Anglican chant". The difficulties of using that kind of music meant that those tunes were virtually never used - except possibly by a rare choir here and there that had sophisticated musical leadership. The prose psalms, therefore, were read, not sung; the "Responsive Reading" became one of the mainstays of the Sunday service.
With VU the assumption is that the psalms will be sung, or read and sung.' Those done as metrical psalms will, of course, simply be sung as they always have been. In the case of prose psalms, the tunes provided are refrains to be sung as responses by the congregation in the course of reading the psalm for the day. Sometimes the tune for the refrain is made up of a line or two from a familiar hymn, while at other times it is a new composition - but always they are very accessible, quite unlike the taxing rhythms and intervals contained in Anglican chant .4 Even so, I think it will take a little while for people to become accustomed to the reading/refrain model, and I hope worship leaders will not assume that their congregations can immediately be brought up to speed on this pattern of using the psalms.
and six of the psalms are represented in VU. In many cases, more than one
musical option is printed, bringing the
total to one hundred and sixty musical settings. Of that, thirty-two are full hymn tunes set to metrical arrangements of the words, some of which are among the best-known in our language, such as "All People That On Earth Do Dwell", "0 God our Help in Ages Past", "The Lord's My Shepherd", and "Unto the Hills". As mentioned previously, to the untutored eye the metrical psalms in the 1930 HY looked like a continuation of the hymn collection. This is definitely not the case with VU . All users of this book will be quite aware when they are in the division of the book containing the psalms, because suddenly the manner of numbering changes: the Scripture numbers for the psalms are in large bold type in the centre above the text, while the location in the book is designated by smaller numbers toward the top edge of the page. Thus, whether you are using Psalm 90 in its metrical form, as "0 God our Help in Ages Past", or in its prose form, you can't miss the fact that it is Psalm 90.
As part of the Psalter division, but at the end of it, there is a section entitled Scripture Songs. It contains the obvious items - the "Song of the Sea" (Cantemus Domino), the "Song of Isaiah" (Surge, illuminare), the "Song of Mary" (Magnificat), the "Song of Zechariah" (Benedictus), and the "Song of Simeon" (Nunc Dimittis) - and then about sixteen scriptural paraphrases. Six of them, like the Psalter part of this division, have a reading/singing response arrangement, and fifteen are set to full hymn tunes. Considering the fact that VU is bursting with riches, it may seem unfair to complain about anything missing, but I do regret that in this part we do not have from the Apocrypha the "Song of the Three Children" (Bene&cite, omni opera Domini), nor the two canticles Gloria in Excelsis, and the Te Deum laudamus. I recognize the problems the latter two pose concerning inclusive language, but all three have had such a vital place in the praise of the historic Church I'm sorry they couldn't be included.
of a fine variety of "service music" is a significant component in the
book's character. The convention used to be
that such elements would be found mainly at the back of a hymn book. This is not the way they are handled in VU; they are scattered throughout the collection, with a section at the back containing a few, as well as settings of the Eucharist. By my count, fully seventy-five items belong strictly in the category of service music! I am referring to very brief things like kyries, invocations, glorias, hallelujahs, doxologies, blessings, amens, and the five different settings of musical parts for the Lord's Supper. It may be that, in the instance of service music, the remarkably extensive Index ofTopics and Categories has, curiously enough, let us down, since most of the items listed in the twelve different Service-Music categories of the Index are full-scale hymns. For instance, there is a separate listing for hallelujahs, though most of the items in the list are simply hymns that contain hallelujahs, while the specifically service-music Hallelujah at 958 is missing from the list. There is no separate listing for kyries, nor for invocations, nor for amens. Both blessings and doxologies have a distinct listing, but pretty well everything under each of those headings is again a full-scale hymn.
Anyway, there are many delectable service-music pieces that will keep us going for a long while. I hope they get wide use. 1 also hope, however, that worship leaders show restraint, allowing people time to get to know a few of them well before going on to others. Members of our congregations are not accustomed to flipping through a book quickly to keep up with one bit of servicemusic after another, and if care is not taken they could get entirely put off with such material, which would be a great loss for them.
Running Heads and Indexes
Readers of this article, who got the first run of VU that came off the press, will now be aware that there are some errors in that edition. Correcting the mistakes in the texts for a whole congregation is a nuisance, but with some teamwork, it is by no means an overwhelming job, and can even be fun. The tunes are a different matter; in most instances it won't be necessary to correct errors in the tunes except in those books used by the choir and organist.
Even that, however, could be a frustrating undertaking. If possible, choir members and instrumentalists should have copies from the second printing, where the errors in both texts and tunes have been corrected, thus avoiding a lot of painstaking work.
Something we can welcome back with W is a "running head" at the top of each page, the thematic title that tells you exactly what part of the book you are in. One of the deficiencies of the red HB was a lack of such titles. John Webster Grant, a member of the Editorial Committee for the red book, acknowledged that fact in an article published fifteen years after the HB appeared. He correctly states that such heads may be more important in a hymn book than in any other type of publication. 5 Even though W contains about four hundred and fifty more items than did the HB, it is an easier book through which to find one's way.
In addition, there are rich indexes. Besides a very full index of Topics and Categories, there is a Scripture index going from Genesis to Revelation identifying the various biblical texts reflected in the hymns (see pp. 10 13 to 1020), and an index that outlines the complete three-year Common Lectionary, with suggested hymns for each of the Sundays and Festival Days (see pp. 998 to 10 12).
The Lectionary Pages
Concerning the lectionary pages, 1 have some comments that may be of help in their application. 1 already have suggested that choir members and instrumentalists should try to get hold of a second-print copy. Now I want to recommend to you worship leaders, who own a first edition, that you also try to work a trade. If you are in a congregation where there are copies from the second printing, or if you have a neighbouring congregation that has that edition, it shouldn't be all that difficult, since exchanging yours for one sitting in a pew will not create a problem for the people who then will be using yours (as long as you have corrected the errata in the texts). The minutiae of the lectionary pages will, I believe, be of concern largely to people who are responsible for preparing worship. I recommend this exchange since, for a couple of reasons, these pages in the first edition are confusing:
(1) The conventions used by the Consultation on Common Texts in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) have been adopted; thus after Trinity, and running through until the Sunday before Reign of Christ, the Sundays are identified only with the word Proper 6 , with a number attached, but unlike the RCL, the link with the secular calendar is not indicated.
(2) After Reign of Christ (and Thanksgiving, which possibly due to American participation in the Consultation on CommonTexts is stuck on after Reign of Christ), there is provided, without any space break and without any explanation of what is coming, an alternative lectionary containing pairs of Old Testament lesson and Psalm for those who want them thematically related to the Gospel reading of the day.
Regarding the latter of those two problems, in the second printing there is a clear space break, and a sentence indicating what the alternative lectionary is about. Compare pages 1008 and 1009 in both editions and you immediately will see what I'm referring to.
But now to the first source of confusion. All users of the Lectionary pages are going to get hopelessly lost unless they are given a link with the secular calendar. In the second edition of VU, though not in the first, that crucial link is provided by means of a square bracketed set of numbers beside each Proper; e.g., beside Proper 25 you see this: [ 10/23 -10/29]. That means that the lessons listed, and the hymns recommended, are for the Sunday between October 23 and October 29 inclusive. For us low church folk, I'm sure those calendar designations will be more important than the reference to Propers! Indeed, when preparing the Sunday bulletin, most of us, I assume, will continue to use more immediately recognizable designations, like "Ninth Sunday after Pentecost".
The second printing also has a brief note on page 10 11 that gives help to anybody who may get confused about which year of the three-year cycle we are in at any particular time: "Year A of the lectionary cycle begins on the First Sunday of Advent in years which can be evenly divided by three For those who wonder about the numbers attached to the Propers, they are calculated as beginning on the sixth Sunday after Epiphany. In the Introduction to the RCL we have an explanation of that practice: "This method gives fixed monthly dates (with a six-day cycle) for each set of readings". One day 1 may figure out what that means, but at the moment it eludes me!
This is a more warm-hearted collection than the one in the red HB; opening VU to the mellow off-white pages is a kind of sign of the overall atmosphere of the book. The HB was somewhat austere, and in hindsight we might say that the pure white pages it contained was a sign of its character. There were, of course, plenty of things in it that could not possibly be put under the austere label - many of the Christmas carols, "Lord of the Dance", "Will Your Anchor Hold", "I Feel the Winds of God Today", etc., - but the HB possessed a general air of emotional distance that was felt very quickly. Some other items in it that did warm the hearts of a lot of folk - like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus", "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" - are out of favour with many worship leaders, so the remoteness of the book was made all the more tangible. 7
In the middle of the blue HY was a division entitled The Gospel Call, which was largely made up of hymns drawn from 19th century evangelicalism, the kind of hymns Garrison Keillor's gospel-singing group turns to - "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross", "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling", "I Love to tell the Story", "Tell Me the Old, Old Story", "Pass Me Not 0 Gentle Saviour". Musically, those hymns all have a relaxed, free-flowing melody and utterly predictable harmonies, and most of them possess a refrain. The texts have an emotional immediacy that was very appealing to the users of the HY during the first two decades of its life. But in the 1950s people preparing for the ministry became aware, or were told to be aware, of an unfortunate subjectivism, and an unattractive emotionality, in those hymns. The result was that young ministers began to pass over The Gospel Call division when choosing hymns for the Sunday service. It wasn't at all surprising that the committee which was formed in 1963 to begin the preparation of a new hymn book was inclined to leave out most of the hymns from that section. When it became a joint committee with the Anglicans in 1965 that sentiment may even have been strengthened. In any event, most of the hymns from The Gospel Call did not appear in the 1971 HB - exceptions being "Art Thou Weary, Heavy Laden", "Come Let Us Sing of a Wonderful Love", "Will YourAnchor Hold", "0 Christ, in Thee My Soul Hath Found", and "What A Friend We Have in Jesus". Nor were there more than a handful of hymns of a comparable genre chosen to replace them. The result was a book with many strong hymns that have been rightly precious to the Church for a long while, and I must say are very precious to me - e.g., "Now Thank We All Our God", "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty", "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven", "The Church's One Foundation" - correctly known as the great hymns of the Church, but not exuding the kind of personal warmth which many church people desired.
An additional problem was that a good proportion of the musical arrangements in the red book contained harmonies that not only were not well suited for part singing, but also in subtle ways did not contribute to the confidence of congregations even in their unison singing. Try a verse or two of "Love Divine" in your congregation, with the organist playing the arrangement of HYFRYDOL in the red book, and then sing the same verses to the arrangement in VU, and the distinction will, I believe, be clear. 8
The red book was therefore scarcely off the press before worship leaders were finding "contemporary" hymns from outside of it that they wanted to use in Church services and other gatherings. When we look at what was chosen I think it is clear that the word "contemporary" was sometimes a code word for texts and tunes that people could easily relate to conceptually and emotionally, and in the singing of which they might swing their bodies at least a little! 9 This is not, however, to make light of the fact that the items used did have what could be called a "contemporary" sound, and were often designed for the accompaniment of a guitar rather than an organ or piano, the guitar having symbolic status as a "contemporary" instrument. But they were also of the type that had an emotional immediacy.10 Quite a number of those, plus a healthy number of the 19th Century evangelical hymns, from the HY are to be found in VU. With the incredible number of choices offered to a worship leader in this book, it will be interesting to see how many of the old warm-hearted 19th Century hymns are chosen with any frequency. Unless I'm more out of touch than I like to think, I sense that the few hymns of that type which made it into the red HB, or the ones that were recaptured in SFGP, didn't get a great deal of use - though the situation could be altogether different in other regions of the country.
A Worldwide Church
contained a few hymns from the Far East, and thus reflected in a modest
way the fact that the Church is now a world-
wide phenomenon. In SFGP the net was thrown wider, while in VU, I am delighted to see, it is thrown wider still. There are items in the collection from several parts of LatinAmerica, several parts of Africa, from India, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. In some instances we may struggle with the tunes, while in others they will become part of our repertoire in no time. For instance, the Zulu hymn "We Are Marching" (No. 646) is likely to take us by storm, as it already has some other western denominations.
I was confident
that VU would have a selection of good hymns for the various festivals
and seasons of the Christian Year. I was confident that it would have a
satisfactory representation of hymns on the various forms of discipleship,
such as social justice, the care of the earth, concern for those in need,
etc. In a word, before I saw the book I was confident that VU would have
hymns ranging across the various aspects of Christian faith and life. But
I was nevertheless concerned about what, at critical points, the book's
theology would be. There are invitations from within our Church, and outside
of it, to move away from what I consider to be the Church's grounding in
the primal salvation events, i.e. incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection
and glorification. It's true that those who offer such invitations normally
affirm theprinciple of incarnation, and see examples of it everywhere;
they do not wish us to forget the crucifixion, but interpret it as being
an exemplary event only; 11
they are happy for us to celebrate Easter because it reminds people that life is full of instances of death and resurrection, and gives assurance about immortality. Believing as 1 do that Christian faith is not about the principle of incarnation, but about a specific and unique incarnation, 1 hoped that the book would express that faith. It does. The Church has always seen part of the significance of the cross as being an exemplary action, but it has affirmed its significance as God's accomplished atoning deed, and I hoped the book would express that faith. It does. The Church has believed in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus as a unique happening of inestimable significance for all people, and I hoped the book would express that faith. It does. This means that in VU we are still drawing from the wellspring of the Church's song, the wellspring that has its most direct expression in hymns like "0 Come, All You Faithful", "When 1 Survey the Wondrous Cross", "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", and "Crown Him With Many Crowns". There are many other hymns on other themes that we sing with pleasure and profit, and which go to make up the rich and varied treasury of Christian hymnody. But if Christians were to find their centre in something other than the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection and Ascension, the impulse for them to sing at all would eventually dry up.
I did wonder in addition, however, whether the book would have a selection of hymns that give fitting homage to the Triune God. The concern for inclusive language sometimes pushes us into an implicit unitarianism; e.g., the affirmation of God exercising three functions is mistakenly taken to be an affirmation of God in three persons. There are some "trinitarian" hymns in the collection that are formulated in relation to God's functions, but 1 was relieved to discover that whenever worship leaders wish to use a hymn that gives appropriate honour and praise to the Holy Trinity they will have several to choose from, and there are many that explicitly reflect trinitarian faith. 12 It's true that God is referred to as "Father" in only about sixteen hymns. It is worth remembering, however, that many hymn writers, especially in the generations immediately preceding ours, used the term Father in relation to God simply as a term of intimacy, and not in the trinitarian sense of being the Father of the Son, Jesus Christ. 13 "This is my Father's World" is an example of the former use of the term, and the alteration of that line in VU to "This is God's Wondrous World" has not in my mind ruined the attraction and effectiveness of the hymn, even though it shifts the emphasis a trifle from the One to whom the world belongs, and focuses us more directly toward the wonders of creation.14
There are, it's true, a couple of hymns where a reassuring intimacy with God was sufficiently important to the gist of the text that something important was lost with the avoidance of the term Father. I'm thinking, for example, of R.B.Y Scott's hymn "0 World of God"( No. 258). The first verse in the original acknowledged that our place in such a "vast and strange" world is nevertheless not beyond "a Father's care". The phrase has been changed to "our Maker's care", which in my judgement does not improve the hymn. My mind also goes to some of the old trinitarian doxologies, which have been fairly consistently altered to avoid the customary language. "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" is by far the best known of these. The "inclusive" text from SFGP, which we have become accustomed to singing in the past few years, is the one found at No. 541, which I was glad to see. But I think many users of the book would have been happy if, in this instance, the editors had followed the same model they used with "All People That on Earth do Dwell" (No. 822), where both the old and the revised words are included.
Another word that has posed problems for many Christians recently is Lord, with its masculine overtones. Even though in a number of instances throughout the book it has been replaced by the word God, I think the editing has been sensitive to theological nuances, '5 and the term Lord actually appears frequently in the collection. This is fortunate, since the drift of the Old Testament cannot be foll6wed apart from that term, and the ties of the New Testament with the Old are profoundly expressed in its use. The divine name, which in the Greek translation of the Old Testament was rendered kyrios (Lord), is in the New Testament repeatedly applied to Jesus Christ. That double connotation is crucial for our understanding of God, and for our perception of who Jesus was and what He accomplished on our behalf. In VU we have a book that largely supports that perception.
It is clear, then, that in spite of substantial, though I believe skillful, editing to provide inclusive renderings of hymns, the biblical faith is sustained, and in fact terms like Son of God, King, and Brother are still to be found in older as well as some contemporary hymns in the collection. Indeed, overall I feel the editing has been done with considerable intelligence and artistic sensitivity. If I were one of those who remembers the words of hymns by heart (which also means in the heart), I might at times be thrown by the changes that have been made, as some people understandably are. But so far, in singing the hymns as they now are in VU I have been very comfortable with them, more so, in the case of many older compositions, than I have been in years.
Inevitably, when I look at the whole volume, I have reservations about some of the hymns. And I am sorry that one or two by Charles Wesley, that express in an explicit and dazzling way the glory of God's self-giving on the cross - i.e. the essential link between Incarnation and Atonement - couldn't have been included, e.g. "And Can It Be That I Should Gain?", and/or "0 Love Divine, What Has Thou Done!", with its poignant repeated last line in each verse, "My lord, my love, is crucified". It seems possible that for the Editorial Committee blood language in a hymn was a stumbling block that couldn't be surmounted. But there isn't a hymn book in existence that doesn't have disappointments in it. I am impressed that in a collection of this magnitude, there are in VU as few as there are. I am even more impressed by the amazing number of high quality hymns from past and present that we have between these covers. Indeed, there are some new items in it that will in time establish themselves as deeply and as permanently in our hearts as any of the precious hymns from earlier periods in the Church's life. It is difficult for us to imagine there was ever a Christmas season when people did not sing "Silent Night"; my prediction is that, for succeeding generations, it will seem impossible there was ever a Christmas season when people did not sing "Before the Marvel of This Night" (No. 40).
put out a new hymn book will always be uncertain of its reception," but
by now I trust that John Ambrose and the rest of that hard working committee
know that they have produced a winner. I was on the phone the other day
with a friend from another city, who asked what I thought of VU. I said,
"Considering the competing babel of voices in our Church, it's a bloody
miracle." And it is.
2 I recommend to worship leaders that, when looking in the Advent section, they note there at least three different kinds of hymn: (1) those that point to, or pray for, the Second Advent; (2) those that focus on Mary and the Annunciation, and (3) those that anticipate Christmas. A significant proportion in our denomination see Advent solely as a preparation for Christmas. It is, therefore, my hope that hymns in the first two categories also get some use, and be a witness to the other aspects of the season. In that connection I invite readers to look at the end of the Advent section, to the bottom of the page containing Hymn 34, where we find a list of hymns containing Advent themes which can be found in other parts of the book. "Sleepers Wake", located at 711 in the section entitled Completion of Creation and City of God, is on that list, which is what we should expect. But there are four additional hymns in the lattcr section that could also have been listed as appropriate for use in Advent: "My Lord, What a Morning" at 708, "Shall We Gather at the River" at 7 10, "1 See A New Heaven" at 713, and "0 God, You Gave Your Servant John" at 718. 1 encourage worship leaders to write in those four to be part of the list, and while that is being done "Songs of Praise the Angels Sang" at 254 can be added as well. It is something, indeed, that could be done, in the upcoming months and years, at the end of most of the sections throughout the book. As we use VU we become aware from time to time of a hymn in one part of the book that relates well to the theme of a section somewhere else. If it is not already recorded at the end of that other section, write in the number and first line immediately. The long-term benefits of following such a practice are enormous. Checking the Indexes regularly is important but, as good as they are, the Indexes are no substitute for your own personal notations.
3 Even the few canticles that were placed at the back of the red HB got little use. I think part of the reason - in addition to the regrettable indifference in our Church to the ancient canticles - was that, inexplicably, they were rendered in 16th century Prayer Book language. Most of us are still fairly comfortable with singing words in the old English, but no longer so with the corporate reading of them.
4There is a witty portrayal of Anglican chant style available on a record, put out some years ago by the Swingle Singers, called "The Weather Report". Some readers will be familiar with it; it was played again a few months ago on the CBC program "As You Like It". What the Swingle Singers do is to sing, in Anglican chant style, a typical British weather report. It is a caricature, naturally, but it is so unerringly like the way a competent Anglican choir would chant the psalm of the day, that my point about why United Church congregations didn't pick up on that musical idiom is effectively illustrated.
5 The Hymn as Theological Statement", The Hymn, October 1986, p. 8.
6 Worship leaders who have been trying to use the lectionary pages will already have noted that following Trinity the editors identify the various Sundays in relation to the Proper for a particular Sunday. I understand why they decided to do this; they were providing a lectionary that has to serve for the next quarter century, and must keep in step year after year, no matter what day Easter falls on. The common way to do that has been to identify the Sundays after Trinity with the word Proper and with a number attached to it. All the same, I think some explanatory note should have been provided, since virtually none of our ministers ever uses such terminology, and may not even know what Propers are. James White suggests that all churches have propers, even though they may never use the term. "Every service of Christian worship is composed of two kinds of acts of worship: the ordinary and the propers. The ordinary is those elements which remain the same from week to week: the basic structure of the service and such items as the Lord's Prayer, the offering, the Creed, and a doxology. The propers are those elements which change from week to week. We read different lessons, sing varied hymns, pray a variety of prayers ...... Introduction to Christian Worship (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1980) p. 65. It is a point worth making, but in our tradition we haven't had the practice of certain prayers being set for all congregations to use on specified Sundays, and thus the terminology is alien to us.
7 1 am sorry that the Advent section of VU did not include "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory". With a title like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", which has strong military overtones and American associations, it is, of course, understandable that it was left out. And the liberal theological tradition, as it has functioned in our denomination, has formed us in such a way that we are often able to look only with puzzlement upon those who still attend to the judgment passages in the Bible, some of which are vividly expressed in this hymn. But the text is essentially a very positive one, and with only a few adjustments of language perhaps could still occasionally be printed in the bulletin for use on an Advent Sunday. In my copy of VU I have added it to the list of related hymns that is found at the end of the Advent section.
8 Readers will see from Bruce Harding's article that he and I differ somewhat in our reaction to the arrangements in the HB. I should say here that there were some arrangements of old tunes in the red book that I found quite satisfying. I think of SANDON as an example, the tune of "Unto the Hills". The arrangement was different than in the HY, and I thought more interesting, and yet it Supported good congregational singing.
9 1t is worth remembering that in 1948 the United Church put out a soft-cover book called Songs of the Gospel, a collection of warm, personal, evangelical hymns, that many congregations had in the pew to supplement the HY. The book appeared, however, just about the time that many young ministers were developing suspicions about the acceptability of that type of composition.
10 1 can easily make the case of why we should use the word "contemporary" with caution. Consider No. 168 in the HB. There we have a fine text by Erik Routley, "All Who Love and Serve Your City", set to a "contemporary" tune by Canadian composer William France. The tune has some of the astringent harmonies of modem classical music, which I think are entirely appropriate for the text. But I have never heard the hymn used anywhere, and not surprisingly it did not make it into VU. And then there is Graham George's tune for "Ride On, Ride On In Majesty". I am glad to see that VU has retained that combination (No. 127), though again the truly modern qualities of Graham George's wonderful tune may be too much of a challenge, and many worship leaders will, regrettably, fall back on the more familiar tune for those words, WESTMINSTER NEW.
11 I know there are some who would like the Church to play down almost any references to the cross on the grounds that it has been used to justify the suffering of women. I think, however, that their numbers are small compared with the numbers of those who are relatively comfortable in dealing with the cross on some levels, but who state that it is atonement theology which is unacceptable. Though he was writing about something quite different, G. K. Chesterton has a comment that is pertinent. "A serious theory has a right to be considered on its merits, apart from the crimes that are committed in its name" ( "The Asceticism of the Futurists", The Canadian C.S. LewisJournal, Abbotsford, B.C.,Autumn, 1996, p. 35.
12 There is one hymn that should not have been placed in the section, The Triune God, which is "Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth" (No. 320). In the present climate the hymn may get a good deal of use. The imagery is at variance with trinitarian theology, and, moreover, does not truly reflect Julian of Norwich, upon whose work the hymn is supposedly based. Julian's wonderful feminine imagery relates largely to the "second" person of the Trinity, the Son, Jesus Christ. Thus it is woven into, rather than taking the place of, the biblical terms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moving in a direction quite different than this hymn, Julian both confirms and modifies the trinitarian tradition. I wish No. 320 could have appeared in a different part of the book.
13 I am concerned, however, that the Inclusive Version of the Bible may in many places be the one used regularly for the Sunday morning readings, so that even when people hear the Gospel lessons they are not exposed to the "name" for God that Jesus gave us, which is Father. It's not the name that must be used all the time, but without it we get a skewed picture of the New Testament message.
14 I do not think, however, that any standards of inclusivity required the alteration of the final verse of the hymn. In the first two verses the author was testifying to the glories of creation, and then he began verse three by assuring us that "though wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet". This led to the final four lines in the original:
16 We can feel that uncertainty in the Preface to the book offered to the Canadian Methodists in 1894; the 1890 General Conference had directed the Book Committee to prepare the 1884 book for publication with tunes:
"The Committee believes it has avoided the serious errors of running into a rut, adopting only one standard of excellence, or of accepting tunes after the tastes and predilections of only one school of musicians, and that, thereby, a book has been produced that will be useful to the greater number, and, it is hoped, may become a favourite with both old and young, in the rural circuits, as well as the town and city congregations.... Thus, while recognizing the demands of modem culture, the heart singing of the masses[!] has not been overlooked, and so the familiar melody and the more difficult musical composition may be found side by side throughout the work." Methodist Hymn and Tune Book (Toronto: Methodist Book & Publishing House, 1894) P. iii.
The period of waiting is ended; our new hymn resource has finally arrived. Even a cursory glance through its pages suggests that Voices United (VU) is much like the United Church itself - many different voices with disparate needs gathered together in one Communion. It proudly reflects this diversity to a degree unseen in our two previous collections, the 1930 Hymnary (HY) and the 1971 Hymn Book (HB). Ensuring the success of a hymn book is difficult, however. It must meet the needs of the Church today and for some time to come. But if it is to be accepted it must also reflect where we have been. Balancing the desire to honour our past and provide for our future is no simple task, but VU has managed to do just that.
precursor of VU is the 1987 Songsfor a Gospel People (SFGP). The
populist tone of SFGP, and its resulting eclecticism, had wide appeal.
The policy of incorporating "songs from our heritage not found in the HB",
or with a "more familiar tune" restored, 1 reintroduced many songs
and text/tune associations to the United Church. S~ was created in the
heady aftermath of the VancouverAssembly of the World Council of Churches
(1983) and introduced to the United Church some additional repertoire from
other musical traditions. SFGP also was influenced by the growing
ecumenical convergence of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which resulted
in the inclusion of a sizeable collection of service music. All of these
elements and more have been realized on a much larger scale in VU.
VU is a populist book. During the creation of the 1971 HB, several of the lay representatives to the Joint Anglican/United Church Committee expressed concern that the book would be a "fine museum piece" rather than a useful resource. 2 The musical pretensions that shaped the HB are missing from VU. Gospel tunes such asASSURANCE ("BlessedAssurance", 337) and HANSON PLACE ("Shall We Gather At The River", 7 10) are found side by side with some of the finest tunes of the "classical" school, such as Vaughan Williams'SINE NOMINE ("ForAll The Saints", 705) and Basil Harwood's THORNBURY ("To Abraham And Sarah", 633/634). Grand old common tunes such as DUNFERMLINE ("The Race that Long In Darkness Pined", 879) and WINCHESTER OLD ("While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks", 75) from the English and Scottish Reformation are found along with "contemporary" tunes by Ron Klusmeier and Jim Strathdee. And much of the classic service music of the 1930 HY has been restored. The Langdon Lord's Prayer (960), Hebrew Benediction (965), and Three-fold Amen ("Danish", 967) are included along with newer "ecumenical" alternatives.
Our Musical Heritage
All hymn books are essentially compromises, and VU has made usefulness a priority. But providing for the current needs of the United Church has meant that some of our heritage, of necessity, has been treated rather lightly. 3 The earliest Protestant tune heritage has suffered due to lack of use in recent years. The repertoire of the early Scottish and English psalters is still represented, however, tunes such as WINCHESTER OLD and DUNFERMLINE (already mentioned), SOUTHWELL (607), and the immortal OLD 1OOTH (822). 4 ST. ANNE ("0 God, Our Help In Ages Past", 806) and ST. MAGNUS ("The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns", 190) are examples of the l8th-century continuation of this tradition.
BISHOPTHORPE ("To Render Thanks Unto Our God", 811) foreshadowed the new, more'~popular" styles which swept in over the course of the 18th century, particularly associated with the rise of Methodism.5 EASTER HYMN ("Jesus Christ Is Risen Today", 155) and HELMSLEY ("Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending", 25) are classic examples of the Methodist style: long, complex tunes ~ with inserted "hallelujahs". ADESTE FIDELES ("0 Come All Ye Faithful", 60) and MILES LANE ("All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name'.% 334) both require text repetition, another typical Methodist trait.6 A greater proportion of this generation of tunes survives, due to strong associations with particular texts. Congregations seem also to have favoured tunes with greater melodic and rhythmic activity, assuring their survival.
The two major contributions of the 19th century, the Victorian hymn tune and the gospel song, have had a strong musical influence upon the United Church. Many of the most popular tunes in use today originated in the British Victorian school, tunes such as EVENTIDE ("Abide With Me", 436), NICAEA ("Holy, Holy, Holy", 315), PENTECOST ("Fight The Good FighC, 674), ST. CATHERINE ("Faith Of Our Fathers", 580), and ST. CLEMENT ("The Day Thou GavesC, 439). These tunes appeared in almost every Methodist and Presbyterian collection in Canada before union, and have remained in our repertoire to the present day.7
Gospel song, the popular hymnody of the 19th century, also has been cherished by United Church members. Tunes such as HANKEY ("I Love To Tell The Story", 343), HOLINESS ("Take Time To Be Holy", 672) and PASS ME NOT ("Pass Me Not, 0 Gentle Saviour", 665) were omitted in the 1971 HB, but have been restored in VU.8 And newer songs in the gospel tradition, such as "How Great Thou Art" (238) and "Precious Lord" (670), have been added by popular demand, a decision that will enhance the usefulness of the book.
Other more recent influences round out the heritage of VU. Anglo-Celtic folk tunes such as KINGSFOLD ("I Feel The Winds Of God", 625) and FOREST GREEN ("All BeautifulThe March of Days", 518) were first introduced by Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. Spirituals such as "There's a Star in the East" (70) and "Were You 'Mere When They Crucified My Lord?" (144) entered the United Church repertoire through the Canadian Youth Hymnal (1939). The HB (1971) introduced American folk hymntunes such as PRIMROSE ("Into the Unshaped Silence Sings", 305) and MORNING SONG (used three times in VU: 162, 709, 899). 9
Contemporary Needs and Global Diversity
explosion of popular hymnody during the 1960s has come to fruition only
gradually in our denomination.' From a slim selection of popular hymns
in the HB, 10 the repertoire has blossomed to become a major element
of VU. The music of Sidney Carter, Jim Manley, Jim Strathdee, and others
beginning in the 1960s, and of Ron Klusmeier beginning in the early 1970s,
has proved more enduring and useful to the United Church than the 1971
HB Committee could have anticipated. SFGP brought' this repertoire
into the mainstream of United Church worship. Klusmeier has seventeen tunes
in VU; Strathdee has ten text/tunes,, Carter has six, and Manley
has three. And their success has opened, doors for others, such as Gordon
Light (124, 166, 380), and Linnea Good (82, 113, 298, 411, Ps. 100).
The integration of music from other cultures is another important aspect of VU. ' Adopting many of the selections from SFGP, the traditional United Church musical vocabulary has been greatly enhanced by this global perspective. The call-and-response elements of music from the African continent, as in ASITHI ("Sing Amen", 43 1), THUMA MINA ("Send me, Lord", 572), and WA WA WA EMIMIMO ("Come, 0 Holy Spirit, Come", 383), the refreshing metrical shifts of the Latin American SANTO ("Holy, holy, holy", 944), 12 and the non-diatonic pentatonicism of the Japanese tune TOKYO ("Here, 0 God, Your Servants Gather", 362) offer new ways of praising God. Even a Japanese tune such as GARIRAYA NO KAZE ("In Old Galilee", 354), written in an essentially Western melodic and harmonic idiom, has an unusual phrase structure of 3 + 2 + 2 + 3 measures, an irregularity that makes it stand out in contrast to the Western hymn tune tradition of four- and two- measure phrases. Hopefully, exposure to global musical styles will challenge our notions of appropriate music for worship and stimulate new musical growth in the United Church.
Liturgical Music and the Psalter
The pages of VU overflow with liturgical resources, both in the appendices and throughout the book. The ecumenical liturgical convergence which followed Vatican II sparked a renewed interest in singing the responses and prayers of the liturgy. VU contains options to suit many situations. "Hallelujahs" of varying character are scattered throughout (717, 83 3, and 95 3, for example). The five Communion Settings (pages 932-943), though new to the United Church, are sufficiently varied to suit diverse needs, from unison settings (Setting A) to those which involve choir and congregation in dialogue (Setting Q. The three versions of the Kyrie Eleison (945-947) demonstrate the global diversity of the book: the first from the Taiz6 community (France), the second from the Russian Orthodox liturgy, and a third, new version by Paul Meffitt. 13
The Psalms and Scriptural Songs division provides options for reviving the tradition of singing scripture. 14 The three versions of Psalm 100 illustrate the possibilities: Linnea Good's "Make a Joyful Noise" (820) is a sensitive paraphrase with a catchy tune, a modem option for singing rather than reading the psalm; "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" (822) celebrates the grand Presbyterian and Reformed tradition of singing metrical translations of the psalms; and a prose translation appears with a choice of two sung refrains. In this division, refrains range widely in musical style. Many are fragments of hymn tunes: the refrain to Psalm 27 (754) is a condensed version of ST MAGNUS (the tune for "The Head That Once Was Crowned With Thorns", 190). Others, like the refrain for Psalm 145 (866), are more recent compositions.
Layout, Presentation, and Musical Possibilities
and presentation of the music in a hymn book is crucial. Pitch of tunes,
matching of tunes and texts, arrangements chosen, and the provision of
performance alternatives such as descants or chord symbols are as important
to the success of a hymn book as the contents. Though there are some problems
with the decisions made by the compilers of VU, the style of the book should
serve the Church well.
The pitch of tunes has concerned congregations since the 1960s. The 1971 HB, by popular demand, lowered the key of many tunes, eliminating most of the high Es or even Fs of the 1930 HY. 15 VU, however, has largely arrested this process, and in some cases reversed previous decisions. 16 And while the HB increased the options for accompanists by presenting a tune in different keys if repeated in the book, VU has chosen one key for all occurrences. 17 The general range adopted in the HB has been preserved (middleC to D a ninth above), but VU provides fewer key options.
Matching texts with tunes has always been a contentious issue. The compilers of VU have chosen a middle path, returning to tune associations from the HY and other collections, while at the same time retaining some of the changes made by the HB. The HV Committee, for instance, ignored all previous tune associations for "0 For A Thousand Tongues", instead adopting LOBT GOTT, IHR CHRISTEN; VU has chosen the "gospel" tune association withAZMON (326), as in Songs ofthe Gospel (1948) and in SFGP (1987). The association of RICHMOND with "Hark The Glad Sound", as in the 1930 HY, has been restored (29), but matching "Jesus Calls Us O'er The Tumult" to GALILEE (562) instead of ST. OSWALD reverses the HY decision, which placed GALILEE in the "Supplement". Some of the text/tune associations of the HB have been carried over into VU, however: "Come Thou LongExpected Jesus" set to STUTTGART (2) rather than HYFRYDOL, "In Christ There Is No East Or West" to MCKEE (606) rather than ST. PETER. 18
Harmonizations or arrangements of tunes in VU are clearly intended to foster part-singing or singing in harmony. Many of the familiar four-part harmonizations from the HY, especially of gospel songs, have been restored in VU. This reverses the HB tendency to provide a more adventurous unison harmonization, as in "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" (compare HB, 142 with VU, 635) and "Jesus, Saviour, Pilot me" (HB, 267; VU, 637). A number of pieces reveal suggestions for call-and-response and antiphonal contrasts between the melody and the harmony voices. In the refrain of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" (422) the tenor and bass often sing a contrasting part to the soprano and alto, creating an antiphonal effect between the upper and lower voices on the words "till we meet". In "Shout For Joy!" (482) an optional bass part is provided at the end of the third phrase, providing added rhythmic drive into the final phrase of the hymn. The traditional South African song SIYAHAMBA (646) loses all of its rhythmic propulsion in the second half of the song if the lower three voices are not sung. The Committee obviously intended not only to restore the tradition of part-singing, but to also offer new alternatives.
In certain cases, arrangements have been simplified or substantially altered in VU with what I believe are unfortunate consequences. The sensitive, idiomatic piano accompaniments of Ron Klusmeier have in several pieces been replaced with four-part arrangements. This will please those who like to sing harmony, but the loss of rhythmic vitality which has made popular tunes such as MCNAUGHT ("Teach Me, God, To Wonder," 299) and KARR ("Though Ancient Walls", 69 1) will force accompanists to go back to the arrangements in SFGP (1987), or in Klusmeier's own publications. In S1YAHAMBA ("We Are Marching", 646) the quarternote triplets in the original version on the words "light of God" 19 have been replaced with awkward rhythmic groupings intended to simplify the piece. But the characteristic African rhythmic fluidity is largely lost, along with the original engaging rhythmic drive.
Following the lead of SFGP, rounds and other related musical items have been included in VU. Jim Strathdee's "What Does The Lord Require of You" (701) has become a favourite of many congregations since it appeared in All God's Children Sing (1993). Rounds such as the "Gloria" (37) and "Prepare The Way Of The Lord!" (10) can be performed in many ways, from two parts to as many as six in "Prepare". Rounds provide a refreshing alternative to traditional hymn singing. They challenge a congregation and, once learned, give a sense of accomplishment.
Perhaps the greatest single aid to congregational singing is in placing the words between the staves.20 The use of a diamond symbol to indicate the third verse of longer hymns is helpful, keeping the eye oriented on the page when moving to the next system (line) of music. Organists and pianists sometimes dislike words between the staves, however, as it results in a considerable distance between the treble and bass staves. 21
Descants, first introduced to the United Church through the Canadian Youth Hymnal (1939), once again find an important place in VU. Although generally intended to be sung by the sopranos in the choir, they can be sung by any in the congregation who can go that high. Either way they enhance the experience for the whole congregation. Some of the descants in VU have been carried over from previous collections: Godfrey Hewitt's descant for NICAEA ("Holy, Holy, Holy", 315) first appeared in the HB; Darryl Nixon's descant for WESTMINSTER ABBEY ("For The Healing Of The Nations", 678) was written for SFGP. Others have been newly written or adopted from outside sources: Frances MacPhail's descant to PUER NOBIS NASCITUR ("0 Love, How Deep", 348) is recent, while Sidney Hugo Nicholson's descant for DARWALL'S 148TH ("Rejoice The Lord Is King", 213) was written for Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised (1950). The descants in VU are underlaid with the final verse of the hymn, following common practice, as they are intended to be sung for the last verse only, bringing a hymn to a resounding conclusion.
A number of selections in VU have parts for other instruments, or suggestions for including them. OPGESTAAN ("Christ Is Risen, Yes, Indeed", 180) has a melodic line for "Bells or melody instrument"; "Christ Is Born" (41) suggests a cumulative performance, gradually adding musical resources with each repetition. Other possibilities can be created with little effort. Having melody instruments play the descant works well, and many tenor parts can be transposed to a higher register and played effectively on a flute, trumpet, or other instrument.
Unfortunately, the chord symbols in VU leave something to be desired. These are intended to facilitate the use of guitars and other such instruments in worship. For songs in flat keys, however, it is customary to print the symbols in a "guitar" key with a capo indication .23 Failing to provide this option means that the chord symbols in VU will be of little use to the vast majority of guitar players who know only a few chords but could nevertheless be enticed into offering their gifts in worship. Further, the difference between a major-seventh chord and a dominant-seventh chord was often ignored in the first edition. Labelling both chord types with "7' will create many jarring instances in practice, as "7' implies a dominant-seventh chord while the most common symbol for a major-seventh chord is "maf7". Fortunately this problem has been corrected in the second printing,23 and I would thus support the suggestion made by Mac Watts in his article, that copies of the second edition be obtained for choir members and instrumentalists.
collection can be everything to everybody, but VU has come close to reaching
this ideal through its incredibly varied repertoire. Although some of the
heritage has been lost in order to make way for new items to meet the needs
of the present and future, VU is by far the most flexible musical resource
ever issued by our denomination. The challenge now is to explore its many
possibilities, rather than simply continuing to sing what we know and like
in the manner to which we are accustomed. In this way we will continue
to grow musically as a Church, and Voices United will itself become
truly a part of our musical heritage.
1 'Gerald Hobbs, "Foreword", Songs for a Gospel People (Wood Lake Books, 1987).
2 See "Reports from Consultants", meeting of the Joint Committee, September 10- 12, 1968 (United Church Archives, Toronto: Minutes of the Joint Committee for the Preparation of a Hymnal, pp. 124-25. IC JCPH, Box 1, File 1). The Cambridge Hymnal and the BBC Hymn Book were both mentioned as being "excellent collections, but largely unused in Britain today".
3 In the "Introduction" to VU, however, John Ambrose claims that "slightly more than half the collection are older hymns still in active use in worship" (page x).
accompanies a hymn adapted from the HY, "0 Jesus, Think on Me" ("Lord
Jesus" in the HY, 265). OLD 100TH is virtually unique in the repertoire
for its long (over 300 years) association with the same text, "All People
that on Earth do Dwell". It also continues as the tune for the Doxology
sung throughout the English-speaking world, "Praise God from Whom all Blessings
But it is sad. to see others of these early tunes disappearing from the repertoire. The virtual elimination of the twelve "common tunes" of the 1615 Scottish Psalter is one example. Six of these twelve tunes, ABBEY, DUNDEE (WINDSOR), DUNFERMLINE, FRENCH (DUNDEE), MARTYRS, and YORK, were included in the HY andf6tained in the HB. Only DUNFERMLINE, however, is found in VU.
5 Triple metre became a common format for the iambic metre of many texts, beginning with a pickup to the downbeat of the bar and continuing with alternating half-notes and quarter-notes. COMMUNION (ROCKINGHAM, sung to "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", 149) is an example of this tune genre. The early version of WINCHESTER NEW ("On Jordan's Bank", 20) was also in triple rnetre in John Wesley's Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (176 1, under the name FRANKFORT) and other collections.
6 EASTER HYMN, ADESTE FIDELES, and MILES LANE have never left the repertoire in the United Church and its parent denominations. HELMSLEY, 1~owever, was re-introduced to the United Church in the HB and then carried over into VU.
7 The Victorian style is characterized by fairly simple harmonic patterns and slow harmonic rhythm, often coupled with accented melodic dissonance and a tendency to continue the melodic and harmonic motion through breaks in the text phrases for dramatic effect. The melodic dissonances in "Abide with Me" (EVENTIDE, 608), in places such as the second syllable of "Abide" and on the word "fail" in the third phrase of the first verse, are typical. In "Dear God, Who Loves all Humankind" (REST, 608) the motion continues from the word "reclothe" in the first verse through to the end of the verse, providing a breathless, run-on accompaniment to the words. The consummate Victorian hymn collection, Hymns Ancient and Modem (186 1, with many revisions and supplements) also introduced many text and tune pairings which quickly became standard in churches throughout the world, for example "While shepherds watched their flocks" to WINCHESTER OLD, "0 God, Our Help in Ages Past" to ST. ANNE, and "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!" to NICAEA.
8 A simple musical style developed during the great evangelical campaigns beginning in the mid- 19th century, with influences from camp meeting music and the popular music and marches of the day. Simple, diatonic melodies and harmonic patterns with a degree of surface chromaticism and a persistent, repetitious rhythmic drive are typical features.
9 This trend has continued in VU with the introduction of tunes like BEACH SPRING ("Come and Find the Quiet Centre", 115; also 374, 442, 457), HOLY MANNA ("All who Hunger", 460), and WONDROUS LOVE ("What Wondrous Love is This", 147).
10 Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word" and "Lord of the Dance" are two examples.
11 There is a limited history of this practice. The HY introduced a few tunes of "the Church Universal": POLAND and SHEPHERD CARE (Polish and Ukrainian melodies, HY 393 and 492) for example, both arranged by William Henry Hewlett, a member of the HY Committee. The HB included CONFUCIAN TEMPLE CHANT and CHINESE CAROL (HB 61 and 413) in an attempt to recognize partner churches around the world and the increasingly ethnic nature of the United Church itself.
12 The metre of SANTO shifts from a 6/8 to a 3/4 subdivision of the bar, a common feature of Latin American music.
13 It is unfortunate, however, that the Kriewald Kyrie andAmen and the Strathdee Sanctus, introduced by SFGP (numbers 35, 95, and 97, respectively), were excluded from VU. Many congregations have adopted these settings and may be forced to switch.
14 'The Anglican style of chant, however, adopted in both the HY and HB, though little used in the United Church, is missing from VU.
15 For example: NICAEA ("Holy, Holy, Holy") was lowered from E major to D major, MONKLAND ("Let Us with a Gladsome Mind") was lowered from C major to B-flat major. The HY itself had also lowered keys from previous hymn collections. In the Methodist Hymn and Tune Book (1917) and the Book ofPraise (1918), EASTER HYMN ("Jesus Christ is Risen Today", 155) was in D major, with a high F-sharp!. The HY lowered it a full tone to C major.
16 Ron Klusmeier's KARR ("Though Ancient Walls", 69 1) has been raised to Eflat major from its original key of D major. HYMN TO JOY ("Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You", 232) has been raised from F major to G major. LAFFERTY ("Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God", 356), however, appeared in SFGP in E flat major, and has been lowered to D major.
17 The key chosen is not consistently lower, either: WAREHAM (292, 529) appears in A-flat major and A major in the HB, but only in the higher key in VU; KINGSFOLD (625) appears in both F minor and E minor in the HB, but only in the lower key in VU.
18 The HY (1930), Canadian Youth Hymnal (1939) and SFGP (1987) all agreed on ST. PETER for this hymn, yet VU follows the HB.
19See Freedom is Coming (Chapel Hill, NC: Walton Music, 1984). THUMA MINA (572) also comes from this collection.
20 This convention has been common for over a century in "gospel" publications such as the United Church's Songs of the Gospel (1948). The HY, however, followed established denominational hymn book tradition in generally placing all of the words separately in poetic format, the advantage being greater awareness and understanding of the words being sung. Despite repeated calls for words between the staves in the HB, a compromise resulted in which only the words to the first verse were printed between the staves. SFGP chose to print the words to up to four verses between the staves, and VU has followed this practice, setting the limit at five verses.
21 Presumably the Music Leader's Edition, now in production, will remedy this situation.
22 For a hymn in A-flat major, for instance, symbols should be printed in G major with a "capo I " indication (No. 371 would be a good example).
melodic peak on the word "last" in the second system of "Eatfbis Bread
and Never Hunger" (471) is the major-seventh degree of the chord. The V7"
indicated by the symbol in the first printing will create an E-natural/E-flat
clash if anyone is using the chord symbols.
VOICES IN HARMONY: METHODIST & PRESBYTERIAN HYMN BOOKS PRIOR TO CHURCH UNION
by Jennifer Riel
latter part of the nineteenth century, the different branches of the Presbyterian
and Methodist churches in Canada achieved unions that brought into existence
one national body of each tradition. Thus in 1875 there was formed the
Presbyterian Church in Canada, and in 1884 the Methodist Church in Canada.
As each denomination contemplated union, one of the questions that had to be faced was, What hymn book would the new Church use? In the case of the Methodists, the largest of the preunion groups had only three years earlier published a new book, The Methodist Hymn- book. At the first General Conference in 1884 it was decided that, because of "the admitted excellency of the book itself, and the fact that it was copyrighted and already extensively used by the largest of the uniting churches", 1 it be adopted by all congregations of the newly united Methodist Church, with a new preface added to reflect the change within the body of the Church.
The Presbyterians, meanwhile, had decided that a new book should be prepared to serve their recently united Church, and thus The Hymnal of the Presbyterian Church in Canada was issued in 188 1. But they were not long content with that book; only sixteen years later they put out another one, The Book of Praise.
Thus the 1884 Methodist Hymn-book and the 1897 Book of Praise represent the last hymn books produced by the two churches before either contemplated the possibility of uniting with one another. After 1902 both denominations were caught up in discussions about such a union. The hymn books from the pre-union era provide an illuminating contrast to the books published by each denomination in 1917 and 1918, when both churches were deep in negotiations for union. Those two books, along with the first hymn book put out by the United Church in 1930, grant significant insight into the process of accommodation that led to Church union.
Late Nineteenth Century Hymnbooks
In the preface to the 1884 Methodist book we read:
The influence of hymns of praise upon religious life has been felt and acknowledged in all ages, and in all branches of the Christian Church. From the beginning of the great religious awakening of the last century to the present time, the rich treasures of gospel truth and Christian experience, embodied in our noble Wesleyan hymns, have been amolig the most potent forces in the history of Methodism. These hymns have been a liturgy and a confession of faith; promoting the spirit of devotion and soundness of doctrine among "the people called Methodists". 2The singing tradition of the Methodist founders is clearly at the forefront of this very large collection. Of the nine hundred and thirty-six hymns, five hundred and twelve are, amazingly enough, by Charles Wesley! Another sixteen are by John Wesley. After Charles Wesley, the next largest contribution is sixty-six hymns by Congregationalist Isaac Watts.
Chart 1: 1884 and 1897 Hymn Books
The 1917-18 Books
The 1917-18 hymn books give a rather different picture than the somewhat isolationist outlook reflected in their immediate predecessors. The introduction to the 1917 Methodist book begins with a statement about organic unity. "Hymns, rather than Church Polity, Discipline or Creeds, show the essential unity of all Christians.--The compilers then go on to discuss the contribution of Methodism to a truly catholic hymnody, and the importance of unity among all : Christians. It continues: "The committee believes that the present collection, in the wide range of hymns chosen from every branch of the Christian Church, is marked by a like spirit of generous fellowship with all who love our common Master.3 'Me disheartening:',,'' impact of the World War is also addressed, and the promise of Church'~',~, union is raised as a form of new hope. "Yet, in the midst of this',~ distress, those who wait for the morning believe that the hour is,:1`: sensibly nearer when the whole congregation of Christian people dispersed throughout the world shall understand and fulfill the prayer of their exalted Head, that they may be one. 4 The aim of the new hymn book lies in the hope that can be traced in its concluding sentence. "In the days of transition lying before the Church, may this book bring a message of cheer and courage to faithful souls! 5
The preface to the 1918 Book ofPraise strikes a similar note. The compilers speak of the careful process of selecting hymns for the new edition. "While the book in its content, by preserving that which has become endeared by long use and hallowed association, is true to the spirit and tradition of our church, its larger aim is to offer a collection of spiritual songs widely representative of the hymnody of the Church universal. 6
Clearly the process of negotiation for union had made a strong impact on members of both committees. The Book of Praise still gives first place to the metrical psalms, with one hundred and thirty selections from the 1650 Scottish Psalter. But it also includes a greater number of hymns by the Wesleys, and by people like Isaac Watts, William Cowper, F.R. Havergal and James Montgomery. The Methodist Hymn and Tune Book gives a much less prominent role to the Wesleys than was the case in their previous book. Instead of fifty-five percent there is now only twelve percent of the book given to Charles Wesley's hymns, just more than twice as many as are included by Isaac Watts. The items the two books hold in common exceeds the number that are unique to each, though it is clear from the content of the two books that there was a greater readiness on the part of the Methodists for accommodation and change. This may reflect the fact that in 1918 significant numbers of Presbyterians were against the proposed union; a hymn book that too clearly adapted itself to Methodist forms and traditions could have been seen as inflammatory at such a crucial juncture. Chart 2 (see next page) illustrates this shift.
The United Church Hymnary
The committee charged with the responsibility ofproducing a hymn book for the newly formed United Church of Canada took five years to
The 1917-1918 Hymn Books
complete its work, an indication of the thorough and cautious approach of the committee. The Preface to the book states that it is intended to "offer a collection of spiritual songs widely representative ofthe Hymnody of the Church Universal". 7 It continues:
A second purpose, kept steadfastly in mind from beginning to end, has been to provide a hymnody true to the genius, history, and traditions of the Communions which now compose the United Church of Canada. Here will be found the stateliness and tenderness of the Scottish Psalter, the glowing passions and evangelical fervour of the Wesleys, and the lyrical qualities by which Congregational Hymnody has ever been distinguished. 8The composition of the twenty-seven-member committee was according to the ratio of two Presbyterians, two Methodists and one Congregationalist, which roughly coffesponded to the relative size of each of the uniting denominations. It seems clear, however, that the guiding force on the committee was the Rev. Alexander MacMillan, former Presbyterian, who was secretary.9 He had served as secretary to the committee that had produced the 1918 Book of Praise, and his taste and knowledge are reflected in both books.
of Contents of the 1930 Hymnary (HY) bears more than passing resemblance
to that in the Book of Praise. The changes, and there are some,
seem orchestrated to recognize the revivalistic, voluntaristic tradition
within Canadian Methodism. Chart 3 illustrates the percentage of hymns
in the HY that were specific to the Methodist Hymn and Tune Book,
the percentage specific to the Book o Praise, the percentage
that came from both, and the percentage to be found in neither.
Chart 3: The 1930 United Church Hymnary
There was clearly a conscious effort to blend the traditions of the joining denominations, but the committee already had a strong foundation of accommodation from which to work in the 1917-18 books, where there was already a total of three hundred and thirtyeight hymns in common, from which the HY committee used all but thirty-seven.
It is worth noting, therefore, that talk of union actually instigated a process of accommodation at many levels with the denomi-
involved, including their hymn books. This has been largely unmentioned
by the founders and the early historians of Church
saw a natural evolutionary process of accommodation as having taken place,
which eventually led to union. Instead of evolution in the hymnody of the
uniting churches, we see rather active direction and accommodation to blend
together distinct traditions. It is, of course, possible to read too much
from the evidence of hymn books. As with every aspect of Church history,
many factors come into play in the creation of a hymn book: the sentiments
and mindsets of those on the committees, the prevailing attitudes of the
members of the denomination, and the availability and affordability of
the hymns in question. But as the debates that went on prior to the appearance
of Voices United show, hymn books are not simply a collection of
songs, but powerful symbols of the beliefs and social understanding of
1 Methodist Hymn-book (Toronto: Methodist Book and Publishing House, 1884) p. 4.
2 Ibid., p. 4.
3 Methodist Hymn and Tune Book (Toronto: William Briggs Publisher, 1918) p, v. The differences in dates is due to the fact that the volume containing the tunes came out in 1918.
4 Ibid., p. iv.
5 Ibid., p. vi.
6 The Book of Praise (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1918) p. v.
7 The Hymnary (Toronto: United Church Publishing House, 1930) p. iii.
8 'Ibid., p. iv.
9 Readers are directed to the fine article by N. Keith Clifford in the January, 1990, issue of Touchstone,"No Easy Process: Alexander MacMillan and the Birth of the Hymnary".
Sylvia Dunstan lived from May 26, 1955 until July 25, 1993. She packed an enormous amount of living into those thirty-eight years.
She graduated from York University and from Emmanuel College, Toronto. She was ordained in 1980 by Toronto Conference, and later earned a Th.M. from Emmanuel. She served as minister in a New Brunswick pastoral charge, then as chaplain at Whitby Jail, and at the end of her life was minister at Malvern-Emmanuel Church in Toronto. She maintained an important presence as a member of the community at Christos MCC in Toronto. Sylvia's life was short, far too short, and the facts of that life are, at one level, few. And yet the legacy she left to the Church is, by any standard, vast.
She was a gifted person, and one who cherished her gifts, not in the sense of enjoying them for herself, but rather in honouring them, in honing them to a finer and finer point, and in never forgetting that they were first gifts from God, and only later, accomplishments. Sylvia the singer arrived by a different route than the one which gave us the ordained minister. That journey, in its beginnings, was one of the heart and spirit more than of the mind. Being a child of the 50s and 60s allowed her to experience the tailend of a society without mass media.
Nostalgia suggests that, in the days before television, we made our own fun. Much of Sylvia's childhood was spent in the Ontario home of her grandparents, and in that family the time was spent in singing. They sang everywhere, and everything, and all the time. But for a great deal of the time they sang at home and at Church. They sang at services, and at family gatherings, and in the Church choir, and in private. They sang hymns, many hymns, and all kinds of hymns.
Those hymns found their way into her heart and soul and fibre. Sylvia was, in that much singing, irrevocably shaped and formed as a musical being, and as a poet. In her youth, she received musical training from the local nuns, played guitar, wrote poetry, and began writing hymns. Her own testimony suggests that those early creations were consistent with the idiom of the folk age, and therefore subjective and essentially "private", at least in the sense of expressing her own personal and private feelings as a person of faith, rather than the content of that faith. When Sylvia was just nineteen, she met Sister Miriam Therese Winter, and began to learn from her the skill of rendering the Scripture in metric verse. That encounter was the birth of a discipline that would turn her, firmly and wholly, and for the rest of her life, from composing music and texts she herself judged mediocre, toward writing texts that would carry the weight and range of the Good News. She turned herself from expressing her own private experience to articulating the faith of the Church.
Sylvia Dunstan was a wordsmith. She approached her craft with the precision one would expect of a blacksmith, a needleworker, a surgeon. No sloth ever infected her work. No idea was ignored, and no situation was excluded as a source. To spend any time at all with Sylvia was to encounter her at work. In the middle of a conversation, or an event, someone would say something, and it would set her off writing. It was a wonder to watch. She would write feverishly, and then move everything around, shifting lines, crossing out words, rejecting anything she thought facile, judging ruthlessly. If it was a hymn, it would be created, at least for the moment, for a specific tune, and she would sing it, and sing it again, and then again. Then the pen or pencil would reappear. Words and lines were examined with a searching eye. At the point where a softer mind would be finished, she would begin to consult. Other eyes were a resource for her, and so she never shunned advice. In fact, she sought it. Another poet could offer an alternate word or phrase.
A musician would be asked about the marriage of tune and text. Again and again, Bill Kervin and Alan Barthel would be pressed into service as critics and editors of the words and of the bonding of tune and text. Words, phrases, and lines would be re-written again and again. No hymn was "done", in her mind, until she had taken it to the limits of her ability.
Sylvia was a liturgist. The same care she brought to her hymn-writing was unleashed on the liturgy. Whether she was writing a prayer for a service book, a benediction for the congregation, a service for the Conference, an article for Gathering, or editing the work of others, she toiled with the same vigour. She knew the history of the Christian liturgy as few others did, and she brought that history into the present as few others did.
As the editor of Gathering for five years at the close of the 1980s, she brought a searching standard to the work of others, seeking to elevate the quality of the publication to its highest attainable level. The pages of Gathering, under her supervision, featured the best the United Church had to offer of its current and living liturgy. The publication often featured Sylvia's own work also, either metrical Psalms, or carefully crafted prayers. Her goal was to bring the very best of current liturgical practice to the attention of every leader of worship in our church. In the service of that goal, Sylvia sought out writers, wrote her own offerings, edited the work of others, and searched out a balance of offerings. The result was a publication that worship leaders across the United Church and beyond found useful and dependable.
Sylvia was a Psalrnist. One of her remarkable skills was her ability to work within the discipline of rendering the Psalms in metric verse. Many of those Psalms appeared in Gathering over the years. These works are important for their clarity and precision. They matter also because they represent the dawning of her hymnwriting abilities. It was a tuming-point in her creative life when she learned to render the Scriptures in verse. That turned her from writing out of her own feelings only, and Sylvia herself identified it as a birthplace for her as a creative artist.
Her work as a Psalmist is one of the many places where she touches the roots of the Reformed faith she embraced. It is bedrock Reform Tradition to render the Psalms in verse, and she did it well, knowing the tradition in which she stood.
Sylvia was a lover. She was a lover of God; of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; of Creator, Christ and Spirit; of words and syntax, of liturgy, of high praise, of ideas, of friends who shared life and thought with her. Twice in her life, she established significant primary relationships, and those who shared love with her found a profound passion and a steadfast commitment.
All the other people she loved in her life enjoyed her generosity of spirit, her steadfast care and her enduring attention. Sylvia never turned aside from those who had become significant to her. The people in those relationships remained important to her for all of her life. She loved those who were her colleagues in the Church and in ministry, who shared her passion for praise, and she opened to them a care of intellect and a passion of soul that both honoured them and revealed herself
Sylvia was a person of wit and humour. Nothing prevented her from enjoying the inconsistencies of life, the juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous, the clash of encounter between sacred and earthy. A perfect example is one of her favourite stories from the chapel of the jail. In the institution, according to Sylvia, Holy Communion is celebrated with wine, because it keeps, and wafers, because they can be counted. But one inmate who came to services had an inordinate fondness for the wine. When the cup came to him, he would drain it. For several weeks this happened. Sylvia grew weary of it, and was exasperated over the need to start the liturgy over again in the middle with another cup of wine. It was a problem that needed a solution.
her chapel assistants, another inmate, offered to provide it. The following
Sunday he would serve with her, and deal with the matter. It was so. Sylvia
went down the row with the wafers, "The body of Christ broken for you,
the body of Christ,
the body of Christ The assistant followed, "The blood of Christ shed for you, the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ Then
she heard him say, "The blood of Christ, shed for you. And if you drink it all down again, I'll knock your *%#&@ing
head off." Even a situation which upset all the proper and high liturgical sensibilities she possessed, could not dampen
Sylvia's appreciation for something so outrageous as to be truly funny.
Sylvia Dunstan's work gained a well-deserved international recognition. Many established bodies understood her hymns to have enduring merit. The Hymn Society of the United States and Canada recognized her abilities and accomplishments, and asked her to present her work at one of their annual meetings. At that gathering she was found by GIA of Chicago, who soon became her publishers. In 1996, three years after her death, Alan Barthel accepted on her behalf, a fell owship degree in the Hymn Society.
But to go back a little. For the 1984 General Council meeting in Morden, Manitoba, original hymns were solicited on the theme, "The Saving Significance of Jesus". As a result, Sylvia's hymn "Christus Paradox", to be found at 2 10 in Voices United (VU), was one of two selected from over three hundred offerings. In that text, she demonstrates her unique ability to keep all the theological balls in the air, and in tension with one another. So, in this remarkable hymn, Sylvia introduces us to the Lord who is at once both Lamb and Shepherd, both prince and slave; the One we both scorn and crave, the Lord whose life and saving work is a seemingly endless tale of paradox, of a narrow way and a spacious love, of a face transfigured in light and twisted in agony. The paradoxical understanding is captured in each verse with the unforgettable line, "You, the everlasting instant".
Sylvia was a person of uncompromising integrity. In her writing she sought always for the perfect marriage of phrase and doctrine, never sacrificing one for the other. Her hymns give voice to the core of the faith. Her rendering of the Apostles' Creed opens that confession to many who might otherwise not experience its vigour. "I believe in God Almighty, Father of all things that be."
Sylvia's original wry footnote reads, "'Author' may be substituted for 'Father' by the theologically correct".
Who could classify her? She stood on the left and on the right. She demonstrated a fearless ability to wade through the boxes. She was never ideologically bound; in fact, she set about bursting the bounds. She was orthodox in the exact sense of the word - right praise. There was for her no split between holy and profane. She brought to her work and her life a theological substance not often found, and an ability and a willingness to encounter difficult doctrine. One of her colleagues, Bill Kervin, remarked, "You know you're getting at the Gospel when the categories don't apply." That was true of Sylvia. She was impossible to categorize. It was because she sought insight and poetry and truth beyond the categories. She would never espouse an idea simply because it fit a group with which she identified. Rather, she constantly pushed the edges, seeking more and more, looking for what might happen.
It was that quality which enabled her to produce such a wide range of work. In her hymns she demonstrated her own blend of paradox. She was an iconoclastic orthodox believer, and invested her work with that adherence to time-honoured doctrine coupled with an ability to be strongly critical of it. All this was blended with an earthy turn of phrase, strong theological content, deep personal spirituality, and a grasp of language that led her again and again to exactly the right word or phrase.
There is a passion that stirs the soul, and rallies us for mission in "Go to the World" (VU 420). "Go preach the cross where Christ renews life's worth, ... Go into every place. ... Go struggle, bless and pray; ... for I am with you 'til the age shall end." In that hymn, as in "Through the Heart of Every City" (VU 584), we find a clear understanding of the call of God that sends us to be the Church in the midst of the hard places, the hurting places, the ugly places. But for Sylvia, the call never stops at easing the hurt. It always goes on to offer the poor and the oppressed not only the cup of cold water, but also the Water of Life.
an invitation to satisfy the needs of the heart in "All Who Hunger" (VU
460). "Come from wilderness and wand'ring.
Here in truth we will be fed.... Come from loneliness and longing." The promise of grace in the Scriptures rings in the refrain, "Taste and see the grace eternal. Taste and see that God is good". We find a tender expression of personal grief sustained through faith, in the hymn to be found in the Funeral section of VU (No. 494), "Those Hearts We Have Treasured". "Remember days of gladness; remember times of joy; remember all the moments that grief cannot destroy." "We've learned to treasure kindness, we've learned that grace provides, we've learned to be together, we've learned that love abides." "Morning Meditation", not found in VU, is a satisfying vehicle for the personal community with God that comes from meditation and prayer, "How deep the silence of the soul that lives within your grace ... Like unseen chimes on moving air ... until we turn and find ourselves held fast in your embrace."
Sylvia's writing covers the ground. There is to be found there a vehicle for high praise, an expression of communion with God, the agony cry of prayer from the darkness, the call to justice and the demand of compassion. She wrote that way because she lived that way. She knew the darkness of battling her own demons, and of dealing with the pressure of the world, and the particular cruelty that can be born of an excess of righteousness. She knew the fruit of the hours of prayer, the discipline of craft and draft and edit. She possessed a rapier intelligence which combined with a love of life and a sense of the ridiculous. It made her a murderous wit. In a day with Sylvia, it was possible to be silly, prayerful, mischievous, rigorous, creative, inventive, and spiritual, and to grapple with next Sunday's lessons, the third verse of a hymn, and a plan to renew the Church or reform the world, whichever came first.
Sylvia Dunstan was a priest. It was not simply her job to be a priest of the church; it was her entire being. She lived a life of deep spirituality, and drew both strength and fulfillment from it. When the time came that she knew she would die, her choices were the choices of a priest. In the days of her dying, she chose formal confession, anointing with oil, and daily Eucharist. Sylvia went toward death with her spiritual life in her control. She was confessed by another priest. She received the Eucharist daily at the hands of other priests. She was anointed for dying. She was faithfully on the road to death.
She moved toward her death with deliberation. She chose the liturgist, the preacher, and the presider at the Table for her funeral. She consulted with those people to choose the hymns, all her own, and to shape both the content and the ethos of the service. She said when she asked me to preach, "I want you because I know you will not do anything awful, or sloppy, or sentimental." When I told that story at the funeral, the laughter was a clear sign that everyone recognized Sylvia in it. It was clear to everyone that this was to be the funeral of a priest.
At the same time, she remained concerned for the life and growth and faithfulness of the people near her. When she met with Bill Kervin, the liturgist at her funeral, she said there would be incense. He said that he did not know how to swing a censer. Sylvia responded, "You are a liturgist. Don't you think it's about time you learned? It's important that you learn something from this process." When the time came, there was a full church, the flame of the Paschal Candle shone, incense rose, and the assembled sang out "You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd", "All Who Hunger", "Go to the World". There was testimony to her life and character, preaching of the Gospel, and the Lord's Table.
Sylvia died at her home, surrounded and cared for by friends who loved and cherished her, and understood her value to the Christian Church. She was dressed for burial by those friends and by another priest. Four hundred strong gathered to praise God for Sylvia Dunstan. Her own hymns were sung. Remembrance was both tender and powerful. The Gospel was a strong comfort. The Church sent its faithful daughter forward into grace and glory, singing the praises she herself had written. Her life and work can be summed up in the words that appear on her grave marker:
Sylvia G. Dunstan A Priest Forever.
AND PSALMS: AN INCLUSIVE VERSION
by Victor Gold, Thomas
Hoyt, Jr., Sharon Ringe, Susan
Throckmorton and Barbara
Withers Toronto: Oxford
University Press, 1995. $19.95
The Church, faithful to the Lord's command to go into all the world teaching and baptizing, has been a missionary movement requiring translations of its primal texts into every language of the speaking and hearing world. Faithful teachers and preachers have attempted to speak in terms the culture would understand. The critical question has always been how to speak in a given time and space the same message received by the apostles. The critical question has been how to speak in a given time and space the same message received by the apostles. What may we say now to be faithful to the Great Tradition?
This volume's sub-title, An Inclusive Version, reminds us that this is not a translation but an edition with an agenda, It joins a library of such ventures: Thomas Jefferson tried it; some years later The Woman's Bible found its way into print; and this century has witnessed a plethora of translation-paraphrases.
Inclusivity, the culturally mandated agenda for the waning days of this millenium, is the stated purpose of this work:
This version has undertaken the effort to replace or rephrase all gender-specific language not referring to particular historical individuals, all perjorative references to race, color, or religion, and all identifications of persons by their physical disability alone, by means of paraphrase, alternative renderings, and other acceptable means of conforming the language of the work to an inclusive idea.The editors claim to reflect, and even to anticipate, developments in the English language. It is their "hope to provide direction and sustenance to those who long for justice (xxii)
(viii - ix)
The General Introduction is essential reading if one is to under stand %nclusivity" in the manner intended by the editors. The chief worry is generated by feminist concerns. But there are many others: one cannot speak of a slave, the word must be enslaved; in like manner one cannot speak of the lame or the blind or the poor lest that appear to be their only identity. Dark and darkness are potentially unacceptable terms, as are right hand, obey, discipline, and fear. The editors wish to remove language from the text that may be understood as supportive of many injustices they see in our culture at the end of this century. Their task appears endless. The question is: Is it worthy? Can a narrative live authentically with any imposed agenda?
A look at their rendering of two very familiar inclusive passages is instructive.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father-Mother and of the beloved Child and of the Holy Spirit....The editors in their righteous zeal appear to have forgotten that they are working with a narrative, not a set of propositions. In this narrative, the identification of which god is to be worshipped is always a central theme. Within a multi-cultural world of gods and religions, it will not do to replace identifying names or pronouns with the simple repetition of "God"; neither the reader nor hearer will be sure of which deity is now invoked or described.
For God so loved the world that God gave God's only Child, so that everyone who believes in that Child may not perish but may have eternal life.
And what of Father-Mother and beloved Child? Does this formulation include or separate? Do we now require re-baptisms in this new name or do we have a new religion? And what about Child? The editors have chosen the substitution of a child for a son in order to make it possible for all to identify with Jesus. One may question the desire to identify with a role that has been assigned to another in this drama. Once again, what is lost is narrative specificity.
The real problem is the received narrative itself. There is Mary to whom the angel announced a son; what happens to this mother when the one Jesus called Father becomes "Father-Mother'l? In this culturally determined search for justice, what can one do with the biblical account of the life and death of Jesus? Or what if the Old Testament were included - as it surely must be to make sense - what would one do with the account of Job? The Church has claimed that this complex story, both Old and New Testament - this story of death and resurrection, this story of the Triune God, cannot be domesticated. The God Jesus called Father did not remove the cup.
The editors, in their concern for inclusive justice, have understood themselves as having a space outside the narrative from which to determine good and ill. The Church's worship allows no such space. In the communal reading of the Psalms and the hearing of the lessons, we are all given roles and placed within the world of the Bible. The narrative itself provides our inclusion.
- Blanche A. Jenson
by Ezra Schabas Toronto:
University of Toronto Press,
1994, 374 pp. $50.75 hardcover, or $27.50 paperback.
Ezra Schabas' biography tells the life-story of the man whose name was the synonym for Canadian music, including Church music, to several generations. Born in 1893, he began his career very young, making his debut on the Massey Hall organ when he was ten. He had marked abilities beyond music as well, also passing the entrance exam for Jarvis Collegiate in 1903. To top off his good fortune, he was extremely lucky in his parents: Alexander, his father, was a Presbyterian minister and hymnologist, who was the power behind both the 1918 Presbyterian Book ofPraise and the 1930 United Church Hymnary. Winnie, his mother, was tirelessly encouraging of her son's precocious triumphs. The entire family spent two years in Edinburgh (1905-1907) where Ernest's musical training was intensified, and then, for a short and troubled time, he was organistchoirmaster of Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto. In the constant tug-of-war between the possibility of European musical training and his family's desire for his university education, his family's authority won, and he took three years in political science at the University of Toronto. During that time he met and began to court Elsie Keith, his future wife.
But fate took an unfortunate hand in his future when, in 1914, he and a wealthy patron, Mrs. Burgess, were caught at the Wagner festival in Germany by the war. Naively, he stayed on, and early in 1915 was interned at Ruhlsben, an imprisonment that was to last for three and a half years. Over his long and successful career, the beneficial experiences of those prison years were stressed again and again, so that they became a tale of moral and professional growth, and of adversity bravely bome.
Nevertheless, with all the cheerful accounting said and done, he lost those years and with them, probably, his chances of taking training for a distinguished career in composing and conducting. Toronto granted him a B.A., in absentia, and he was able also to qualify for the Oxford D.Mus., but both his general and his musical educations were stunted.
On the personal side, however, he and Elsie had maintained their love, and a few months after his release in 1918, when he was offered a plum among church music positions in Canada, organist at Toronto's Timothy Eaton Church, they began a long, happy married life.
From that time on, all Toronto's musical opportunities were his: he was Principal of the Toronto (later Royal) Conservatory of Music (1926-42), Dean of the University's Faculty of Music (1927-52), and Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1931-56). He began to conduct Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" in 1923, and continued to do so until 1953, featuring many famous singers, among them Lois Marshall, Maureen Forrester, Mary Simmons, Jon Vickers, and James Milligan.
In 1935 he was knighted, despite a concerted drive by the supporters of Edward Johnson - Canada's other famous musician, who was both Chairman of the Board of the Conservatory, General Manager of New York's Metropolitan Opera, and last but not least, the father-in-law of Ontario Tory leader, George Drew - for the knighthood to go to him. Schabas is largely silent about the intense infighting which must have gone on, but MacMillan became our musical knight, both a home-grown and a stay-at-home one.
A far less happy event was the controversy between MacMillan and Sidney Smith, President of the University, over the fate of the Conservatory and the Faculty of Music. It was a bitter turf war, and when it was over MacMillan was through with the University and had lost forever his long-held pinnacle position among Canada's musicians. Schabas does not spare MacMillian in his final comments: "He failed to realize, or didn't want to realize, that he had become too used to power, too used to his opinions being supreme." He recovered, however, from the exhaustion and depression following the battle, to work again in his many fields, from teaching, composing, and conducting, to collecting and promoting our folk songs. He was a strong advocate of the Canada Council, and tireless in introducing the new radio and recording technologies that were revolutionizing the musical world.
When he died in 1973, he could look far back to the days of the parlour organ, a gifted and fortunate man who had enjoyed a wonderfully various achievement:
There had been two motivah ing forces in his life: his Presbyterian sense of social responsibility and community, and, emanating from that, his resolve to convert musical Canada from a colony to a nation (p. 3 10).By no means the least of his good luck is the balance, warmth, experience and musical expertise of his biographer, E7,ra Schabas.
- Clara Thomas
by Peter Wyatt Princeton
Theological Monograph Series No. 42, Pickwick Publications, Allison Park,
Pennsylvania, 1996. 197 pp.
According to Peter Wyatt, who is the United Church's national staff person for Theology and Faith, John Calvin's christology can inform such diverse contemporary issues as ecological theology, ecumenism, inter-faith relations, as well as offering correctives to contemporary trends such as a loss of a sense of God's transcendence, a focus on the historical Jesus in isolation from the Christ of faith, and the modem suspicion about the language of atonement.
Tantalizing as they ate, such considerations occupy only a threepage Afterword in the book. This work is, in fact, a careful study in historical theology, a revision of Wyatt's doctoral dissertation. The main focus is on what many scholars view as a pervasive tension, if not a contradiction, in Calvin's theology: on the one hand there is the 16th century Protestant evangelical committed to proclaim Jesus Christ as the sole mediator between God and fallen humanity, and to preach the Scriptures as the sole means of coming to knowledge of God's mercy; on the other, there is the humanist scholar who engages in informed debate with classical philosophers and the great theologians of the Middle Ages, who has a profound appreciation for the sciences and humanities, and who sees the world around him as a theatre of God's glory.
In five tightly packed chapters, Wyatt probes this tension, through an exploration of Calvin's understanding of the interrelated themes of christology and creation. What becomes clear is that Calvin allows for no contradiction between the person and work of Christand the knowledge of God available through the creation, because Christ is the incarnation of the eternal Logos through whom all things were made. While God's glory, will, and nature are clearly visible in the creation, the blinding influence of sin means that, apart from the corrective lenses of Scripture, nature leaves people with a distorted picture of God. Because Christ is the eternal Logos, "the God who of old appeared to the patriarchs was no other than Christ". While Wyatt's presentation of Calvin seems to me to be generally quite sound, I feel there is one important omission: he doesn't point out the central role of the Church, which for Calvin is "the mother of believers".
There are two subsections in this book that I found especially thought-provoking. One is Wyatt's discussion of the close relationship between awesome reverence for God's majesty and loving gratitude for God's mercy - Calvin sees this relationship as being at the very heart of faith. While faith is properly directed toward God's saving mercy, it requires as its presupposition the fear and adoration of God's majestic otherness. Without such reverence, there is no awareness of a need for mercy, and without a sense of God's majesty there is no confidence that God's mercy can bring about the salvation it promises. I'm not sure I would put the matter in the same way that Calvin does, but I find myself wondering whether I put sufficient emphasis on the holiness and majesty in my own preaching, and whether failing to do so may undermine my more characteristic emphasis on God's benevolence.
The second sub-theme I want to mention is Wyatt's discussion of the Image of God (Imago Dei), a topic which for Calvin has both spiritual and political/ethical implications. According to Wyatt, Calvin makes use of two interpretations of this theme. In one, the image of God is seen as the human capacity in the pre-fallen state to reflect, like in a mirror, the perfection of God. While this ability has been corrupted through the fall, it can be recovered through regeneration and sanctification. The image of God is seen most perfectly in Christ Himself, but it can be seen also in those who have genuinely joined themselves to Christ. But in "the unregenerate", the image of God, although corrupted, is not obliterated. It is this corrupted remnant of the image which constitutes the second interpretation of the imago dei. The image of God is a possession of human nature as such, which distinguishes us from other creatures. The capacity to reason is usually seen as the essence of this image, and because of this image, which all humans possess, murder and oppression are not just a violation of human dignity, but a violation of God, for He "deems himself violated in their person".
This book is not an accessible introduction to Calvin for the average reader. Its origins as a doctoral thesis, written primarily for other scholars, its use of Latin phrases and specialized terminology, limit its appeal to those who have some acquaintance with historical theology in general and the Reformation in particular. But for those who are willing to make the effort, it is a careful and thoughtful excursion into the thought of one of the theological giants of our tradition. And it is heartening to remember that it was written by someone from within our own ranks.
- Ross Smillie
by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli Downers Grove, III: InterVarsity Press, 1994.406pp $24.75.
As the sub-title suggests, this book is to give the reader "a book that lists, outlines or summarizes all the major arguments for all the major Christian teachings that are challenged by unbelievers today - such as the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the trustworthiness of Scripture, and the divinity and resurrection of Christ - and answers the strongest and commonest objections against these doctrines" (p. 13). Written by the prolific Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft and his colleague Ronald K. Tacelli, the book is intended to be a Summa Apologetica, i.e., a summary of apologetics presented in small pieces, written for the non-specialist.
It will be easier for many readers to pick up the book and plunge into the middle, rather than beginning with the Introduction. The Introduction and the chapter on objective truth will present the greatest challenge to readers unfamiliar with traditional philosophical and theological definitions of terms, such as love, reason, will, and intellect. The explanations of why Christian doctrine makes sense are often easier to grasp than the explanations of why Christian doctrine should make sense.
At the same time, a reading of these sections makes it clear how much more than just the forniat has been borrowed from the most famous of all Summas, the one by Thomas Aquinas. Kreeft and Tacelli bracket their explanations and defences of orthodox theological positions with a defence of classical Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophical and theological premises. In particular they argue against a subjectivism that not only distorts orthodox doctrine, but undermines the apologetic enterprise. Theirs is a defence not only of particular Christian positions, but also of the rationality of traditional theological discourse.
Their arguments are also "traditional" in that they draw on tradition-citing authorities like Augustine, Anselm, Thomas, and Luther. At the same time, they refer frequently to twentieth century authors, especially to those favourites of British evangelicalism, G. K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and C. S. Lewis. For those looking for more current references, they do use Star Trek as a metaphor, although it is the "traditional" Star Trek, the original series, that they use and not more recent incarnations of that classic science fiction show.
For readers interested in modem theology of a feminist, liberationist, or political nature, this book is not likely to have great appeal. Both in method and substance, this is a conservative book. Indeed it is a statement of the substance of a particular stream of the tradition, despite the authors' claim that they are dealing with unchanging realities and not time-bound opinions. Its treatment of things is, nevertheless, readable, clear and concise, and therefore very useful. Those inclined to dismiss the contribution of such a book might well consider the words of the master painter to his young prot6g6 in Chaim Potok's novel, My Name is Asher Lev: "Only one who has mastered a tradition has a right to attempt to add to it or to rebel against it."
Hauerwas and Willimon argue in their book, Resident Aliens, that modem apologetic has done more to transform the Gospel by the world than the world by the Gospel. They claim that instead of building palatable theologies to win people over to an acceptance of the existence of God, they argue that we should be building faithful communities to win people over to commitment to God. I think it's plain that Kreeft and Tacelli are not attempting to translate the Gospel into terms acceptable to "modern" people, but rather are offering a traditional defence of Christian doctrine. It's true, however, that they do not address Christian doctrine concerning the Church. Although they acknowledge the importance of the faithfulness of the Christian in communicating the Gospel to others, they have no chapter dedicated to the Church, and the discussions of salvation and non-Christian religions are written in highly individualistic terms.
Nonetheless, it is difficult to see how the Church can be faithful without thinking clearly about its own doctrinal tradition, and to this end Kreeft and Tacelli's book is a very useful aid.
- Erin Phillips
In the introduction, Harold Wells expresses his gratitude to the layman who invited him to speak at an ecumenical seminar on the subject: "What would the world be like if we lived the way God wants us to live?" Wells, a United Church minister and theology teacher at Emmanuel College, says that when first confronted with this question "it was immediately obvious to me that, of course, it would be a socialist world". Thus in his Preface Wells outlines the questions he hopes to address:
This book is intended to be a modest contribution to an enormously important debate in theology: Does Christian faith lead us in one political direction rather than another? More specifically, does our Christian faith lead us in the direction of "socialism", as so many major theologians of this century - Rauschenbush, Barth, Tillich, Moltmann, Soelle, Guti6rrez, Miguez Bonino, Radford Reuther - have suggested? Does the present collapse of communism and the "triumph of capitalism," as well as the current crisis of democratic socialism in many places, mean that "Christian Socialism" has lost its credibility? Is there a future for socialism at all? This is an interdisciplinary study, an exercise in Christian political theology that draws heavily upon the information and insights provided by historians and social sciences.Wells adds his name to the list of theologians, including Canadians like Roger Hutchinson, Ben Smillie and Gregory Baum, who draw from the Gospel the conviction that the socialist tradition must not be allowed to die. He argues that capitalism as it is practised today is a false idol inherently destructive of the human.
At the same time Wells looks at both the destructive and the humane in socialism's past, and analyses various kinds of deniocratic socialism. He pursues how certain characteristics of socialism are both necessary and possible in any coming world economy. He recognizes that Christianity always stands in tension with the dominant culture, and with every political system, including socialism. He recognizes also, however, that the Christian faith calls us into the political arena. While the kingdom of God is not to be identified with any earthly kingdom, it does concern earthly kingdoms.
This is a balanced, probing book. At a time when the word "socialism" has an almost exclusively negative connotation, he presents it as a viable alternative to the principalities and powers of consumerism and acquisition. At a time when one of his mentors, George Grant, saw pesons as increasingly reduced to a mere function of the market and technology, Wells speaks of a future where a more just and mutually caring human society and world can become possible. In doing so, he sees Christianity and socialism as having a common affinity and hope.
- Vernon R. Wishart
by Charles Templeton Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. 1996 233pp. $29.99.
This book is of added interest to me because I had the pleasure of hearing Charles Templeteon in the early fifties when he came on a preaching mission to Edmonton. Though sceptical about large evangelistic meetings, the United Church was among those who sponsored the mission. Their hesitancy may have been overcome when it became known that Templeton had interrupted his evangelistic crusades to go to Princeton to study. Furthermore, after his graduation, he had the imprimatur of the National Council of Churches, USA. I remember being impressed with his preaching, particularly his humour. The' surprise and dismay among church people was intense when, not long after, he announced that he had lost his faith and was leaving the Church.
In his book, Templeton gives' his reasons for rejecting Christian faith. It's important to note that, he doesn't do so with anger or bitterness, but rather writes with warmth towards Church people,whom he says have treated him with friendliness and kindness.
I was disconcerted, however, by the simplistic understanding of Christian faith that he holds, disconcerted because he is so obviously an intelligent and sophisticated person. "Why," I asked myself, "would a man of Templeton's intellectual equipment be so sophomoric in his understanding of the Christian tradition?" We can only conjecture, but it seems possible, even likely, that when he reflects on what Christianity is, his own fundamentalist background is still the operating one. One can't help but wonder what happened to him at Princeton, where he was almost certainly exposed to a pattern of thinking that is quite different than the literalism that he is still questioning in this book. It seems clear that he did not find another perpective that he could own.
It is not surprising, therefore, that he was on a collision course. Once he started questioning, the whole thing fell apart. He found in the Bible things "beyond reason and just contradictory to life". His conclusion was that "there is no God; that the Bible is not the word of God; that Jesus was not the Son of God". He states that the reason for writing the book was his desire to get people to look at the question of faith in God and to come to some decision "on the basis of reason and rationale and reality". If people do this they will find his conclusions to be based on facts and reality.'
Seeking to base our lives on "facts and reality" is not a bad goal, but 1 would suggest that truly rational persons are those who accommodate their frame of reference to the facts and reality they are examining. Thus people use certain means to find out the composition of water, other means to understand the way money works in our society, and still other means to understand love and hate, gratitude and jealousy. A student in astronomy can say, "I now know more clearly the elements in the atmosphere of Mars," and in the same breath can say "I now know my fiance better than I did before." In both instances the word "know" is used legitimately, though differently.
If we recognize that
there is knowledge which is uncovered and conveyed by means other than
those employed in a laboratory, or other than that which is provided by
certain kinds of historical research, we are actually basing our lives
more genuinely on "facts and reality". And we will be aware that the closer
we are to the life and death issues which concern us as human beings, the
more we have to employ poetry, song, story, parable, legend, myth, and
even humour to convey the truth about them. This
awareness will help us to distinguish the different kinds of literature that we find in the Bible.
One of the most delightful and revealing chapters in the book is Noah and the Great Flood. This is part of it:
Even a casual reading of the story will make it evident that it is not fact but legend. So many and so obvious are the incongruities that the case against its validity as history hardly needs to be argued. Nevertheless~, let us note some of them.... Naturalists have estimated that there were at the time approximately 40,000 varietes of marnmali, 1600 reptilia, thousands of avian creatures, and approximately 700,000 insect species. How, pray, does one go about capturing two of each, confirm that they are male and female, transport and then house them in segregated enclosures?... How does one family feed them daily, clean out their quarters, and dispose of the excrement - especially when there are only eight people to do it, and Noah and his wife are six hundred years old!Shades of Bill Cosby's wonderfully humourous monologue on Noah and the Ark! The only problem is that Templeton is serious. While he allows that there may be other dimensions to understanding, his mind-set is that of a literalist, the very thing he claims to abhor.
Templeton has not escaped his fundamentalist roots. As a result, he is unable to explore the imaginative ways in which Scripture conveys a life of faith that continues to expand and transform our own. And for a person of Templeton's sophistication it is surprising that he seems unaware of the main-stream Christian theological tradition.
- Vernon R. Wishart
John Ambrose was Managing Editor of Voices United.
Brian Fraser is Principal of St. Andrew's Hall at U.B.C., and Associate Professor of Church History at the Vancouver School of Theology.
Bruce Harding is Music Facilitator for the Wilfrid Pastoral Charge in Bay of Quinte Conference, and a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.
Jenson, a Lutheran, is a private scholar and theologian who lives in
Lynette Miller is minister of Southwest Interlake Pastoral Charge, Manitoba.
Phillips, an Anglican, is a chaplain at Lethbridge Community "College
and the University of Lethbridge, sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran,
Presbyterian and United churches.
Ross Smillie is minister at St. Andrew's United Church, Lacombe, Alberta.
Riel, a graduate of Queen's University, is presently a
a book and magazine publishing course at Centennial College, Toronto.
Clara Thomas is Professor of English Emerita of York University, Toronto.
Mac Watts at the time of his retirement was associate professor of Historical and Contemporary Theology at the University of Winnipeg.
Wishart is a retired United Church minister living in Edmonton.