The Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches and the Psalter Hymnal Committee of the United Reformed Churches in North America met in joint session beginning Wednesday evening, October 25, through Friday morning, October 27, at the Bethel URC church building in Jenison, Michigan. Rev. Douwe Agema, Mrs. Daphne Jasperse, Rev. Ed Knott, Rev. Rand Lankheet, Mr. Chris Nobels, Rev. Derrick VanderMeulen Dr. Christine van Halen-Faber, Rev. George van Popta, and Rev. Dick Wynia were present. Dr. Nick Gootjes was not able to attend, due to his teaching duties at the Theological College.
According to our custom, since the Psalter Hymnal Committee served as hosts for this meeting, Rev. Knott served as chairman, and Rev. Wynia served as secretary. Rev. Knott opened our meetings with a brief meditation on Psalm 148, and led us in prayer.
After reviewing the minutes of our last joint meeting, in Ancaster in April 2006, the respective committees reported on the assignments we had been given in previous meetings. These assignments consisted mainly of reviewing a number of hymns with which we had some concerns, but, which we also thought might be improved with word or tune changes. Concerns with words include such things as archaic language, individualism, or sentimentalism; concerns with tunes include a poor match between the tune and the words, or too high a setting for congregational singing. The committees researched the hymns and made recommendations, either to make improvements, or, not to include the hymn in the “Gross List”.
The committees also reported on other assignments, including: research done into the question, “May we sing songs addressed to the Holy Spirit?”; arrangements made for experts in songbook publishing to speak to us about preparations for going to print and copyright issues and, for a hymn writer to speak to us about issues related to poetry in psalmody and hymnody; and contact made with a musical expert who is willing to serve as a resource for the committee, particularly when we have questions about harmonization.
Rev. Lankheet and Rev. van Popta have almost completed the series of articles familiarizing the churches with the Principles and Guidelines which were adopted by our respective synods in 2004; these articles have been published in the Christian Renewal and the Clarion. We decided that when the series is completed, we will put them together in booklet form, and distribute them to the consistories, and, to make the articles, as well as the Principles and Guidelines themselves, available in a Web site.
Mr. Chris Nobels and Rev. Wynia will write to Dr. C. van Dam and Rev. M. VanderHart, professors of Old Testament at the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches, and at Mid-America Reformed Seminary respectively, for advice about the appropriate way to translate and handle the Name, “Yahweh”, in the Song Book. We reviewed and approved the Common Report that we will be presenting to our synods in 2007.
On Thursday morning, the committee enjoyed an informative presentation made by Joyce Borger and Lynn Setsma of CRC Publications, on the subjects of music editing and the copyright process. Committee members asked a variety of questions, and we found it very helpful to be alerted to some of the aspects of the process that lies ahead when song selection is completed.
Following brief reports on the activities of the two committees since our last combined meeting in April 2006, the committee turned once again to a review of hymns that were found in our list of tentative song selections. The hymns we reviewed during this meeting had been taken from the “new” Trinity Hymnal, a production of Great Commissions Publications, and used by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and by the Presbyterian Church in America. We considered a total of 87 hymns. Once again, many were referred for further study to the respective committees, to see whether changes could be made, to make the hymns more suitable for inclusion in our new Song Book. The committees will review these hymns, and prepare recommendations for our next combined meeting.
Apart from evaluating hymns in the light of our principles and guidelines, the committee must also give consideration to which category a particular hymn might fit into, such as, Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, atonement, etc. When the song book is completed, we will review our selections to make sure that there is a good balance and proportion among the various categories. We want to make sure that we include the best hymns possible. We also want to be alert to those areas in which we need more good hymns. In addition to searching existing hymnals, and considering submissions from the churches, the committee will also consider commissioning hymns to be written, to meet the need.
When it was time to bring our meetings to a close Friday at noon, after agreeing to meet, D.V., in April 2007 in Ancaster, committee members expressed their thanks to the Lord and to one another for the able leadership of Rev. Knott, for the gracious hospitality of the Bethel URC, and for the good spirit which once again prevailed in the meeting. Rev. Derrick VanderMeulen led us in closing prayer.
The committees welcome the questions and suggestions of the churches and of individuals, regarding anything you have read here, or in the articles produced by Rev. Lankheet and Rev. van Popta, or any other concern that you might have. It is the constant prayer of the committee that the Lord may bless our work so that His Name is glorified, and the churches are built up, the Lord willing, through the use of a new Song Book in worship. You may contact Rev. Dick Wynia at firstname.lastname@example.org, or, PO Box 959, Wyoming, Ontario, or, Mr. Chris Nobels, at email@example.com, or c/o Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise c/
o Theological College, 110 West 27th Street, Hamilton, Ontario, L9C 5A1.
For the committees, Rev. Dick Wynia