Press Release of the Joint Meetings of the Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise and the Song Book Committee of the URCNA November 10-11, 2005

Our committees met together Thursday, November 10 and Friday, November 11, in Jenison, Michigan, at the Bethel United Reformed Church. Rev. Douwe Agema, Mr. Chris Nobels, Dr. Christine van Halen-Faber, and Rev. George VanPopta were present from the Book of Praise Committee, while Mrs. Daphne Jasperse, Rev. Ed Knott, Rev. Rand Lankheet, Rev. Dennis Royall, Rev. Derrick VanderMeulen, Rev. Allen VanderPol and Rev. Dick Wynia were present from the URC Song Book Committee. Dr. Niek Gootjes of the Book of Praise Committee was not able to attend.

Since the URC Song Book Committee was acting as host for these meetings, Rev. Knott served as chairman, and Rev. Wynia served as secretary. Rev. Knott opened our meetings with a brief meditation on Psalm 147:7f. We sang from this psalm, as found in #302 of the Psalter Hymnal, and Rev. Knott led us in prayer.

After reviewing the minutes of our last joint meeting, in Ancaster in April 2005, we had a brief discussion of the reasons why there is some reluctance among the United Reformed Churches to include all 150 Anglo-Genevan psalms in the proposed song book. We also discussed the question of including psalms in their entirety. The discussion eventually turned to the issues we expect to face in promoting the new song book in our respective federations. We agreed to set aside some time later in the agenda to address these issues.

We recognized that while each of our committees has its own mandate and responsibilities, as we move into the evaluations of hymns, we have begun to function increasingly as a joint committee. From time to time, the individual committees may be asked to develop position papers to help in the discussion of issues that we will need to deal with. We have decided to produce a common report to our respective synods. There will also be additional matters in our reports to our respective synods, reflecting our particular mandates. As we look ahead, we note that we will eventually be facing practical issues in connection with publishing a new song book, e.g. investigating copyrights. Rev. Knott and Rev. VanderMeulen will look for people who can give us advice in these matters. We hope to receive a presentation at our Spring 2006 meeting.

Another practical matter that we have to grapple with is whether we ought to update language that may be considered archaic, and making other changes to the hymns, such as dropping stanzas. We adopted a statement that will govern our considerations of these matters: “When changes to texts or music are being contemplated, for reasons such as, to improve clarity, to facilitate congregational singing, or to bring them into line with the previously adopted principles and guidelines, we will take care, as much as possible, to preserve the artistic properties of the text or music.”

In preparation for the work we will be doing with the Psalm section of the song book, and in particular, for dealing with the question, Will we recommend that all 150 Anglo-Genevan psalms from the Book of Praise be included in the proposed song book?, the Book of Praise Committee presented the Song Book Committee of the URC with a position paper explaining the rationale for maintaining the complete Anglo-Genevan Psalter. The Song Book Committee of the URC will prepare a response. This matter will also appear on the agenda of our Spring 2006 meeting.

In a previous meeting, we had agreed that the basic structure of the Hymn section of the song book will be Trinitarian, following the topics of the Apostles’ Creed.

Rev. Lankheet, Mr. Nobels and Rev. Royall collaborated in the compilation of the hymns approved by both committees for inclusion in our “gross list” (called the “Common Song Book Compilation”). These hymns have been gleaned from the CRC “blue” Palter Hymnal, the CRC “gray” Psalter Hymnal, the New Trinity Hymnal, the hymn section of the Book of Praise, the hymn section augment to the Book of Praise, as well as a few other hymn collections. The URC committee is still completing its evaluation of the New Trinity Hymnal, the hymns in Cantus Christi (published by the “Reformed Evangelicals”), as well as hymns suggested by the churches, and submitted by individuals.

The bulk of our time was spent beginning to work our way through the “Common Song Book Compilation” together. We strive to apply the Principles and Guidelines for the Selection of Music in the Church, adopted in 2004 by our respective synods, to each hymn. We started with a discussion of the hymns in the “Augment to the Book of Praise”. These hymns have been tentatively identified for recommendation to the 2007 Synod of the American and Canadian Reformed Churches by the Book of Praise Committee. Following that, we turned to the hymn section of the CRC “blue” Psalter Hymnal. We were able to make substantial progress, making our way well into the 400’s. These discussions will yield another gross list of hymns, from which the final collection will be chosen.

There were two additional matters that we discussed together. First of all, again looking ahead to the work we will be doing on the Psalm section of the song book, the URC Song Book Committee presented a statement on the inclusion of complete and partial renditions of the psalms in the Psalm section of the song book. We decided “That at least one complete, accurate rendition of the text of each psalm be included, and that accurate renditions of parts of psalms may also be included, in the Psalm section.” We agreed to look for psalm collections which might provide us with complete and accurate renditions of psalms.

Secondly, we also spoke about the need to make the churches familiar with our work. We decided that it would be helpful to the churches if we would publish articles about our work in the Clarion, Christian Renewal, and The Outlook, introducing the Principles and Guidelines adopted by our synods, and describing the struggle and the disappointment and the joy that are involved in trying to faithfully apply these principles and guidelines to the hymns we are reviewing. Revs. Lankheet and VanPopta were asked to write the first in a series of articles which introduce and explain the principles and guidelines, together with their rationale and their implications.

We agreed to schedule our Spring 2006 meeting for April 20–21, 2006, D.V., to be held at the Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church. Rev. VanderMeulen closed our meetings with reading from I Corinthians 15:50–58 and prayer, and we adjourned.

Rev. Dick Wynia