Christians do not believe in change just for the sake of change.
We accept change when it is beneficial, but do not make it our goal. We believe in God. He is the eternal unchanging God Who is forever faithful to His Word, to His children and especially to His church. Therefore, we must be cautious about changes regarding the church. Faithfulness and obedience must characterize the worship services. Changes brought into the worship of God must be based on God’s Word, must enable us to better worship our God, and must be edifying for all church members.
This leads us to the responsibility of carefully examining any changes that would take place within the worship service. Even seemingly minor alterations to the songs sung during worship should be examined. Thus, we are called to examine the Hymn Proposal [HP] by comparing it with the songbook that the majority of our churches have been using since the beginning of the URCNA1—the blue Psalter Hymnal [PH]. This article seeks to make those comparisons. The next article will examine hymns with major word substitutions.
Many of the minor alterations involve so-called archaic language. Once the archaic language is removed, it becomes necessary to change other words as well in order to make the song flow easily. The first article in this series, pointing out gender inclusive word changes to nineteen proposed hymns, indicated that almost all had other word changes as well. For instance, in All Glory, Laud and Honor, the words “mortal men” are deleted; twenty-five or more other words are also replaced in that one song! Following is a self-explanatory list:
In a few hymns some of the Thee and Thou words are changed to You and Your, while others remain intact. This is so for “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies,” “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken,” and “Take My Life and Let it Be.” This seems contradictory.
A number of hymns in the HP have verse changes. That is the case for:
Specific word changes to a few hymns are listed below. This list is intended to show the readers the nature of some modification
You will NOT find the following songs in the HP, listed in their order in the PH:
We Gather Together We Praise Thee, O God Safely Through Another Week O Day Of Rest And Gladness When Morning Gilds The Skies Father, Again In Jesus’ Name O Love Of God, How Strong O Jesus, We Adore Thee Now May Thy Servant, Lord Angels From The Realms Silent Night, Holy Night Brightest And Best Of The Sons Break Forth, O Beauteous From Heaven Above To Earth Christians, Awake, Salute Beneath The Cross Of Jesus Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross Angels, Roll The Rock Away Welcome, Happy Morning Hark! Ten Thousand Harps Wake, Awake, For Night This Is My Father’s World Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee We Have Heard The Joyful Lord Jesus, I Long To Be Majestic Sweetness Sits Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayer Spirit Of God, Dwell Thou Holy Spirit, Light Divine Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dwell In Me, O Blessed Spirit From Greenland’s Icy Mount . . . Speed Thy Servants, Savior Far And Near The Fields Rejoice, Ye Pure In Heart I Love To Tell The Story I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say Shepherd Of Tender Youth Savior Like A Shepherd Savior, Who Thy Flock Come For The Feast Is Spread Deck Thyself, My Soul With Jesus, Lover Of My Soul I Need Thee Every Hour Out Of My Bondage, Sorrow, In The Cross Of Christ I Glory My God, Is Any Hour So Sweet Prayer Is The Soul’s Sincere Humble Praises, Holy Jesus More Love To Thee, O Christ Thy Love To Me, O Christ Jesus, Priceless Treasure Faith Of Our Fathers My Faith Looks Up To Thee O Master, Let Me Walk Take Time To Be Holy O For A Closer Walk With God In The Hour Of Trial Lord Jesus, Can It Ever Be? Come, Ye Disconsolate Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me He Leadeth Me Onward, Christian Soldiers Stand Up, Stand Up, For Jesus God Of The Prophets Sun Of My Soul O God, Beneath Thy Guiding From Ocean Unto Ocean O Jesus, I Have Promised Blest Be That Sacred Covenant O Lord, Beneath Thy Guiding
More than 140 new songs will be added if the new HP is approved. A few have the same so-called archaic language deleted from our PH songs. These songs include: “Master, Speak! Thy servant Heareth,” “Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord,” “Be Thou My Vision,” “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,” “Lead Me, Lord, Lead Me in Thy Righteousness,” and “Thine Be the Glory.” Where is the consistency? We must delete thee, thou, thy, ye, heareth, knowest, from our well-known PH songs, but keep it in new songs. Perhaps we keep the archaic language in the new songs because that is the way we heard them sung and learned them. Wouldn’t that be the case for the songs in the PH, as well?
The trouble with change is that once it is incorporated, it is no longer change. Then it quickly becomes old, necessitating more and more change. There seems to be a consistent pattern in many church denominations: First, change the songbook, add new hymns, delete old ones. Second, rewrite the songs. Quickly the songs become tradition. Third, sing new songs every week, using Power Point. Is that really the pattern and route the URCNA wants to pursue? I recently read, “Those who know nothing of the past are destined to repeat it.” Surely, we are not at that stage in our young denomination, are we?
Let us pray that our Father in heaven will give great wisdom to Synod so that it will be able to resist the changes of the HP and hold fast to our Psalter Hymnal. May this be the prayer of each URCNA member: “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou Who changest not, abide with me.” Let it not be said of the URCNA that we adopted change for the sake of change. Rather let us keep what we have, which is a songbook many of us have memorized, enabling us to sing with great zeal and enthusiasm. It is a book that has enabled generations to sing in a way that is pleasing to our faithful God. May God be exalted. 1. Editors note: Synod never adopted an official songbook. Already in 1997, Synod approved a Psalter Hymnal committee to develop a new URCNA songbook, including the grounds that the 1976 Psalter Hymnal is “presently out of print.” Reformed Fellowship continues to sell newly-printed 1976 Psalter Hymnals today.
Mrs. Sheila Ypma is a graduate of Dordt College and former school teacher. She is a member of the Trinity Reformed Church (URC) in Lethbridge, Alberta.