Hymnal Supplements

The period of hymnody after about 1970 has been called the "New English Renaissance" by Erik Routley and the "Hymn Explosion" by James Sydnor. By whatever name it may go, mainline hymnody in the English language experienced a sudden surge of activity in the last 3 decades of the 20th century.

There seems to be an intimate connection with the quantity of hymns being written and another phenomenon known as HYMNAL SUPPLEMENTS. This is certainly and example of the proverbial "chicken and the egg" -- that is, which came first? Hymnal supplements seem to have become the norm after about 1970 because with all the new hymnic activity, hymnal editors were afraid to commit to new (and often experimental) material in a full-fledged hymnal. After all, the life of a hymnal is some 20 years and what may seem new and fresh one decade will will seem dated and irrelevant the next (e.g.., "Pass it on"; "He's everything to me"). Consequently small, relatively inexpensive and short-lived supplements were the answer.

On the other hand, with the proliferation of hymnal supplements and the relative EASE by which new hymn writers could get there material into print, ANYONE who could put a text and a tune together had an opportunity to get their hymns published. It was almost like a feed-back-loop with each fueling the other. Certainly many hymns were introduced which did not stand the test of time of the average life of a supplement (3-5 years). But, many new hymns by important emerging hymn writers first appeared in hymnal supplements in the early 1970's and have become standard mainline hymnic repertory in current denominational hymnals (2003).

Erik Routley believed that the hymnal supplement phenomenon began in the early 1960's in Scotland with a series of ecumenical workshops whose purpose was "to explore new music for the church." [See: A Panorama of Christian Hymnody, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979, pp. 187 - 88.] Held in Dunblane and designed specifically for the churches of Scotland (although other interested parties were welcomed), the workshops culminated with the compilation in 1964 of Dunblane Praises, and informal booklet of sixteen old and new hymns. The whole process was repeated in 1966 and this resulted in Dunblane Praises II. Distributed to interested churches and individuals, the publications met with such success that the project was given to Galliard, Ltd. and Published in 1969 as New Songs for the Church I and II. [See Erik Routley, The Music of Christian Hymns. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc., 1982, pp. 188.]

It was also in that year (1969) that the "official" supplements came out. This included:

Hymns and Songs (English Methodists, supplement to The Methodist Hymnbook)

100 Hymns for Today (supplement to Hymns Ancient and Modern)

Worship Supplement (supplement to The Lutheran Hymnal), published in America by Concordia

The hymnal supplement phenomenon reflected in a broad sense the immense scope of hymnic activity that had occurred in the English-speaking world since World War II. Although the practice of publishing supplements to hymnals began, for the most part, as a British response to the writing of new hymns, Americans quickly picked up on the idea and by 1980 many American denominations had published hymnal supplements which ultimately for led to the publication of new hymnals: Episcopal - 1983), United Methodist (1989), Presbyterian (1990). At least one non-denominational hymnal was greatly influenced by the publication of supplements: The Worshipping Church (Hope Publishing Co., 1991).

New hymnal supplements have been published within the past 10 years and these will eventually lead to the publication of new hymnals:

Wonder, Love and Praise (Church Publishing Corp., 1997) - Episcopal
The Faith We Sing (Abingdon Press, 2000) - United Methodist

Check out the 100 Hymn Tunes You Should Know

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Site last updated: January 17, 2004