Short Guide No 27: Hymns and Ministry to Those with Dementia

Ministering to people who have reached that stage of life when ‘mind and memory flee’ presents serious challenges which cannot be ignored. This short paper draws on the author’s experiences as a part-time Chaplain to a local hospital in which worship amongst geriatric patients (many of whom suffered from dementia) was conducted regularly (but informally) by clergy and volunteers from …

Short Guide No 25: Ordination and Commissioning Hymns

Ordinations and commissioning services happen in a variety of contexts, and are a cause of great celebration and spiritual power. Liturgies and traditions notwith-standing, the singing of hymns on these occasions plays a crucial role, and their selection is, therefore, not to be undertaken lightly. Contexts Approaches taken towards the discernment, vocation and formal commencement of a person’s authorised ministry …

Short Guide No 24: Confirmation Hymns

‘Confirmation’ covers various approaches to Christian initiation and commitment. When adults make a commitment and are received into membership of the church, the act of worship surrounding it can be a celebratory, evangelistic, sacramental expression of unity, and the hymns have a vital role to play in the blend of joy, hope and affirmation that a Confirmation should be. Adult …

Short Guide No 23: Baptism Hymns

Baptism can occur in different contexts and at different stages in life, yet the fundamental spiritual and ecclesiological purpose and outcome of such initiation is the same. Nevertheless, each context and understanding of baptism demands its own approach if they are going to be not only welcoming celebrations of commitment but opportunities to preach and sing the faith of Christ …

Short Guide No 22: Funeral Hymns

Christian funerals take place either in a church or at a crematorium or cemetery chapel. While the circumstances are different the issues surrounding the picking of hymns are similar. Hymn singing at funerals is in decline, so even greater care needs to be taken in using hymns to enhance the hope of a funeral, rather than increase the discomfort. The …

Short Guide No 21: Wedding Hymns

Many couples still choose to marry in church, yet the combined impact of more choice and the increasing lack of prior knowledge of hymnody has made it increasingly more difficult to accommodate their needs and desires with Christian integrity and wisdom. Tunes are the key to wedding hymns. The current state of affairs Notwithstanding the decline in the number of …

Short Guide No 20: Using Short Songs in Worship

The New Testament encourages believers to sing ‘Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, suggesting the Body of Christ needs a range of sung material. As well as hymns, the imaginative use of short songs of various kinds can enrich worship; this paper explores the repertoire of shorter songs and suggests ways of incorporating them into services. Chorus is the name which …

Short Guide No 17: What are the Arguments For and Against Revising Hymn Texts?

‘Nothing changes here’ or ‘All the changing scenes’? Why would we ever ‘revise’ the words of familiar hymns? We do not change a Shakespeare sonnet or a Beatles song; but we do adopt new Bible versions and modify ancient prayers. In which category do our still-beloved hymns belong? Unlike poems, hymns are for singing together by churches which may be …

Short Guide No 16: What are the Relative Benefits of Hymn Books, Service Sheets or Projectors?

Developments in technology have expanded the range of ways in which hymns can be presented during a service. No longer is it automatically assumed that hymn and service books will be handed out at the door. Even where they are, the time will come to replace these books—and then other options can usefully be explored. Among other possibilities, two of …

Short Guide No 14: Building a Hymn Repertoire

Even with a single hymn book, a typical congregation probably has more hymns at their disposal than they can realistically use; add a supplementary book and access to online resources, and the choice rapidly becomes unmanageable. It is, however, possible to tap into these diverse sources and construct a workable repertoire for a congregation’s use. Here are some hints and …

Short Guide No 13: Using Hymns in All-Age Worship

Some services are designated as ‘all-age’. What does this imply? Ideally, all worship should be suitable for everyone in a worshipping community. ‘Our Father’ should mean what it says, without alienating people because of their age or cultural background. So, the term ‘all-age’ usually means a service for both adults and children, with a special emphasis on families. The potential …

Short Guide No 12: How can we Introduce New Hymns and Songs?

New hymns and songs can be introduced in a variety of ways, depending on both the style of the item to be taught and the musical resources available. Tunes with some repetition, or at least similar musical phrases, and a predictable rhythm will be the most easily learnt. Less memorable and more difficult ones will need a more carefully thought-out …

Short Guide No 10: What are the Pastoral Considerations when Using Hymns?

The pastoral use of hymns covers both the occasional offices of the church – baptism, weddings and funerals – but also those relating to healing and healing services. It is also necessary to examine the pastoral impact of hymns in ordinary and seasonal acts of worship. Here are some principles which may be applied in various contexts. General pastoral criteria …

Short Guide No 9: Our Musical Resources are Limited; What Can We Sing?

Successful congregational singing entails careful, imaginative organisation. We need not emulate the local choral society but our singing must be the best we can offer; nothing less will be good enough. Plan ahead Distinguish between general and seasonal material; the familiar and the unfamiliar; and music for intimate gatherings and for more formal liturgical celebrations. Consider who might feel challenged …

Short Guide No 8: How Can We Use the Psalms in Worship?

The Psalter is Scripture’s own hymn book; its contents speak to a vast range of human emotions and experiences. Therefore they should not be ignored. Traditionally the psalms have held an honoured place in Christian worship, but there is no universal agreement within the church as to how best or how often they should be used. Different denominations, different approaches …