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United Methodists get early taste of new hymnal supplement

5/24/2000 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodists gathering at most U.S. annual conferences this May and June are among the first to sample a new church songbook packed with old and future favorites.

About 70,000 samplers for the church's new hymnal supplement, The Faith We Sing, have been distributed across the church for use at annual and jurisdictional conferences, according to Bill Gnegy, unit director of the Music Resources Market Business Unit at the United Methodist Publishing House. Fifty-six of the church's 66 annual conferences will be using the book, along with all five jurisdictional conferences. The jurisdictional gatherings will be held in July to elect new bishops and assign all bishops to service areas for another four years.

The full songbook, a supplement to the United Methodist Hymnal, is still in the works and will be published in December. It is a joint project of the Publishing House and the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, both in Nashville.

The Publishing House has printed 100,000 samplers of the book, and a second printing probably will occur this fall, Gnegy said.

The next wave of demand will come when pastors return to their local churches after attending their annual conference sessions, said Gary Alan Smith, senior music editor of the Publishing House's Abingdon Press.

The supplement will include 284 songs that are not in the United Methodist Hymnal. It will feature a larger percentage of praise choruses, global music and other types of hymns, along with standards that were left out when the Hymnal was last revised in 1989.

"Instead of having 700 pieces of music at your disposal, you'll now have 1,000 pieces of music," Gnegy said, rounding off the figures.

The Faith We Sing is not intended as a replacement of the Hymnal. And unlike the bigger book, it contains only music - no liturgical texts and the like.

"That's not to say it can't stand alone, though," Smith said. "It's a very fine collection of music."

United Methodists will find new songs as well as old favorites in the supplement. Though permission still must be secured for some of the songs, titles currently include, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love," "I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry," "I'll Fly Away," "Wade In The Water," "Sanctuary," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "Gather Us In." It also will include "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," a song that was in the 1966 Hymnal but didn't get into the 1989 revision; it is the most requested hymn that didn't make it in, Gnegy said.

The supplement is unique in the way that it combines contemporary hymns, world music and traditional-style hymns all in one place, Gnegy said. The new book will include Taize chants, American ethnic music and gospel songs.

Work that remains includes securing permission to use some of the songs from the owners; typesetting; proofreading; some arranging of hymns; and finalizing the indexes, Smith said.

The supplement committee, consisting of Publishing House and Board of Discipleship staff, worked with 10 expert consultants and about 180 reader consultants all over the country who offered suggestions and ideas throughout the course of the work.

A distinctive feature of the supplement is that it will be available in nine editions - unlike the main Hymnal, which is available only in pew and keyboard versions. The first six will come out in December, and will include: a pew edition for congregational use; an accompaniment edition for music leaders and accompanists; a singer's edition for soloists, choirs and other vocal groups; a CD-ROM edition, which would allow the user to work with the material on computer; an edition for MIDI, an electronic format that allows the player to control the key, tempo and other characteristics of the music; and a compact disc accompaniment edition.

The following March, three more editions will hit the market: a worship planner, which won't include music but will have suggestions for using and teaching each song; a simplified version, which will have the basic keyboard parts and guitar chords; and a guitar edition, which will offer the melody line, words and chords.

The books are designed so that they can be used together. For example, the simplified and accompaniment editions can be used simultaneously, even though the accompaniment version has more sophisticated arrangements.

The book will have a soft cover of Lexotone, or "pleather" - a combination of paper and leather. Enough room will be available at the bottom of the cover for churches to stamp their names. The cross and flame logo, along with the organization of the material, will be the only evidence that the hymnal is a United Methodist book.

The songbook will be marketed initially to the denomination, but it is designed for ecumenical use. "The first year, we want to focus on the United Methodist audience," Gnegy said. However, people outside the denomination will be able to order the book through catalogs during that year.

The book will sell for $10, but will be available for $9 if ordered before Dec. 31.

The experience of revising the main Hymnal in the 1980s was helpful to Gnegy, Smith and others as work proceeded on the supplement. Editing, marketing, production and research were all influenced by that experience, Smith said.

"We learned from the Hymnal that the sampler is a very important marketing piece," Gnegy added.

In addition, the Board of Discipleship is planning an introductory event for worship planners and others next February in Nashville, and a forthcoming pamphlet will offer local congregations suggestions for raising money to buy the new supplement. Both of those ideas came from the Hymnal project, Smith said.

Years from now, the next Hymnal revision committee will be glad to have the supplement to draw on for material and as a basis for research, Gnegy and Smith predicted.

The next full Hymnal "will be different than anything we've seen before," Smith said, adding that the supplement will be viewed as one step in that journey.
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