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Why hold that hymnal?

posted Sep 20, 2014, 7:49 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 8:17 AM ]
Many churches, including some Catholic ones, are getting rid of their hymnals or missalettes and displaying lyrics and responses on screens instead. Others are using their bulletins as worship aides; printing each week’s readings and hymns in them. But there are many reasons why holding a hymnal in our hands is important...

Practically speaking, they’re portable, allowing us to sing anywhere; outside, nursing homes, classrooms, etc., and they can’t break down in the middle of a liturgy like technology can.

Musically, they teach. Looking at the notes helps us learn the basics of melodic direction and rhythmic value. And printed music sets a performance standard, since the notation documents how the song is supposed to go.

Theologically, we don’t just see what a worship leader has selected, but are exposed to our full repertoire. We can turn the page and encounter songs we love alongside ones we don’t know yet. We can discover hymns in other languages, reminding us of our church’s diversity. Seeing old hymns next to new ones unites us with believers throughout history.

A hymnal makes us work. Picking it up, finding the right page, and holding it up to sing grounds us in time and space. Feeling the weight in our hand engages us in the activity more than staring at a screen or holding just a piece of paper ever could.

Lastly, hymnals are symbols of consistency. Unlike a screen that fades or a bulletin we discard, they demonstrate that what we sing is worth keeping around. So hold your Breaking Bread up high...