Reviews

Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

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Patrick G. Michaels

The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song

“Some years ago some colleagues and I began collecting songs and hymns with female images for God and positive images of black, dark, or night. Our collection, though never published, was an attempt to redress an imbalance we perceived in the texts of much of traditional Christian hymnody.

“But this was before Jann Aldredge-Clanton and her collection of 116 new hymns. She has cast a wider net than we: in the topical index of hymns under the heading ‘Divine Images,’ I counted 83 names for God found in these texts. Many, if not most, are biblical.

“Aldredge-Clanton provides an extensive introduction to her work which serves as an apology for her hymns and also as a theology of new creation. She says, ‘The lyrics of these hymns draw from the prophetic, liberating tradition in Scripture... Biblical themes, phrases, and images form the foundation for all the hymns.’ In reference to the mostly traditional tunes, she writes, ‘The familiar tunes and biblical imagery in this collection of hymns root participants, while the inclusivity and diversity of the lyrics invite us beyond the divisions, prejudice, and narrowness that have plagued churches and society.’

“The hymns are organized by topic and by church season, with some overlapping. It is easy to see what is available. Extensive indices (including scriptural references; alphabetical and metrical index of tunes; index of composers, authors and sources; and first lines and titles) are a great help. The book is attractive with spiral binding, and appears able to sustain long usage.

“Aldredge-Clanton’s talent is in creating texts that sing easily and carry some of the ‘feeling-content’ of older texts that have been sung to these tunes, while moving us into a new theological space. She matches text to tune admirable, with only a rare awkward moment. She takes commonplace biblical events (Palm Sunday) and brings new insights:

You enter humble settings and grace communities;

Receive a royal welcome from everyone who sees. (#104)

“Larry Schultz has written eight new tunes for these texts. They are a welcome addition to the predictable familiar tunes, surprising us at times but always in the service of the textual meaning. I would welcome more new tunes from him as well as others. Sometimes new wine deserves new wineskins:

Welcome new wineskins, filled with new wine;

Welcome new visions and stories divine.

Old forms and symbols never will hold

All of our gifts that daily unfold. (#57)

“Aldredge-Clanton opens a door for us with her bold and exciting vision. I expect to make much use of her work. It deserves a wide exposure in our churches.”

Amazon.com customer reviews

Refreshing Newness! This collection is wonderful! My congregation is very diverse and have responded extremely positively to the new names and images for God, Jesus and the Spirit. The language is current and the familiar tunes to which the words are set have been well matched for an easy and attractive fit and make the introduction of a new book of hymns virtually painless and very inspiring, because we can focus on the new wonderful texts! I highly recommend it.”

AAAAAMMMMMAAAAAZZZING! We sang four of the hymns from this hymnal yesterday and each one tugged at my heart. I promise you that the words of these hymns will uplift you as these words are truly inspired by the Spirit.”