Someone gave our little Followers of Jesus Atlanta Church a generous gift for buying hymnals. We are very thankful! Now we have the delightful pleasure of selecting the best hymnal(s) to buy. And you can help us by voting.
So far, the following three-part approach seems wise, enabling us to move forward without forgetting our past:
- Choose one book that helps us connect with people in our neighborhood, which is about 95% African American.
- Choose another book that reflects our Anabaptist roots.
- Use CCLI (a church copyright license service) to legally copy additional songs.
Goal number three requires little discussion. And we have found a hymnal that achieves goal number one superbly: The African American Heritage Hymnal—which, incidentally, includes many classic hymns familiar to most American evangelicals. We are gradually collecting some very affordable used copies.
But finding a solution for an Anabaptist hymnal is proving more tricky. Of the four or so hymn books that we and our teammates the Smuckers grew up using most, only one is something that any of us really likes. And it (Great Hymns of the Faith, compiled by John W. Peterson) is not even an Anabaptist hymnal!
(I’m trying to be kind and avoid getting too specific about which hymnals we are less satisfied with, though I can say a couple things. First, we’d rather not have an editor changing too many original lyrics. We’d rather learn classic hymns in their classic versions, leaving editorial discussions as needed for the time of singing, as teachable moments. And second, we find some hymnals have more compelling musical arrangements than others.)
We are not absolutely set on finding a hymnal that is specifically Anabaptist. But there would be some advantages to choosing a hymnal that, for example, teaches our children the best of the hymns that their parents grew up singing. And I would consider it a good thing if this hymnal would intentionally include some of the best of our (admittedly comparatively sparse) Anabaptist hymnody.
Perhaps there is an Anabaptist hymnal that we did not grow up with that would achieve this goal well? Or a non-Anabaptist hymnal that is so strong we should consider it?
Thus, this poll. What do you think is the best hymnal for Mennonites? (Or Anabaptists, if you prefer.) I’ll pre-load this poll widget with some options. Then you can help in four ways:
- Vote. (You can vote for more than one if you think two are tie.)
- Add more options to the poll.
- Defend your preferences in the comments below.
- Forward this post to your most musical and insightful friends.
Sorry, I won’t promise that we will go with the winner of this poll. And there are no prizes if we select your suggestion—besides getting to sing from your favorite hymnal when you come visit!
Note: Since I can’t embed links in the poll widget, here are Amazon links for each of the hymnals I’ve pre-loaded: