Hymn of the Month

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This page is part of the Living with Jesus Now series.


How can we sing in a strange land ... when the Spring festival of new life called Easter "down under," comes in Autumn, the season of little deaths when leaves turn gold, fall, and the grass has turned from green to brown? Or when the warmth of Christmas is not from some domestic fire in an iron grate, but from the sun high overhead - 38 degrees celsius (102 degrees fahrenheit) and rising?

How to face this contextual problem constructively has exercised my imagination and hopefully, my liturgies, for many years now.

Shaping a distinctive Australian theology is a recurring problem for us in Australia generally, and for those of us who have the communication task of shaping the "Sunday morning" worship experience, specifically. Especially when we are invited, if not expected, to follow a Lectionary and liturgical year shaped in the main by natural European/northern hemisphere seasons, as well as it reflecting an ancient cosmology that is no longer credible …

We believe what we sing. Hymns are religious artefacts created to allow us to speak of our experience of the sacred. They are also historical artefacts. A hymn is not written to be sung once but rather a hundred times. To become part of the familiar, often-used tradition of a living religion. But that is also reason why it is very important to sing new songs/hymns and appropriate ones at that, because those same hymns weren't written to be sung for a hundred years! Our perceptions, and experience of the sacred, change. And so too should what we say and sing.

The introduction of a Hymn of the Month is an excellent way of introducing new hymns to a congregation, in a way that is not too threatening. A new hymn is chosen each month. The "month" is influenced by both the season of the Lectionary as well as the season of the natural year. The hymn is introduced each week for four or five weeks. First and second weeks the tune is played through twice – first time melody, second time harmony - then people are invited to sing on the third time through. Music is available to those who can read music. Words are printed in the Liturgy or projected onto a screen. Usually by the fourth or fifth weeks folk have been able to pick up the tune quite well. The hymn is repeated in the normal selection of hymns about one month later. And so on … A congregation’s repertoire can be greatly improved/broadened by this method. (RAEH).

Hymn resources

New words, new music

AA - Alleluia Aotearoa. Hymns and songs for all churches. 1993. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust.

COC - Carol our christmas. A book of New Zealand carols. 1996. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust.

FFS - Faith forever singing. Songs for a new day. 2000. NZ: Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust.

HoS - Hope is our song. New hymns and songs from Aotearoa New Zealand. 2009. NZ: Palmerston North. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust.

TEL - Murray, S. E. 2008. Touch the earth lightly. New hymns written between 2003 & 2008. IL: Carol Stream. Hope Publishing.

WSJ - Nelson-Pallmeyer, J; B. Hesle. 2005. Worship in the spirit of Jesus. Theology, liturgy, and songs without violence. OH: Cleveland. The Pilgrim Press.

New words, old music

HH - Habel, Norman. 2004. Habel hymns 1. Songs to celebrate with creation. SA: Adelaide. Flinders Press.

SiF - Kearns, S. (ed). 2009. Sing it forward. Traditional hymns recast and rewritten for non-exclusive communities. In circulation from the author.

RP - Pratt, A. 2006. Reclaiming praise. Hymns from a spiritual journey. GtB: London. Stainer & Bell Ltd.

WNC - Pratt, A. 2002. Whatever name or creed. Hymns and songs. GtB: London. Stainer & Bell Ltd.

SNS2 - Stuart, G. 2009. Singing a new song. Traditional hymn tunes with new century lyrics. Volume 2. NSW: Toronto. G Stuart.

TMT - Wallace, W. L. 2001. The mystery telling. Hymns and songs for the new millennium. NY: Kingston. Selah Publishing.

A mix of new words with new music/old music

AOV2 - As one voice 2. Uniting God's people in song. NSW: Manly Vale. Willow Connection.

LA - Bell, J; G. Maule. 1990. Love and anger. Songs of lively faith and social justice. Gt.B: Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications.

EOA - Bell, J; G. Maule. 1990. Enemy of apathy. Wild Goose Songs Vol. 2. Revised edition. GtB: Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications.

HSNW - Bell, J; G. Maule. 1989. Heaven shall not wait. Wild Goose Songs Vol. 1. Revised edition. GtB: Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications.

LFB - Bell, J; G. Maule. 1989. Love from below. Wild Goose Songs Vol. 3. GtB: Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications.

FTS - Forward together songs. 1991. VIC: Melbourne. JBCE.

GA - Gather Australia. 1995. VIC: Ashburton. NLMC Publications.

ISIT - In spirit and in truth. A worship book. 1991. Switzerland: Geneva. World Council of Churches. Seventh Assembly.

STJ - Singing the journey. 2005. MA: Boston. UUA.

SLT - Singing the living tradition. 1993. MA: Boston. UUA.

TiS - Together in song. Australian hymn book 2. 1999. NSW: Sydney. HarperCollins Religious.

Web sites

Andrew Pratt Hymns and words blog site

Stainer & Bell Ltd

William Flanders. Sceptics Hymns

Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan

Rex Hunt

Rex Hunt is a progressive "grass roots" theologian ("religious naturalist"), liturgist, and social ecologist. Thirty-eight years ordained, first as a Presbyterian, he is today a retired (7/2009) minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, where his last placement was at The Church of St James (2000-2009) in Canberra, ACT. He was the Founding Director (2002-09) of The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought, Canberra where he was a regular keynote presenter and was made a Life Member of CPRT in 2009.