R. Christopher Teichler, Composer

Hymns to the Living God

For those who are interested and/or involved in church music, I encourage you to check out the new hymnal from Religious Affections Ministries (RAM), "Hymns to the Living God." My friend and colleague Dr. Scott Aniol is the founder of RAM, and general editor of this new hymnal.

Most of the new hymnals that have been published in the last 30 years have had upwards of 600 or 700 songs. Even though most churches will never sing every selection in collection this large, publishers try to make their product available to a wide range of congregations so that they can sell more hymnals. Perfectly acceptable business decision. What I really appreciate with Hymns to the Living God is that marketing was not a primary concern. There are around 300 songs in this collection, selected for their excellence of text and musical content. The editors selected what they believe to be the best hymns that the church has available to use in Christian worship: hymns that are part of our musical heritage as well as those that they believe will be.

Fewer churches are using hymnals today, most using digital projection with programs like Power Point. As a musician, I love to read the music as I sing, but I realize I am in the minority here (a trend that I hope reverses over time!). So apart from the small percentage of parishioners that can and do read music, why print a new hymnal in this digital age? The editors of Hymns to the Living God share their convictions:

"First, when you hold a hymnal in your hands, you hold something of your Christian heritage. The physical nature of a hymnal has the effect of embodying a collection of the work of the church triumphant, and in using such a book, you identify with the entire church, and you sing her experience into yours.

Second, when you hold a good hymnal in your hands, you are holding the distilled affective responses of hundreds, if not thousands, of believers. A hymnal is a testimony of how Christians collectively have responded to the various truths of the Christian life. With hymnal in hand, one can peruse these responses and use them as a point of comparison for those of contemporary Christianity.

Third, a good hymnal remains the best devotional literature we have. Devotional literature is formative, and while it does not necessarily have to be printed, hymns in printed form provide a convenient and settled collection for personal and family devotion. Every Christian should have a hymnal (or several) at home for personal and family worship. Hymns ought to be contemplated, understood, and sung to the Lord outside church gatherings."

I guarantee that far more church goers remember the songs they sing each Sunday more than the sermon that was preached. Music connects with our memory in ways that spoken words do not. Therefore, what we sing has the potential to shape our faith as much, if not more, than words only. This demonstrates the necessity of excellence in congregational song: it is discipleship, whether we intend it or not! I pray that our pastors realize this. "Hymns to the Living God" was created with discipleship in mind. It is worth a look!

To learn more or order a copy, click here.

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