Sunday, June 14, 2020

A most appropriate communion hymn

Today we sang one of my favorite communion hymns “Humbly I adore thee” — a timeless hymn (#204) from my favorite hymnal:
Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
Who thy glory hidest 'neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.

Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern thee fail;
Faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate'er the Son of God hath told;
What the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

O memorial wondrous of the Lord's own death;
Living Bread, that givest all thy creatures breath,
Grant my spirit ever by thy life may live,
To my taste thy sweetness never failing give.

Jesus, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of thee. Amen.

Anglican Versions of Adoro Devote

As I summarized back in 2007, the words in Hymnal 1940 were translated from the 13th century Latin text is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (“Adoro devote, latens veritas”). It uses a tune that first appeared in Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1869; however, A&M had its own translation by Bishop J.R. Woodford — a translation (“Thee we adore”) later used in The English Hymnal (1906) and New English Hymnal† (1986).

All the American hymnas keep the A&M tune, termed Adoro Devote in the U.S. hymnals — even if (as noted earlier) there are differences in the rhythms. Here is the H40 version:

US Anglicans — Hymnal 1940, Hymnal 1982 and Magnify the Lord† — all use the ”1939” translation of Hymnal 1940. Among Lutherans, Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)†, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)† and the Lutheran Service Book (2006)† all use versions of the A&M translation, while Lutheran Worship (1982) uses its own translation. All use the same tune.
† These are newer observations since the 2007 posting.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion actually credits its translation to an earlier source
The translation is that of the Monastic Diurnal, 1932, save for the first line which there read “Deity unseen,” following the Latin text commonly used prior to the research of Dom Wilmart [Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, I (1929)], ”Deity” missed the full subtlety of St. Thomas’ thought which uses “Verity” much as St. Ambroses earlier used “O God of truth.” … The Diurnal translation is but another stage in over a century of versions, all duly traced by [John] Julian [in his Dictionary of Hymnology].
Not surprisingly, Magnify the Lord (aka Book of Common Praise 2017) follows The Hymnal 1940, while Hymnal 1982 modifies verse 4.

One of the earlier translations mentioned by Julian is Hymnal Noted. Although originally by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), the only edition I found with this hymn is the posthumous 10th edition of 1889. Still, the passages comparable to the 1940 text look very familiar:
PROSTRATE I adore Thee, Deity unseen,
Who Thy Glory hidest, 'neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Tranced as it beholds Thee, shrined within the cloud.

Taste, and touch, and vision in Thee are deceived,
But the hearing only, well may be believed,
I believe what e’er the Son of God hath told,
What the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.

Oh, Memorial wondrous of the Lord's Own Death,
Living Bread, that givest all His creatures breath;
Grant my spirit ever by Thy Life may live,
To my taste Thy sweetness never-failing give.

Jesu, Whom now veiled, I by faith, descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny;
That Thy Face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of Thee. Amen.

Today's Significance

This text was particularly moving under today’s circumstances. It was our family’s first Sunday back at church since our last visit together on March 15. On March 13 we got a confident message that “St. X is staying open” — but eight days later were told “Until further notice, St. X will be closed for Sunday services.” A week ago, the church resumed — though none of us could make it — and today continued under extreme social distancing regulations imposed by the state of California.

For more than two months, our family sang together in our TV room: on Palm Sunday, Easter and throughout Eastertide. Today was the first time we were singing together at church, and could hear the others of our church (and the choir) singing as well.

There is also the fact that I like plainsong, I like hymns that predate the fracturing of the Western church, this hymn is strongly associated with Hymnal 1940, and one I know well.

But finally, there was the connection to Aquinas. While our hymnal (and 21st century Anglicans) have a few hymns by Ambrose and Fortnatus, the reality is that Aquinas is one of the oldest hymnwriters of the undivided Western church. I always appreciate the continuity and certainty of singing the same timeless hymn that’s been sung for centuries by other Christians. This Sunday, with all the discontinuity and uncertainty in the world this year, it was particularly appreciated.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Virtual Worship In Time of Great Sickness

Today many U.S. Anglican churches across the country worshipped online. The disruption caused by the current crisis poses significant challenges, both in the short run and in the long run.

A week ago, churches were still debating how to worship face to face, e.g. by communion in one kind. While most churches were in person a week ago, government order has shut down most if not all the churches in the most heavily affected states (New York, Massachusetts, Washington, California) as well as specific metropolitan regions.

Today, for the 4th Sunday of Lent, we “attended” service at our current church and peeked in on services (or watched replay excerpts) at four churches where we previously worshiped.

The three largest streamed on YouTube; a fourth used, while the smallest used FaceBook live. Two emailed links to PDF versions of the worship booklet. All had a sermon.

Such services can be assessed in terms of what works as worship, what works for worshippers, and what works for the church.

In my opinion, the pastoral goal of the online service should be to both reinforce the faith of those attending, and also providing reassurance and comfort to those attending online. Thus, a key goal is (or should be) to provide normalcy for faithful worshippers. At the same time — to be blunt — the online churches must remain relevant to their parishioners, who otherwise may not return when the crisis is over.

Below are the services ranked (purely subjectively) in terms of the degree of vibrancy and normalcy. This is also (with one exception) their order from largest (most resources) to smallest.

1. St. Matthew’s

St. Matthew’s provided a video window into an almost-normal service. The emailed booklet was almost identical to that used last year — with the full order of service, music for the chants and words for the hymns.

From a technical standpoint, the church has been livestreaming for years because the cry room(s) are linked to the service by TV cables and not a pane of glass. The church had the best video quality, with an HD camera and a long shot showing the sanctuary and front of the nave.

Part of the normalcy came from having full music, as on every Sunday. There was an organ prelude and postlude, three hymns, the various chants of the (medieval) mass setting (Second Communion Service in Hymnal 1940), and anthems for the (non-existent) offertory and communion. This also included sung responses and some chanted prayers.

2. Christ Church

Christ Church had a camera on a chair near the altar, a tight short on the altar and altar party. There were no musicians, chanted prayers, and a single hymn at the end. The sermon was preached from a lectern moved on camera. Otherwise the service was pretty similar to the regular service.

The final hymn — “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” — was sung a capella by the clergy and handful of laity. The rector (by far the best singer of the clergy at the five services) led the melody for the first three verses and then switched to bass for the final verses — similar to an unaccompanied midweek service.

With a better camera angle and regular music, like #1 this also would have fully projected the feeling of normalcy.

3. St. James

This church also has experience streaming, with a long angle camera (and a close-in camera) filming from the choir loft. The music team — pianist and harpist — were playing hymns from the hymnal, and the order of service seemed similar to what I recall from my last in person visit. So other than the nearly-empty pews, this was a faithful video of an almost normal service.
However, the rector seemed to emphasize how different things are, the stress we are all facing in society, and the precautions being taken; personally, I would trust my pastor’s judgement and would want as much normalcy and comfort as possible in the service. (The details of precautions IMHO belong in the weekly email newsletter).

4. Holy Communion

While the video quality and angle on the altar party were good, this felt a little sparse — a said Morning Prayer service with a 15 minute sermon in the middle.
During the announcement, the senior cleric confessed that this is the church’s first effort at live streaming. He asked the online audience to "be patient with us as we learn to offer our services through live stream”. Presumably in future week this will be better — particularly if some form of music can be added back in.

5. A Small Parish

Finally, I watched the Facebook of a small church with limited resources. The rector has small children and thus may be more reluctant than some to head into the community; instead of being broadcast from the normal (shared) church, it came from his home altar.
Even given these limitations, it still felt very different from the in person services. The service was Holy Eucharist (2019 ACNA prayer book), but there was no celebration of the mass or administration of Holy Communion. The rector frequently interrupted the liturgy to chat with his virtual audience. I am not the rector (or a member) of this parish, so perhaps this is more comforting to his flock — but it did not feel like normal liturgical worship.

Times of Great Mortality

Two of the parishes use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. During their service, both read the Anglican prayer most relevant for these trying times:
In Time of Great Sickness and Mortality
O MOST mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer — unique to the American church — is found in every Book of Common Prayer from 1789 to 1928. However, it was unexplicably omitted from the 1979 prayer book, and the ACNA’s 2019 revision of that prayer book.

Effective Online Singing

My major research (and practice) interest is in encouraging congregational singing, both because people learn more by singing (“He who sings, prays twice”) and because Anglican worship and liturgy are inherently participatory.

There are the questions of mechanics. A booklet (with tunes) is always best, but in one case the booklet did not match what those in the service were singing. Church #2 didn’t have a booklet, but instead called out the hymn number at the last minute — although a familiar hymn, I’m not sure how many parishioners own that hymnal.

Those that included music provided appropriate support for singing along. We’ve found in past (virtual) said liturgy that those at home can’t have their mikes on — e.g. for a creed or psalm — because there’s too much of a time lag to synchronize. Even so, there’s a need to encourage participation, so those at home feel like we are singing together. It definitely worked best when the broadcast service allowed us to hear everyone singing, rather than just the choir (#1) or just the praise leader (#3). That requires a conscious effort at setting up the mikes and mixing them.

It really wouldn’t have felt participatory if I’d been here alone: fortunately, my daughter sang soprano (and sometimes alto) as I tried to sight-read the bass. We both felt more empowered to take risks than if others had been around to hear us; I also got to cheat and sing some of the choir-only parts that I knew.

The choir (#1) did two things that were seemed to work well. First, the descant on one hymn was particularly effective: since the choir (music director) choir likes to do descants, this seemed “normal” — but also the descant cut through the mediocre sound reproduction of my TV. Similarly, the a capella choir (properly miked) on one verse really allowed us to hear the four parts clearly.

Implications for the Future

Live streaming virtual worship is here to stay. Certainly it will continue as a substitute for those who can’t come to church — shut-ins, travelers, or those on shift work. It may also be a way to introduce a church to its mission field.

I doubt that for Anglican and other liturgical churches it will replace face to face worship (but I’ve been wrong before). The key to our worship is participation, and — absent a holographic projection of us worshipping together — virtual worship is a poor substitute in providing that sense of community and participation.

If, in the long run, churches rely more heavily on online worship, the mediocrity of the online experience will likely lead to declining engagement with the parish, its mission, a live lived by faith — and concomitant willingness to support the local parish.

Therefore, there is more that can be done to develop such a sense of engagement for virtual worship. Some of it is pure mechanics — a high resolution camera, zoomed in on the right location, and a dress rehearsal to understand how the service will appear to those viewing online.

The keys to singing are twofold. First, make the text and music available to those not sitting in the building. The second is picking up and mixing the sound so we hear the instruments, singing by the professionals, and also by the amateur clergy and laity present in the room. While we won’t have a full congregation in times of social distancing, under more normal times, the sounds of congregational singing in an online broadcast can really help the feeling of being there.

There are other nuances and implications for encouraging singing and participation with online services that require further study and consideration. There’s probably a dissertation in here somewhere.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hymns of our ancestors

This morning at church, our family sang the opening hymn, #483 from Hymnal 1940:
Come, ye disconsolate, where'er ye languish;
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel:
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure,
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
"Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure."

Here see the Bread of Life; see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above;
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.
It is not a hymn I know well, but it is one that we’ve sung before. As my daughter sang soprano and I sight-read the (straightforward) bass part, I had a picture of my ancestors (or other American churchgoers) singing it back in the mid-19th century. (It is not in Hymnal 1982, but is in Magnify the Lord/Book of Common Praise 2017: #541).

The same words were in Hymnal 1916 (#388), the hymnal my mother and uncle would have used as teenagers growing up in a tiny Northern California farming town. My grandparents died when I was a kid, so I don’t know the religious practices of my family before then. It is also in Hymnal 1892 (#637), but does not appear to be in any PECUSA hymnals before that. It is not in the main CoE hymnals of 1861-present, including the New English Hymnal (1986).

Ecumenical Impact reports it is in 1960 hymnals, with a higher proportion of those of the late 19th century.

Beyond PECUSA, what is the pattern for other denominations?

  • Presbyterian. The hymn is in The Hymnbook (1955) and The Hymnal (1933), so my dad might have sung it as a young man or when we attended Presbyterian churches in the 60s. It is also in US Presbyterian hymnals from 1843-1917, but not after 1955.
  • Lutheran. The ELCA and its predecessors include the hymn in its latest hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), Service Book & Worship (1958),  American Lutheran Hymnal (1930), and hymnals in 1923 and 1918. The LCMS includes it in The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and earlier 1918, 1912 and 1892 English-language hymnals.
  • Methodist. The Methodist church seems to include it in most hymnals from 1843 to its latest United Methodist Hymnal (1989).


Thomas Moore (1779-1852) a Dublin-born Catholic poet; as John Julian says in his Dictionary of Hymnology — echoed by the Hymnal 1940 Companion — “His connection with hymnody is confined to his Sacred Songs,” and that these songs were republished in hymnbooks “mainly in America”.

This text from Sacred Songs (1816) was modified by Spiritual Songs for Social Worship (1831) Thomas Hastings and Lowell Mason. Mason (1792-1872).was a famous American church musicologist who was president of Boston’s Handle and Haydn Society and founder of the Boston Academy of Music.

The tune Consolation by English composer Samuel Webbe (1740-1816), as published in 1792. The tune was arranged by Hastings and Mason for this text in their Spiritual Songs for Social Worship, and is the only tune I found used with this text. Given the dates, this is pre-Victorian 19th century English hymnody (text, arrangement and pairing).

Mason is the author of tunes or arrangements for 7 hymns in Hymnal 1940,, including those for “Nearer My God to Thee” and “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” As with Consolation, I find his harmonies quite singable: perhaps they were written for an earlier time when accompaniment was more rare, or at least congregational singers had less formal music training than in the latter half of the century. Or perhaps it was before the Romantic era dissonances of the late 19th century classical composers.

No matter what the reason, it seems like the harmonizations from the 18th century to mid-19th century — the era Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn — are more approachable for sight-reading by amateur singers like myself.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The latest ACNA hymnal

I have been writing about the REC’s Book of Common Praise 2017 since I bought my first copy in fall 2017. This is the first American Anglican hymnal of the 21st century, which is an updated Hymnal 1940 with updates from Hymnal 1982, the 2006 Lutheran Service Book and a range of Methodist, Southern and CCM pieces.

There are two important updates.

Two Editions: Book of Common Praise and Magnify the Lord

The publisher of BCP 2017 has re-released the hymnal with a new title and new ISBN as Magnify the Lord. After the first three pages, the remaining 907 pages of each hymnal is identical. Here are the covers and ISBN numbers:
Book of Common Praise 2017
ISBN:  978-0-9993910-1-3
Magnify the Lord (2019)
ISBN: 978-1-732448-8-4
The are available from the same publisher (Anglican Liturgy Press) at the same price ($25). According to the publisher, the assumption is that REC parishes will buy Book of Common Praise but all other parishes will prefer (the more neutrally named) Magnify the Lord.

This hymnal is the first new ACNA hymnal  — from the ACNA’s publisher — but noticeably did not have any editorial input from anyone outside the REC dioceses within the ACNA. (By my calculation, the REC accounts for about 7% of the ACNA’s ASA. Apparently some of the remaining ACNA got annoyed at this non-ACNA sponsored hymnal from ACNA dioceses. So a Publisher’s Note in all editions of the hymnal now say
This is not the hymnal of the Anglican Church in North America. However, it has been commended for use in the Anglican Church in North America along with such other hymnals as are in use in the Province.

First Hymnal Review of MTL

Last month, The Hymn published my 500-word review of the new hymnal: as far as I (and the publisher) know, this is the first independent review of this new hymnal. Although I submitted my review last May, when I saw my first copy of MTL, I rushed to update the review to talk about the new title not the old.

For copyright reasons, I won’t post the entire review (but am glad to email it to anyone who requests it).
What if a church wanted an updated selection of hymns but with traditional (pre-1980s) language? That is the goal of Magnify the Lord (originallyBook of Common Praise 2017) edited by Chris Hoyt, music director of the Reformed Episcopal Church cathedral in Dallas.
Although nominally an update to the REC’s hymnal [Book of Common Praise] from 1885, 1907 and 1943, the first goal of the hymnal was “to preserve the best of The Hymnal (1940).” That hymnal is still in widespread use by REC and other Anglican churches that rejected Hymnal 1982 with its more inclusive language. Thus the MTL hymns retain the older wording, with H40 providing 318 of the 639 hymn-tune pairings in MTL. 
The other half will be new to H40 readers.
I then noted the additions from Hymnal 1982, Southern Harmony, The Sacred Harp, Charles Wesley and CCM stars Stuart Townend/Keith Getty.

My conclusion
Overall, Magnify the Lord offers a 21st century interpretation of English, American and contemporary hymns for tradition-minded parishes.
According to the publisher, the first adoption of the BCP 2017 outside of the REC was made in 2018 Christ Church, Waco, a Diocese of Ft. Worth parish of the ACNA. The rector decided this hymnal was the best fit to their local style, which combines a high church (modern language) liturgy with more of a blended repertoire of music — including a lot of Wesley, Baptist hymns and Townend/Getty.


  • Chris Hoyt, ed., The Book of Common Praise 2017, Newport Beach, Calif.: Anglican House Media Ministries, 2017.
  • Chris Hoyt, ed., Magnify the Lord, Newport Beach, Calif.: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2019.
  • J. W. West, “Magnify the Lord,” book review, The Hymn,  71, 1 (Winter 2020): 41.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas Carols

Today was both the 12th day of Christmas, and the last service of Christmastide. As with most Anglican churches, our music director had to schedule something from the Christmas section of the hymnal — after using many of the best known hymns on Dec. 24 (two services), Dec. 25 and Dec. 29 (1st Sunday after Christmas). As we prepare for 353 days without Christmas carols until the afternoon of December 24, three pieces of music this music stood out.

Sussex Carol

My daughter was thrilled that the offertory anthem was the David Willcocks arrangement of the Sussex Carol (”On Christmas night all Christians sing"). She is a huge King’s College fan, and after listening to the 100 Years of Nine Lessons and Carols for the past year, she has the melody, words and many of the descants memorized (particularly those of Willcocks and Philip Ledger). Although I have a number of recordings of this carol, the Willcocks is instantly recognizable on the third verse, the first of two verses with a descant: the boy sopranos are soaring over the top with choral colorings that accentuate the harmonies (but have little to do with the words).

Hymnary says this carol is found in 39 hymnals

  • Lutheran (ELCA): Lutheran Worship (1978), Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2008)
  • Presbyterian Church USA: Glory to God (2013)
  • Southern Baptist Convention: the unofficial Celebrating Grace (2010), more progressive than the official Baptist Hymnal (2008)

As far as I can tell, these do not list descants in the main hymnal (but sometimes these have auxiliary descant books). However, the Willcocks arrangement with descant is in his Carols for Christmas.

Of the Father’s Love

Beyond the King’s favorite, my heart was gladdened that two of the three hymns were by John Mason Neale, the great Victorian hymn translator (and subject of my first music publication). The communion hymn was “Of the Father’s love begotten.” (H40: 20; H82: 82). This hymn was the subject of one of my first posts on this blog, back 11 years ago.

The text (at the end of the 4th century) by Prudentius. The Neale translation of “Of the Father sole begotten” first appeared in his 1851 Hymnal Noted. According to my 2018 paper in The Hymn, it was the 4th most popular hymn in 20th century US hymnals of the 105 texts and tunes in Hymnal Noted.

The Latin text (“Corde natus ex parentis”) was intended as a Christmastide evening hymn, and the tune (Divinum mysterium) was listed by Neale as a 13th century melody. The initial verse was later changed to “Of the Father’s love begotten” by H.W. Baker for  Hymns Ancient & Modern.

Hymnal Noted had 6 verses, but H40 only has 5 (H82 has only 4). The English Hymnal (#613) has 9 and the New English Hymnal (#33) has 7, but both use a later translation by R.F. Davis (“Of the father’s heart begotten”).

My favorite verse today — one I hadn’t noticed before — is V4 in H40:
Thee let old men, thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart is music bring,
Evermore and evermore!
It has significant modifications from Neale’s V5
Thee let age, and Thee let manhood,
Thee let choirs of infants sing;
Thee the matrons and the virgins,
And the children answering:
Let their modest song re-echo,
And their heart its praises bring,
Evermore and evermore.
Even so, there are two reasons I like it. First, it suggests the true joy of singing to the gift of the Christ child from God the Father. Second, it alludes to an antiphonal or responsive style of singing — 1000+ years before Neale and the Victorian choirs — which is a wonderful image of continuity for such a timeless hymn.

We closed out this unison hymn with a descant written by our music director that (AFAIK) is only sung at our church.

Good Christian Men Rejoice

We closed with the familiar “Good Christian men, rejoice!”. It was first published in 1853 by Neale and Thomas Helmore in Carols for Christmastide.  As Neale’s preface explains, the texts (except for Good King Wenceslas and Toll! Toll!) are free translations from the 16th century Swedish Lutheran Piae Cantiones (available online in a 1910 reprint). In Neale’s book, “Good Christian Men” is listed as “perhaps 14th century.” Our hymnal (H40)— like the original text — includes only three verses: at a normal tempo, the carol seems like it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun.

The 1853 book included Helmore’s adaptation of medieval tunes for each carol — in this case, the instantly recognizable In Dulce Jubilo. The harmonization in Hymnal 1940 is credited to Hymnal 1916 (#549), from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA (PECUSA).

Interestingly, the harmonization was done by Winfred Douglas. In 1916, the name might not have meant much, but twenty years later, he had edited and published Hymnal 1940. Unlike Hymnal 1916 and 1906's The English Hymnal, H40 contained a section with settings of mass and daily office chants for regular, congregation-sung chanting. The hymnal thus played a key role in 20th century American hymnody by introducing (or re-introducing) to the world many plainchant settings, adaptations and harmonizations.

Hymnary says this carol in 197 hymnals. This total includes the gender-neutered variant “Good Christian friends” that was introduced by the 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship, and then copied by Hymnal 1982 and subsequent Methodist, Presbyterian and even Catholic hymnals — as well as Celebrating Grace.

Alas, the 1853 book held an influence far past its modern-day holdings: it’s not on the British, Oxford or Cambridge libraries, and WorldCat lists only one copy, in the Royal College of Music. No copies have been scanned by or Google Books, but all the texts are included in the posthumous 1914 Collected Hymns, Sequences and Carols of John Mason Neale.