Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two forgotten gems of Hymnal 1940

A week ago (Trinity III in the traditional lectionary) we visited a Continuing parish, which (like most 28 Prayer Book) parishes, uses my favorite hymnal.

Sometimes I fall into the conceit that the hymns I know are the only ones worth playing. The music director (unintentionally) taught me a lesson both about Anglican hymnody and Hymnal 1940. Two hymns were new (or at least unfamiliar), and certainly ones that deserve further attention.

Give praise and glory unto God

The processional was Hymn 287, “Give praise and glory unto God,” on a the 1675 text by Johann Jacob Schütz.  The Lutheran Hymnal Companion (p.19) makes clear there were nine stanzas in the Schütz original and because of its text  it “was taken up into almost all German hymnals”. Alas, there is significant variation in the text and tunes among the English-language hymnals in my library.

In Hymnal 1940, three verses of the text were translated by Arthur Farlander and Winifred Douglas (1867-1944). Douglas was music editor of Hymnal 1916 and Hymnal 1940, who (according his biography in the Hymnal 1940 Companion) died a few hours after editing the proofs to H40. The hymn was one of 12 H40 translations solely or jointly authored by Douglas. The text was set to Peter Sohren’s 1668 tune, labelled Elbing in H40 and Du Lebensbrot, Herr Jesu Christ in H82 (#375). In the PC H82, “and mortal men” (v2) becomes “and mortals then.”

However, the Douglas translation is idiosyncratic to H40 (H82) and not followed elsewhere. Other hymnals use the 1864 Frances Elizabeth Cox (1812-1897) translation of Schütz, “Sing praise to God who reigns above.” In the CoE, this includes Hymns Ancient & Modern (#294), The English Hymnal (#478) and New English Hymnal (#447); the 1906 uses a Luther melody Nun Freut Euch while the 1986 institutes a new tune, Palace Green, by Michael Fleming (1928-2006). (The earlier A&M seems to use the same tune as TEH except in a different key).

Given its popularity among Germans, the hymn is not surprisingly a staple of the Missouri Lutherans. The Lutheran Hymnal (#19) uses six verses translated by Catherine Winkworth (“All praise to God, who reigns above”) and a tune ihr Lobet den Herrn by Melchior Pulpous (c. 1570-1615). The recent Lutheran Service Book (#819) uses 3 verses of Cox and 1 verse of Winkworth to the same tune (which it labels Ihr Lobt Gott den Herren.)

I could find no record of the text in 1 Baptist or  3 Presbyterian hymnals in my collection, but I don’t claim that collection is comprehensive. Neither the Cox nor Winkworth translation appear in the earlier PECUSA hymnals, Hymnal 1892 or Hymnal 1916.

Lead us, O Father, in the paths of peace

The recessional was Hymn 433, “Lead us, O Father, in the paths of peace,” a 1868 text by William H. Burleigh. The text (not found in 20th century CoE hymnals) began with Hymnal 1892 (#422, Tune: Cassidy). Hymnal 1916 (#248) has the 1862 tune Langran, which is the 2nd tune in 1940.

Out of H40, we sang the 1st tune, Song 22, a tune by the great 17th century organist and composer, Orlando Gibbons originally published in the 1623 The Hymnes and Songs of the Church (and reprinted in 1856). The Gibbons tune is the one retained in Hymnal 1982 (#703); however, as H82 is wont to do, it is cut down to three verses (dropping the 2nd, “Lead us, O Father, in the paths of truth”).


So were I on the committee editing the New Anglican Hymnal, I would propose keeping #433 with Gibbons but suggest using either the Cox or Winkworth translation for “Sing praise to God.” Of course, at an H40 parish, I’d use them both as printed 70 years ago.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Will 2067 be the end of British Christianity?

Many bloggers last week posted a link to a provocative article in the Spectator by Damien Thompson (a Ph.D. sociologist who until last summer was an online editor for the Telegraph):
2067: the end of British Christianity
Projections aren't predictions. But there's no denying that churches are in deep trouble
Damien Thompson 13 June 2015

It’s often said that Britain’s church congregations are shrinking, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the scale of the disaster now facing Christianity in this country. Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.

That is the year in which the Christians who have inherited the faith of their British ancestors will become statistically invisible. Parish churches everywhere will have been adapted for secular use, demolished or abandoned.

Our cathedral buildings will survive, but they won’t be true cathedrals because they will have no bishops. The Church of England is declining faster than other denominations; if it carries on shrinking at the rate suggested by the latest British Social Attitudes survey, Anglicanism will disappear from Britain in 2033. One day the last native-born Christian will die and that will be that.
I think a linear decline is not realistic — as with radioactivity (or rust), it will more likely be an exponential decay. Still, for Anglicans in North America, the news is daunting:
Anglicans in particular are abandoning their faith at a rate that (in more ways that one) defies belief. According to the British Social Attitudes surveys, their numbers fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 29 per cent in 2004 and 17 per cent last year.

Lord Carey of Clifton, a more formidable figure in retirement than he was in office, last month warned the C of E that it was ‘one generation away from extinction’. The new Social Attitudes figures support his conclusions.
Thompson offers a series of explanations, but they basically boil down to the psychological-social processes of secularization by the children of the Christian faithful:
You go away to university and suddenly almost nobody believes what you do, or did. Your siblings move to different towns, so you won’t see them in church any more. Your laptop plugs you into any social network that takes your fancy. Even if you’re born again as an evangelical Christian, life pushes you from one congregation to another. Many Evangelicals get bored and turn into nones.

The mainstream churches can’t cope with this explosion of choice. Also, as you may have noticed, they’re led by middle–managers who are frightened of their own shadows. They run up the white flag long before the enemy comes down from the hills.
This gives me new respect for the ACNA catechesis process. However — unlike the stated goal of evangelization — it seems crucial to use the catechism process not just on new converts, but on cradle Anglicans being confirmed as teenagers. If we don’t build and pass along a bullet-proof faith, there won’t be anyone left.