Most congregations have a canon of hymns that they know, love and sing often. I’ll pause while you make a mental list of your congregation’s hymn canon… … … … …
You know though, there are countless hymns and songs in this world that your congregation rarely or never sings. New hymnals and songs come out every year, of course, but there are also many old songs in your own hymnals and music file cabinets you never sing either. Maybe, just maybe, some of these are inspiring and could become loved by your congregation.
With a desire by our worship team and some with in the congregation to expand our hymn canon, we began adding something we call NewSong to our Sunday morning services. Here is what we did:
- Every month our worship team picks a hymn that we don’t know and commits to singing it somewhere in worship each week. From week to week its location in the service may change and that’s OK. Often the NewSong is contemporary, but not always. Sometimes it is a hymn from the public domain (be careful of copyright!)
- We have tried to give a heads up to our choir or other singers/musicians so that they can familiarize themselves with it and help to lead congregational singing.
- In the weekly bulletin, I note the hymn/song as “NewSong” so we all know we are learning it.
- The first Sunday we are to sing this hymn, we often practice one verse at the end of our announcements so that the congregation feels less awkward singing it during the main part of the service.
- I make a point of acknowledging that the hymn is new to us and assure the congregation it is OK if it takes us a verse or two to get the hang of it. Sometimes to add humor and to inspire courage I remind them of a saying of a friend of mine, Rev. Barbara Lemmel, who says: “everyone is allowed to hate one hymn this morning.”
- We then sing this hymn at least once per Sunday for a whole month. After that, it may find its way into our hymn rotation, and maybe even into our hymn canon. It also may find its way into oblivion if we find few liked it, it was too hard to sing, or for some other reason.
© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016