NEW hymns are being sought to bring a fresh perspective to nine issues confronting the world today: social justice, racial equality, mental health, the refugee crisis, the environment, societal divisions, the global pandemic, isolation, and truth.
They will form a collection of about a dozen “Hymns for our Contemporary World”, to be published in September. Writers are invited to submit either a new hymn text, or a complete new hymn with music, to Jubilate Hymns. The selected submissions will be recorded by a small ensemble, and published on the Jubilate website with scores and lyric videos. The recordings and videos will also be available on streaming services.
The project co-ordinator, Roger Peach, is music director of St Andrew’s, Oxford, and is closely involved with the All Souls Orchestra and Prom Praise. He said on Tuesday: “There are so many fresh new challenges in society at the moment that we haven’t encountered before, or to that degree. It’s good to keep our worship not divorced from the realities of the world we’re in.”
He said that he would be inspired by writers who were crafting and developing something, “not only grappling with the issues but also offering a distinctive Christian perspective, so that it’s not just doom and gloom — not just social comment, but something that points to hope”. Hymns that pushed one angle on an issue on which there were differing Christian views were discouraged, he said.
“We don’t want something that people wouldn’t in conscience feel able to sing. We want them to raise the issues, maybe asking questions rather than providing all the answers, but always going back to God rather than staying in the world.”
He points to contemporary hymn-writers such as the Revd Christopher Idle, who has written texts for Jubilate on themes such as these. “It isn’t that we’re covering something that hasn’t been looked at at all. But what we’re hoping is that it will encourage others to grapple with it — that it will joyfully broaden the repertoire, particularly in the more mainstream churches, so that it isn’t just coming from one or a fairly narrow group of themes.”
Writers submitting texts would often suggest a well-known tune, Mr Peach said; and experience showed that congregations were sometimes more likely to sing a new hymn if it was set to a tune that they knew. “But we have some gifted composers eager to have a look, and ready to write new tunes or new arrangements of music.”
Two weeks into the project, submissions have already been received. “There is interest not just in the UK, but in the US, too, and beyond,” Mr Peach said. “It will be a challenge for our assessors, but a good challenge to have.”
The closing date for submissions is 5 April.