A new hymnal for Baptists and other Christian fellowships is slated for release in 2009, the year that marks the 400th anniversary of Baptists. The Townsend-McAfee Institute Graduate Studies in Church Music at Mercer University is leading efforts to organize, research and collect songs of worship for the hymnal. The project is true to Mercer's commitment of extending its resources to Baptists and other Christians and in keeping with the hymnic tradition set forth by the University's namesake, Jesse Mercer, with his Cluster of Spiritual Songs, which was first published around 1800, before passing through 11 editions.
A collaboration of the Townsend-McAfee Institute and Mercer University Press, the hymnal project will be led by an editorial team of church musicians who will work with ministers of music, music professors, pastors and lay leaders to create the hymnal. "It is a privilege for Mercer University Press (MUP) to publish a hymnal for Baptists and Christian fellowships for the 21st Century," said Marc Jolley, director of MUP.
Heading up the editorial team are John Simons and Stanley Roberts, both of the Townsend-McAfee Institute, and Milburn Price, dean of the School of Performing Arts at Samford University. Baptist layman J. Thomas McAfee, chairman and president of Hallmark Systems, Inc., will serve as chairman of the project.
"By developing this new hymnal, we are embracing our heritage and creating a church music resource for congregations to use for worship and ministry," said McAfee.
The team will be supported by four committees comprised of nationally recognized leaders: collegiate church music scholars, church music/worship ministers, worship-sensitive pastors and church lay-leaders. Simons said, "Together, we will create a hymnal that is practical, artistic, well constructed and diverse."
"For some time, Baptist church musicians have expressed a desire for a new congregational hymnal – one that is broader in scope and more supportive of worship practice and the rhythms of the church year," according to Roberts, associate professor of music in the Townsend School of Music and minister of music at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon. "The breadth and potential of this project is unprecedented and will provide a worship resource that is a needed improvement over the hymnals available today."
Price said, "This collection can provide for Baptist and other Christian congregations a new compendium of congregational song that has the possibility of enriching worship in the early 21st Century."
According to Simons, associate professor of music at Mercer and director of the Townsend-McAfee Institute, the hymnal will include great hymns of faith, new hymns, spiritual songs, worship music from other cultures, service music, worship readings, creative worship medleys and worship planning tools. As a worship resource, the hymnal will include online updates, CD-ROM database information, production downloads, orchestrations and instrumental charts. It will be church-friendly and available in both hardback and digital collections.
"Congregational singing is alive and well in Christian worship practices," Simons said. "One of the dilemmas facing worship leaders is a lack of practical, diverse and well-constructed worship tools. This hymnal collection will help solve this issue."
For more information about the new hymnal, contact Dr. John E. Simons at (478) 301-2748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.