Almost two years ago, the Townsend-McAfee Institute of Church Music and Mercer University Press announced plans to produce a new hymnal. One of the first tasks for the editors – Tom McAfee, John Simons, Stanley Roberts, and Milburn Price – was to select a committee of 50 church musicians and theologians, composer and arrangers, laypeople and educators to comprise five committees to accomplish the task. In the intervening months, “Celebrating Grace: A Hymnal for Baptist Worship” became the hymnal’s title; an additional editor – David Music – was named; the Web site – www.celebrating-grace.com – was launched; and Mark Edwards, veteran minister of music at First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., was tapped to become the first full-time employee of the project and “face” of the project.
The hymnal is scheduled for release Spring 2010, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Baptists.
Now, having developed the hymnal’s organization, having selected a little more than half the hymns and songs for the book, and beginning to lay ground work for the extensive online musical and worship resources, the editors will seek the insights and input of additional church musicians via a series of HymnPosiums. These are one-day, two-way conversations – 11 of them in nine states – in which the editors share project information and intentions and participants respond with their ideas. To date, four HymnPosiums have taken place, and the response has been exciting and encouraging. This month, HymnPosiums will be conducted in Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Birmingham, Ala.; Knoxville, Tenn., and Kansas City, Mo. Location, schedule and additional information is available on the Web site and Mercerians are welcomed and encouraged to attend..
“The Celebrating Grace” hymnal will appeal to churches for whom the hymnal is an important worship resource, who value creativity and variety in worship, and who – taking a line from a hymn – wish to “…ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” The contents of the hymnal will represent a broad range of old and recent congregational songs, a variety of musical genres, and readings – ancient and modern.
Editions of the hard copy hymnal will include the pew edition, an accompanist edition, a leather-bound pulpit edition, and a loose-leaf edition to accommodate choir folders. Information will be available soon on how to pre-order the “Celebrating Grace” hymnal for churches and individuals. For further information about the project, contact Mark Edwards. Or better yet, join the hymnal family via the form on the website or by calling toll-free (877) 550-7707.