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Introducing Your New Hymnal to Your Church
Many people possess a sense of adventure and welcome the opportunity to explore new things. Yet, human nature being what it is, others instinctively resist change, preferring to stay with the familiar. Pastors and church musicians have seen this phenomenon occur whenever there is a change made to the way the assembly worships.
Along these lines, most parishioners will eagerly anticipate the introduction of a new hymnal, while others are likely to be cautious from the start. Much of the typical resistance to change can be offset if the process is carefully thought out, rather than simply allowing the assembly to be surprised one day to find a new book in the pews. Here are some suggestions to help you make the introduction of a new hymnal a positive experience for all.
- ANNOUNCE THAT A NEW HYMNAL IS BEING ADOPTED WELL BEFORE IT APPEARS IN THE PEW RACKS. Tell the people something about the book, including something about the process that led to the decision to adopt it. Let them know why you believe that the use of this book will enhance the way your community worships. You may wish to place a few copies of the book on display in the narthex so that those who are interested can take a few minutes to examine it. If you are asking each family to donate a hymnal, you may wish to provide information about the fund-raising effort at this time.
- HAVE A VIGOROUSLY PROMOTED HYMNAL INTRODUCTION MEETING FOR ALL PARISH STAFF, LITURGICAL MINISTERS, AND ANYONE ELSE WHO WISHES TO ATTEND. This meeting should include priests, deacons, ushers, greeters, lectors, communion ministers, servers, all music ministers, catechists, parish council members, officers of parish organizations, and the parish secretaries! If these people are fully informed about the points raised above, and if they have been given an introduction to the new hymnal, they will serve as positive agents for change within the broader community when the book is in hand. While it is very important that you do some singing at this meeting, resist the temptation to introduce your ten favorite new hymns. If you can get them to sing just one or two wonderful new hymns really well, they will have a good experience with “new” and look forward to more. If you overload then with new things so that they barely remember any of it, you will only reinforce the negative feelings some people have about change. Once you have introduced the new hymns, pick a few favorites and sing them just for fun. You will have a captive audience of people who are enthusiastic about the liturgy. Putting all these liturgical ministers together at one time will probably result in a sound dynamic that is not generally experienced—a little taste of what can be!
- ON THE FIRST SUNDAY THE BOOKS ARE USED, BLESS THEM AT EACH MASS. In that part of The Roman Ritual known as the Book of Blessings, a blessing for hymnals and service books is found in Chapter 39. Following the general intercessions, there is an introduction by which the celebrant prepares the assembly for the blessing. After this, he should invite every person in the assembly to hold up their book for the prayer of blessing. A logical conclusion to the blessing would be to have everyone sing a hymn or song. Choose something very familiar so the assembly's first use of the book is a positive experience. Thus we introduce the new hymnal by reminding ourselves that these books are used to glorify and praise God in sung prayer.
- WITHSTAND THE TEMPTATION TO RUSH INTO TEACHING NEW REPERTOIRE. The best way to set aside the resistance to change is to use nothing but already familiar music for the first few weeks. Let the people grow accustomed to the feel and layout of the book with familiar songs before they are asked to learn something new. On the other hand, GIA hymnals do contain plenty of music written in verse and refrain form. With a cantor or choir to introduce the refrain and then sing the verses, repertoire of this type can be introduced rather easily. Do avoid for a short time, however, the kind of new piece that needs to be taught before it can be sung. Before long, the comfort level will increase, and everyone will be eager to begin the long, exciting journey of exploring all that is new in the hymnal.
For more tips on introducing a new hymnal:
"Introducing a New Hymnal" James Rawlings Sydnor
Buying that new hymnal is but the first step. Carefully and successfully introducing the hymnal to the congregation is the second giant step that leads to all desired goals. This book is your guide along the journey.