Support the Café

Search our Site

The young resist hymnal revision

The young resist hymnal revision

One of the reports submitted to General Convention this year analyzes the interest in the Episcopal Church in revising the 1982 Hymnal. The task of doing the research was passed to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and they’ve posted their long report on the Church Pension Group website. (See update below for more information regarding the report itself.)

The report contains information that might be surprising to some, but not to all. Robert Hendrikson blogs:

“The group that was most resistant to the idea of revising the hymnal are those under 29 years of age. They are the most resistant by a large percentage. The report concludes, on page 57,

‘Respondents in their twenties and younger are statistically different than the rest of the respondents, reporting the least interest in desiring worship music to reflect their personal musical tastes. This proves counter to the ‘common knowledge’ theory that younger congregants are looking for a more modern or popular-music experience at church.’

The survey found that those ‘whose age is significantly above or below 50 are less likely to support revision. Middle-aged Episcopalians are more supportive of revision than younger and older Episcopalians.’

Among clergy, the numbers are striking, ‘Specifically, both the youngest and oldest clerics tend to be more opposed to revision, while middle-aged clergy are more favorably disposed. Clergy who are younger than 30, in fact, are nearly two-thirds in opposition to revision.’”

There was strong support from female clergy for revising the language of the hymns, and less from the male clergy. There was no gender based difference among the laity who filled out the survey.

More from the Curate’s Desk blog here.

Go read the blog analysis. And then come back and tell us what you think.

UPDATE: A clarification on the authors of the report; the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music asked the Church Pension Fund’s research group to conduct the study on its behalf, and it is that group that developed and administered the surveys, and wrote the report that is posted on the Church Pension Group website.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jacob Pierce


The Orthodox are the second largest expression of the Faith in all of Christendom. There are over 300 million of them, more than three times we Anglicans. I would be quite careful about calling them irrelevant or just a niche.

Jacob Pierce

Jacob Pierce


The Orthodox are the second largest expression of the Faith in all of Christendom. There are over 300 million of them, more than three times we Anglicans. I would be quite careful about calling them irrelevant or just a niche.

Jacob Pierce

Adam Wood

(Sorry- that is currently Title II, Canon 5)

Adam Wood


nobody seriously intends the hymnal to be the source of “all” music used. It’s supposed to be a foundation, a core structure; surely nearly everyone back in the flusher days of the early eighties assumed that the typical parish would have a choir which would sing, well, pretty much anything.

And this:

the Hymnal, while official, is not required in the same way

While perhaps reflecting some unspoken consensus at the time of adoption, do not jibe well with written rules or (as far as I can tell) many Episcopalians’ opinion on the matter. The 1979 BCP states:

“Hymns referred to in the rubrics of this Book are to be understood as those authorized by this Church. The words of anthems are to be from Holy Scripture, or from this Book, or from texts congruent with them.”

So, yeah- I guess a choir can sing anything it wants (as long as it is congruent with scripture) but the congregation can only sing hymns specifically approved by the Church.

Even Wikipedia notices this:

“Unlike many Anglican churches (including the Church of England) the Episcopal Church requires that the words of hymns be from officially approved sources, making the official hymnals perhaps more important than their counterparts elsewhere.”

While some Music Directors and Clergy blatantly ignore this rule, many do not. God save the Music Director whose vestry-members don’t like their off-book selections. (And don’t even get me started on the patronizing attitude toward Music Directors provided in Canon 24, Section 1).

That’s why I said above- we don’t need a new hymnal. We need the authority and the encouragement to figure out what the real people in our communities really need.


Yeah, I’m not a very spontaneous person, and while I’m trying to fix that in my social life, it’s not the sort of thing I need at church. I worry that it would put too much pressure on me to perform. It’s the entire reason I love the Prayer Book — it’s like a road map of prayer.

Conversely, I feel like American Christianity (not just TEC) is too addicted to experimentation, with too little to show for it. What I crave is stability. At the same time, what fulfills me in worship is the feeling of transcendence, the sense that I’m being drawn outside myself and this world. And it’s because the worship has an ancient structure and the hymns aren’t limited to my own lifetime — it’s a healthy reminder that my daily life in the 21st century United States is not the measure of all existence.

I’m not sure one hymnal can ever be one-size-fits-all. But I do see the value of having an official one for the national church. Maybe it’s less about whether we need the hymnal, but whether it needs to be in every single pew. Maybe the hymnal should be more like a one-stop catalogue, from which each church can choose and adapt its own repertoire, and put that in the pews or the bulletin.

– Alex Scott

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café