Why Use Hymnals?
LPC uses the Trinity Psalter Hymnal in our worship, which raises a question for some: Why have a hymnal at all in this digital age, especially when projector screens are in the sanctuary?
Every church has a music playlist. A congregation needs to pull its rotation of songs from somewhere. Sometimes it’s the music team’s favorite songs, sometimes it’s the Top 40 Christian songs on the radio. A hymnal is a predetermined set list. What makes a hymnal valuable as a set list is that is curated and physical.
A curator in a museum knows all the exhibits well, and knows how to skillfully show and describe them to the guests A curated song list, such as a hymnal, is selective in the songs picked. Since hymnals are physical items, instead of a digital set list, the curation has to have a higher standard of selection: you can’t change the set list once the hymnal is published. The physicality of hymnals demands a high curation standard.
As a result, hymnals are effective in bringing a local congregation in the present in touch with the faith of the church in the past. Rather than being dependent on the knowledge of a single music leader, a hymnal is the result of expert curation across the ages. The Trinity Psalter Hymnal has songs from as recently as the past decade and as old 200 AD (“Shepherd of Tender Youth”, by St. Clement of Alexandria). This is a way in which LPC can join our voices with the church across time; hymnals guide our worship in embodying the communion of saints.
The physicality of hymnals also determines the set list for a local church for an extended period of time. A hymnal ensures that the church has a set of songs that endure regardless of what pastor or staff are there leading the church.
This is important because music cements theology in memory. Having an enduring, multi-generational, established set of music that a congregation knows solidifies God’s truth in the heart of Christians. Music in general has that power, but a shared musical history accomplishes this far more effectively than having a music set that reflects the most current and popular Christian music. The 425 hymns in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal are solidly curated and reflect the deep truths of the Reformed biblical tradition.
The Trinity Psalter Hymnal brings something else to the table: the biblical psalms. The book of Psalms is the divinely inspired hymn book of scripture. The psalter covers the range of human experience and emotions, and was written to be sung. Not only that, the psalms are a divine corrective to our experience and emotions. Sometimes the psalms cover subjects that we may find strange, but that is God’s way of teaching us how to think and feel in his likeness. The Trinity Psalter Hymnal has all 150 biblical psalms set to music for congregational singing. This is a good tool to sing the very words of scripture.
Of course, there will always be good music that LPC could sing that is not found in our hymnal. And we sing those as well. But these reasons are why Trinity Psalter Hymnal serves as the backbone of the songs that we sing together at LPC.