Author – Brian Hehn is the director of The Center for Congregational Song.
Like any denominational hymnal committee, you are already being bombarded with people’s opinions – support, attacks, sarcasm, and any other kind of feedback you can possibly imagine. While much of what you will hear is born out of fear, excitement, trepidation, recklessness, sentimentality, and/or prophecy, I hope most people are reaching out to you primarily out of a love and concern for their congregation’s song and, ultimately, your denomination’s spiritual well-being. All of those types of comments will continue until you’ve published the resource, which is when you’ll get even more feedback on all the wonderful and TERRIBLE choices you made, mostly to specifically spite the person currently giving feedback.
I know many of you. You don’t need my advice on what is “good theology” or “bad theology.” You don’t need to hear about what hymns I think are terrible or great. Many of the committee members will be spending this week at The Hymn Society’s Annual Conference. You will be meeting with colleagues, soaking up the plenaries and breakouts, and singing together every night at the hymn festivals. So my letter to you is this: what you are doing is so very important and is God’s call on your life at this time. Relax. Take this week to rest in the church’s song. Don’t worry about everyone’s thoughts and opinions on the committee’s work. Don’t worry about the nay-sayers and Debbie-downers.
My letter to you is this: what you are doing is so very important and is God’s call on your life at this time.
Here’s my “keep” list:
Keep: trusting in God. God got you into this and God will see you through it!
Keep: a discerning spirit. No matter what you do, people are going to be upset about something. Your job is to think beyond the short-term and truly discern God’s calling on your denomination. A big task, but one you can do by keep God at the center.
Keep: being you. You were invited into this work because of something somebody saw in you. Keep being the best version of you you can be. That is more than enough.
Keep: seeking out times and places of refuge. Like many ministry settings, this work will likely be grueling and by-and-large thankless. I hope that The Hymn Society and The Center for Congregational Song can be a place where you can find support and rest.
Keep: a sense of humor. Don’t forget to laugh throughout the process. God’s humor will surely work its way into the process. Enjoy those moments!
With love and support as you discern, create, and refine what we all hope to be a magnificent congregational song resource,