JOURNAL OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF QUAKERS IN THE ARTS
Issue #4, Winter 1996-97
The Making of "Worship in Song"
by Joan Broadfield
Thank you, Friends and Friends General Conference, for allowing us to produce the new Friends hymnal, Worship in Song. Not only was it an important resource for Friends, it was an affirmation for those of us whose spiritual lives are fed by music.
It was also, for those of us active in the selection process, a real spiritual journey, rich with experiences of discovering and rediscovering the spirit in song and of building a small community of worship together. Our hope is that the process we have been through can be captured for others attempting the same type of work.
Fears that powerful faith would not be reflected, fears about language, fears of exclusion and inclusion, fears that treasured hymns would not be treated with respectthese were the fears that had made a hymnal impossible ten years before. We decided to keep our fears (written on 3x5 cards) in front of us, posted on an easel, while we continued to sing, listen, and share.
It took about ten years from the time FGC decided to encourage a group of Friends to explore what a new Friends hymnal would look like until the first hymnal appeared. This initial process produced a weekend conference, to which Friends came bringing the visions for a hymnal of small groups all over FGC. We were lucky to have the presence of one member of the last hymnal committee, the late Walter Felton, who shared a sense of perspective as well as a knowledge of music and hymnody.
Friends also brought their fears--fears about such diversity that powerful faith would not be reflected, fears about language, fears of exclusion and inclusion, fears that treasured hymns would not be treated with respect. These were the fears that, as many remembered, had made a hymnal impossible ten years before. We decided to keep our fears (written on 3x5 cards) in front of us, posted on an easel, while we continued to sing, listen, and share. In the end, we agreed that we needed to try to create a new Friends hymnal.
Out of this weekend came a folder of music, and guidance for the small group in Philadelphia (the Oversight Committee) which proceeded to put together guiding principles and to name a Music Selection Working Group: Musewogs!
Beginning about 1991, Meetings for Selection were held two or three times a year. We met around tables piled high with hymnals and sheets of music. Over the years the group reviewed over 1000 submissions, not including some which had been previously culled because it was clear that they did not meet guidelines of singability, language, or theology.
Our process of review consisted of singing, sharing feelings and information, then discerning whether each piece was a clear keep or discard, or if it needed to be put in a growing "wait and see" pile. A sheet on which we were to record key points did help us, but our recording discipline often got lost in the shuffle of listening to the music and the sharing.
Two years ago we further developed our process by asking each member to pick ca. 100 selections "that need to be in the hymnal." In the end we arrived at about 250 hymns by including all those picked by at least six of the fourteen people. Some of those that appeared had been previous discards. We met to review those selections, did some fine-tuning, then trusted the Oversight Committee to consider what else to include, aiming for 300 to 500 hymns. The Oversight Committee carefully reviewed the content of the hymnal so far and looked for areas not adequately represented. It also considered what areas might be over-represented. Members held the process and each other in the Light throughout.
As the Selection Committee was ending its part in the process, the Oversight Committee began to focus on the arrangement of the hymnal, using ideas by two members of Musewogs to develop the current outline. (A breakthrough was considering "Fruits of worship".) This outline was then used to review the hymnal and assure a good balance.
It fit together in an amazing way, and is a great testimony to the grace of the Spirit.
And to the goodness of staff and organization.
Types & Shadows is published quarterly by the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts. Subscriptions are available through membership in the FQA.
T&S Archive | FQA Home Page | Join FQA
This page revised July 2001