Picking Hymnals

Let’s say your church tasked you with finding a new set of hymnals for your church. Which hymnal would you pick, and why?

I’m sure many readers will name the classic 1943 Church of God red-backed hymnal. Are there any others that contain a similarly deep selection of Southern Gospel convention-style classics, but also contain some of the classics from the last 70 years?


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62 Letters to the Editor

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  1. While I was familiar with the Red Back, I grew up on the Broadman and Baptist Hymnal. Now i look at the screen. The last church I was at used the Celebration Hymnal which I really enjoyed.

    • I like both the Baptist Hymnal (I have the latest) and the Celebration Hymnal (I have the 1997, which I think is the latest). They don’t have that much Southern Gospel, except for Gaither songs, “Sweet Beulah Land,” and maybe one or two old Brumley and Stamps-Baxter tunes, but their selections of hymns are pretty authoritative.

    • Our church has 75 Songs & Hymns of Revival hymnals for sale at half price. They are like new. Email if interested.

      • Can I get you email. Very interested!!!

      • So that it doesn’t have to get posted online, I’ll forward it to you (since she expressed openness to being emailed about this.)

      • please email me about the 75 hymnals for sale 🙂

      • We have 40-50 of the http://pentecostalpublishing.com/node/5896 Sing Unto the Lord Hymn Book we are selling. Let me know if any interest. Thanks!!

      • do you still have the hymnals for sale?

  2. If someone knows a hymnal that has “Leave Your Sorrows and Come Along” and “Because He Lives” in it, I’d love to hear about it. I don’t know of one with such a mix of convention songs and modern SG classics.

    Each of the churches I have attended in my life used the red-back. Recently, our church switched to Songs & Hymns of Revival for congregational singing, while still using the red-back for choir singing and general use. Songs & Hymns of Revival has a great mix of classic standard hymns and more recent SG songs like “He Came to Me,” and even “He Is Mine”. But it is not a convention songbook. There are a few, like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” but not nearly the depth of the red-back for those kinds of songs. It’s a book tailored for congregations.

    • Brian – that’s exactly the sort of hymnal I’d love to find – one that has both the “Because He Lives”-type songs and the “Leave Your Sorrows and Come Along”-type songs!

      • The “Sing To The Lord” hymn book by Lillenas publishing company, has “Because He Lives” along with several other Gaither penned songs. http://www.lillenas.com/nphweb/html/lmol/itempage.jsp?itemId=MB-666&catalogId=LMOL&catSecCd=HYMN&subCatSecCd=NA&subSubCatSecCd=NA&lid=dsc

      • Cool! Both the Baptist Hymnal and the Celebration Hymnal have some of the Gaither songs, too. Does the Sing to the Lord hymnal have any of the classic convention songs?

      • Unfortunately it doensn’t, this is the hymnal we use at our church, and I am the worship leader. I do wish it had some convention songs to teach to the congregation.

        On a southern gospel note though, one of our favorites to sing is a Gaither penned tune “Majesty”. It works perfectly in a large crowd and or choir setting especially with the instruments as we have.

      • OK!

    • The publisher of Songs & Hymns of Revival, a large congregational hymnal, has two other smaller hymnals that may be geared more toward special singers, which contain lots of good SG songs of the last 20-30 years. (again, not convention songs, though)

      See here if anyone is interested. These are good books.

      http://nvpublications.org/index.php?route=product/category&path=39

      • That link didn’t work for me.

      • Hmph…it’s working for me.

        Maybe this is better?
        http://nvpublications.org/hymnals

        If that don’t work, try googling “north valley hymnals”. All of these work for me.

      • That works; thanks!

      • Wow! I’m going to have to add those right near the top of my list of things I’d love to purchase when the budget permits!

  3. I have a special fondness for the Heavenly Hiways “songbook”, and Roger Bennett, did, too. When I first saw them, back in the day when I was playing for our monthly county singing conventions, it was an orange paperback book. There is now also a hardback version which my church folks love to debate whether is dark blue or black. In any case, we have them at Springhill and sing out of them ALL the time…so much so that without looking I know that #146 is “Coming and Dine”, #142 is “Come Unto Me”, #259 is “That’s Why I Love Him So”, and a reigning favorite is #196, Mosie Lister’s immortal “Bound for the Kingdom”. It does have the old hymns as well, and a nice selection of Christmas songs. I have sweet memories of men I grew up knowing who could really lead singing…calling out those numbers out of the Heavenly Hiways, and a whole church-ful of folks singing parts. My MY but I’d be sad to see that pass off the scene!

    • Yes…I’ve seen a Heavenly Highway laying around my church before. I’ve never really looked into it a lot to see what’s in there. It is an old book (1950s), and I don’t think there have been any new editions.

    • I have the old orange one! Great, great hymnal, right up there with the Church of God red-back.

    • The church I grew up in sang out of the Heavenly Highways! Loved it!! We had the hardback dark blue/ black one. I think we had an edition that maybe came out in the late 1980s that we got not long after.

    • The Heavenly Highway Hymnal Volume I was better than Volume II, imo. It contains a TON of convention-style songs.

  4. I like the new Baptist Hymnal.

  5. Maybe a bit off subject, but it would be interesting to take a survey to find out what percentage of churches still use hymnals on a regular basis vs. how many project the words onto a screen. We still have hymn books in our pew racks, but they are seldom used, even though we have a “blended” service in which we generally sing a couple of hymns along with praise/worship songs. Everything is usually projected.

    That brings up yet another interesting subject — how many people using hymnals use the notes to sing parts? One of the complaints of projected music is that it does away with people singing the parts, which is often true. On the other hand, people tend to look up and sing out better with the projected songs, since so often when they used hymn books they were looking down to the books and singing at the floor.

    • We use Easyworship to project our songs on a fairly large screen.

    • I suspect the people who read my blog wouldn’t be exactly an accurate sample of American Christianity!

    • When I worked at Lifeway, they said they had conducted a study before compiling their new hymnal, in order to see if putting a new one together was even worthwhile in 21st century worship with digital downloads and Powerpoint/projection systems. They found that something like 90% of all polled churches (I assume of the Southern Baptist variety, at least) still made extensive if not exclusive use of hymnals. I don’t remember if they found a figure for extensive to exclusive projector-based church worship, but that 90% was pretty impressive to me.

      Personally, I consider books far more versatile and reliable than anything utilizing a computer and as such prefer them, though it’s becoming increasingly harder for smaller churches to come up with capable pianists.

      • That is fascinating! I have a sneaking suspicion that the percentage of SBC churches that use hymnals is higher than the nationwide percentage – regrettably!

    • The word “versus” is unfortunate, since it typically doesn’t have to be a choice.

      90% of the songs we sing are from the _Celebration Hymnal_. We put the lyrics on the screen and provide the number from the hymnal as well.

      By providing the numbers, people who can read music enough to sing parts still have that option. For others who only need the words and sing the melody, their voices project better when they look up at the screen. It’s the best of both.

      For the 10% or so of songs we sing that aren’t already in the hymnbook, we put the lyrics on the screen and also in the bulletin.

      • Putting hymnal page numbers on the projector is probably the most interesting compromise position I’ve heard to date.

      • My home church does the hymn number on the projector thing too. And sometimes, they announce the number before they start singing too.

  6. Found one the other day at the local Christian bookstore that not only had several of the southern classics (shaped notes included) but also several more modern P&W songs as well.

    • Were the modern P&W songs in shape notes? (!)

  7. Songs of Faith printed by Double Oak Press is about the best hymnal I have found. It has over 500 songs of great variety, all what I consider to be either hymns or Southern Gospel. It includes most of the songs that are in the Church of God red-backed hymnal and Heavenly Highway Hymns, but it has many, many more as well. Give it a look at http://www.doubleoakpress.com. There is a complete song list there. Great book. I wish we had it at our church.

    • Thanks, Tom! That list is quite impressive!

    • Great book! Definitely putting that on my wish list!

    • Reading this nearly a year later, I just ordered a copy of _Songs Of Faith_.

  8. My church uses the All-American Church Hymnal for most of their services, but the Youth Department uses Soul Stirring Hymns.

  9. The songbook we use at church is Bible Truth Hymns. Just got this one last year & I love to sing the songs from this hymnal. It does have Because He Lives & Beulah Land and Sweet Beulah Land (written by Squire Parsons). We do not sing P&W or off the screen.

  10. I also look at the hymnals when visiting other churches.

  11. How I wish our church still used hymnals! I wish we even sang hymns! I do enjoy our music–the words are good and the sound is nice (mostly), but I miss reading the notes and singing in parts, and just enjoying the old hymns. I know we could choose another church but our kids and grandkids are involved and loving and serving Jesus at our church, so I am just trying to be thankful. There is a LOT to be thankful for!

  12. Our church uses “Praise and Worship” which has hymns and old gospel songs (not Southern Gospel). We really need to upgrade though as the hymnals don’t have a lot of classics like And Can it Be, and Great Is Thy Faithfulness. If I was in charge of upgrading, I would choose Sing Unto the Lord by Lillenas. It has old hymns such as the ones I mentioned as well as newer songs like We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise and In the Name of the Lord. It doesn’t have a LOT of SG songs, but it does have songs by Larnell Harris, Sandi Party, Gaithers, ect. It’s one of the best hymnals I know of.

    • Wow! It’s almost unthinkable for a hymnal to omit those two!

    • I believe I have or at least have seen a copy of the former; I’m not familiar with the latter. Does it have any Southern Gospel selections?

      • I honestly couldn’t tell you.

      • No problem!

  13. Our church still uses the 1975 Baptist Hymnal with the congregation, though I picked up 2008s for my choir/ensemble since it has most of the standard fare of most churches of our sort along with newer material and updated arrangements of traditional songs. It also incorporates planning resources that put it over the top in terms of a resource for music leaders and worship pastors, from theming services to bridges to readings to an online digital utility that provides more extensive capabilities.

    We also use the Best of Songs of Inspiration from time to time, particularly for its Southern Gospel content. We always use the Heavenly Highway Hymnals (vol. 1) for our fifth Sunday night all-request service. Most of our associated churches predominately use the 1991 Baptist Hymnal.

    My previous church recently changed from the great old 1977 Singspiration book (Praise! Our Best Songs and Hymns–I always loved that book) to the Celebration Hymnal, which seems to be along the same order, with a great cross-selection of songs and planning tools comparable to the 2008 Baptist.

  14. I am mennonite and we use a hymnal compiled especially for our church. All of our singing is acappella 4 part harmony. It has 657 songs I believe. They dont have a lot of bouncy SG style songs but mostly just the older hymns. They can be purchased here http://churchofgodinchristmennonite.net/node/26 All in all its one of my favorite songbooks and I have probably 40 shape note songbooks.

    • Very neat! My parents have a Mennonite hymnal – not sure if it’s that one – but I don’t (presently).

      Interesting trivia: One time, I came across a recording of a Mennonite choir (I believe it was a men’s chorus) singing the Cathedrals’ song “Boundless Love,” written by Dianne Wilkinson. They calmed it down a little, though they did include the answer-back harmonies. The end result sounded a little like “Send the Light,” stylistically.

      • I hear ya! There is a quartet out there from a different denomination of mennonite that i just Love! They are called The Garment of Praise Quartet. Have you ever heard of them?

      • I don’t think so. Are they acapella?

  15. Yeah they are. This is their website. http://www.garmentofpraiseqt.com/ A few years ago the lead singer daryl wrote a song called The Empty Tomb says it All and Kingdom heirs recorded it.

    • Great point of reference – I do know and love that song!

    • I just listened to the video of “Heaven’s Joy Awaits” on their site. Wow – they are very good!

  16. Does anyone know of a hymnal that contains songs such as “under his feet,Right on time and ” By the blood”