Academic journal article The Hymn

From the Executive Director

Academic journal article The Hymn

From the Executive Director

Article excerpt

Here we are, at another milestone year for The Hymn Society! It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating 80 years since our founding, and now it's 85 years.

In many ways, this organization is in very good shape: our publications and conferences are thriving, and our financial assets are growing (thanks in part to the "Give Thanks for Tomorrow" campaign). But there is also the uncomfortable fact that our membership has gradually declined over the past several years. Although we had 2,463 members five years ago, we will be beginning this year with approximately 2,100.

The causes for that 15% drop are multiple and somewhat elusive. Part of the decline is the result of cutbacks in the budgets of libraries and churches, some comes from people who simply forget to renew, and some reflects the aging or demise of formerly active members. But we often have people renew their membership after several years' absence, and we continue to attract new members. In fact, we send out on average a new-member or returning-member packet every day the office is open.

In many ways our smaller numbers are a microcosm of declines in the membership of most mainline denominations, as well as a reflection of the increased emphasis in many congregations on less traditional styles of music. There is also a lingering perception in some people's understanding of The Hymn Society that it is only for people who write hymn texts, compose hymn tunes, or publish hymns. Those qualifications for membership in our early years have not held true for quite some time, but that aura lingers on.

Another impediment may be that "The Hymn Society" is really not an adequate name for an organization that deals with a wide range of congregational song from all over the world, much of it quite removed from the strictures of strophic hymnody. …

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