Academic journal article The Hymn


Academic journal article The Hymn


Article excerpt


On a sunny Sunday afternoon in October, 2008, Humbercrest United Church in Toronto's West End buzzed with anticipation. In die lofty chancel die Salvation Army Toronto Brass band took turns with guest organist Fred Graham in playing a boisterous halfhour prelude of hymn arrangements old and new as people filled die pews to enjoy a special hymn festival, Great hymns of the faith.

Altiiough director of music Melvin Hurst conducts a similar festival every second year, this one was just a little more distinctive because it celebrated die tendi anniversary of SOCHS, die Soutiiern Ontario Chapter of die Hymn Society, which co-sponsored die event with die host church. The opening hymn, "When in our music God is glorified,'' was a splendid introduction to our birtiiday party.

Research for die narrators had been generously supplied by John Ambrose, editor of die hymnal Voices United and one of die founding members of SOCHS. The ministers and members of Humbercrest offered scripture readings, and die audience sang with enthusiasm hymns that ranged from "Standing on die promises" to die contemporary "When we are living." A particularly proud moment in die program was die singing of die winning hymn of our recent first-ever competition. It had invited new texts based on die tiieme How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? From fifty-seven submissions arising out of Canada, die USA, and Britain, adjudicators chose Stan Engle's "How can we sing our songs of faitii?" and runner-up Frederick Harrison's "O how can we sing die Lord's song?" Two lines from die latter summed up botii die hymn festival itself and our chapter's mandate, in praying:

Open us to new expressions

of the worship of our God

as we gather in his presence,

bringing treasures new and old.

At die festival's conclusion, cake and punch in die church hall refreshed weary voices and facilitated spirited chatter, congratulations, and good wishes for die future of SOCHS.

As of Labor Day 2010 we have embarked on our tiiirteendi season, and we want to share our history with readers of The Hymn in die hope of encouraging otiiers to start up a chapter of their own. The rewards are numerous.

In the beginning

The initiative began, as so many fine projects do, in the wake of a Hymn Society summer conference, at Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1998. George Bell and Bill Lamb, two of the Hymn Society members in attendance, recalled the April editorial in The Hymn, by then executive director Carl Daw, FHS, expressing a wish to see more chapters of the parent organization across die USA and Canada. Fuelled by die enthusiasm of the conference and by coffee in the courtyard one morning, an exciting idea bubbled to the surface: might there be enough interested hymnophiles in Toronto and the surrounding area to make a chapter viable? With the counsel of John Ambrose and Don Parsons, Bill and George set out on the journey.

After address labels were obtained from the Hymn Society office, about fifty letters were mailed to Hymn Society members living within an hour's drive from Toronto, inviting them to an inaugural meeting of the new chapter at the local Baptist Convention offices. The letter highlighted the recent production of three national denominational hymnals, and the resulting pool of experience and enthusiasm in the southern Ontario region.

As if to strike a template for future meetings, the event included introductions and hymn singing, followed by an informative presentation on Voices United, recently published by the United Church of Canada. Leaders in the discussion were Fred Graham, John Ambrose, Don Parsons, and Ken Inkster, who contrasted the structure of the new resource with that of the 1971 Hymn book of the United Church/Anglican Church of Canada. The evening closed with a discussion of the directions the new chapter might take.

Following a flurry of creative suggestions, the consensus was that the organization should crawl before it walked, and that it would be time well spent to get to know each other better before engaging major challenges. …

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