Academic journal article The Hymn

Mille Voix.Pour Te chanter/A Thousand Tongues to Sing to You the First French-Language Hymnal for United Methodists in Europe and Africa

Academic journal article The Hymn

Mille Voix.Pour Te chanter/A Thousand Tongues to Sing to You the First French-Language Hymnal for United Methodists in Europe and Africa

Article excerpt

At the end of the eighteenth century, leaders of the Methodist movement in Great Britain were concerned about the development of a hymnal which would reflect the spirit and faith of "the people called Methodists" for French-speaking people. One of the earliest efforts under the auspices of the Wesleyan Missionary Society was to publish a Frenchlanguage hymnal1 for French prisoners in British prisons. There does not appear to be an extant copy of the first issue of the hymnal, but the 1815 edition was titled Choix de Cantiques à l'usage des Prisonniers Français.

As Methodism spread to the French-speaking islands of the English Channel in the early 1780s and eventually to the European continent, a series of French-language Methodist hymnals2 was published primarily through the work of Jean de Queteville (1761-1843), the founder of French-speaking Methodism on the island of Guernesey. However, the first hymnal for the Channel Islands, Recueil de Cantiques, was compiled by Robert Carr Brackenbury (1752-1818), a forerunner of the Methodist Society on the island of Jersey, and published with 202 hymns in London, 1786.

Jean de Queteville followed this first publication with a number of French-language hymnals. As early as 1795, just four years after John Wesley's death (1703-1791 ), de Queteville edited and published on the island of Guernesey Nouveau recueil de cantiques spirituels with 467 hymns. In 1799 it was reprinted in Bristol with the assistance of R. Edwards, but under a different title, Rectieil de cantiques pour l'usage des personnes appellée Méthodiste, with 468 hymns. The same year a supplement with an additional sixty-two hymns, Supplement au livre de cantiques, was also published in Bristol, again with the help of Edwards.

Additional French-language hymnals were edited by de Queteville, such as Nouveau Recueil de cantiques à l'usage de la société appellée Méthodiste,3 which was published in 1806 with 663 hymns. This was followed by the 1818 publication, Recueil de cantiques à l'usage de la société appellée Méthodiste, with 762 hymns, printed on the island of Guernesey.4 In 1828 de Queteville published in London a newly corrected edition under the same title. In 1868 the Wesleyan Conference Office in London published another French-language hymnal, Recueil de Cantiques à l'usage des Iles de la Manche, New Edition, which contained 464 hymns. However, there is no indication that de Queteville had anything to do with this hymnal. Its Preface bears the names of Matthieu Gallienne, President of the District, and W-J. Handcock, Secretary of the Commission. In Gallienne's opinion the hymnals of de Queteville were far from satisfactory for they included inept translations of Wesley5 and other English-language hymns, no original material, and only a few known French Protestant hymns.6

Interestingly, French-speaking Methodism was limited in its growth in the Channel Islands and on the European continent. After the aforementioned hymnals, it did not develop its own hymnal, nor did it receive support from its partner churches in Great Britain and the United States for this purpose.

Today there are French-speaking Methodists in the United States, Europe (France and Switzerland), Africa (Republic of Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Burundi), and the Caribbean region. When the autonomous Methodist Church of Ivory Coast joined The United Methodist Church in 2008, suddenly the French-speaking constituency of United Methodism swelled to approximately two million. In all of these countries there are rich singing traditions, particularly among the Methodists, and today there is a desire to sing one another's hymns and songs of the past and present as congregations worship and witness to Christ and the church. However, there has been little opportunity to bring together indigenous hymnody7 of these countries with the rich hymn tradition of the Wesleyan movement. With this in view two agencies of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), sponsored a series of consultations in Geneva, Switzerland, beginning in 2003 that resulted, among other initiatives,8 in the publication of the first ever French-language hymnal, Mille voix . …

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