Dr. Shirley's Resource Pages

Choosing Hymns

According to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, the manner in which a Worship Service is to be conducted the responsibility of the Clergy in Charge. This includes the choice of music.
However, the choice of hymns for a particular Worship Service may be delegated to the person leading the Service. Lay Ministers should, therefore, be able to make appropriate choices for hymns to accompany any Service which they lead.
A combination of several principles may be used as a guide in choosing hymns and music :

  1. Choice according to the place in the Service
    The opening hymn sets the mood for the Service - it should generally have a familiar, bright tune, and be easy to process in with.
    Similarly, the closing hymn should generally be one which gives praise to God, or reinforces the call of the sermon, or encourages people to go out into the world as Christian disciples. It should be easy to process out with.
    If there is a hymn after receiving communion, it may be quiet and meditative, or express joyful thanks.
    Solemn occasions such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, funerals, days of penitence etc. call for slower less bouncy tunes
  2. Choice according to the Liturgical Season
    The hymns in the Hymnal 1982 are grouped according to the seasons of the Church year - however, not all the hymns in any particular section may be suitable for the whole of that season. There are also sections for times of the day, Sundays, and particular saints' days.
  3. Choice according to the Scripture Readings and/or the theme of the Service
    See below
  4. Choice according to frequency of use
    Try to avoid using the same hymn several Sundays in a row, or to over-use some old favorite. Ideally, the choice of hymns for a particular service should be mainly of ones which the congregation already knows, with maybe one new hymn to be introduced and used until it is familiar.

Note for Congregations with limited musical resources :
Some congregations do not have a musician available every Sunday, or have musicians of limited ability. Always consult with the musician(s) about the hymns or any other music.
Some congregations rely on pre-recorded music or MIDI files. These systems usually do not have all the hymn tunes in their memory bank. However, tunes may be substituted for one another if they have the same meter and the same pattern of stresses. If substituting a tune, make sure that it is a familiar one, and sing through it to make sure that it fits, before choosing it.

A list of hymns in the 1982 Hymnal, by meter, 97 kb, in MSWord .doc form, is available for download. The names in this list are not the normal names of the tunes, but those used with the "Synthia"™ system.
Other lists by meter are available as Web pages :

If there is a person with both computer skills and musical knowledge, it is possible to collect MIDI files of hymn tunes from the InterNet, or to pre-record them with a MIDI-enabled keyboard connected to the computer, edit them with suitable software, and use the computer with the keyboard to play them for the Service. This set-up can be combined with a projector, to show the words of a hymn on a screen while the hymn is being played. Such a set-up might be assembled for around $1,000. Dr. Shirley could give further information to anyone interested in using MIDI files.

Lectionary Readings and appropriate Hymns

Because the Canons of the Episcopal Church specify that "The Hymnal" is to be part of the studies for some of the Licensed Lay Ministers, the hymns are from the Hymnal 1982. Those who lead or plan Services on a regular basis are encouraged to make their own lists of appropriate hymns, from whatever sources their congregation normally uses.

The Pentateuch The Historical Books Psalms - Song of Solomon The Prophetic Books The Apocrypha
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts
Pauline Epistles General Epistles Revelation

Links to On-Line Resources

Oremus Hymnal - Episcopal Hymnal hymn texts and MIDI files
CCEL Hymn Tune Archive - MIDI files and printable sheet music, but no texts
Christian Classical Ethereal Library selections from many hymnals, MIDI files (no texts)
The Cyber Hymnal - over 5,000 hymns and Gospel songs, lyrics, MIDI files, scores
Lutheran Hymnals - MIDI files and sheet music
The Digital Hymnal - texts and MIDI files of the Seventh Day Adventist Hymnal - has many of the same hymns as the Episcopal
Free Christian Software - MIDI files, the Baptist Hymnal, also many links to other collections of MIDI files
Hymns, Gospel Songs, and Spirituals - MIDI files and texts
Lassen's MIDI page with some sheet music

The Lectionary Pages download the Lectionary Readings in RSV or NRSV versions
bibles.net for Bible text files, and other resources
World-wide Study Bible - many versions and helps


Copyright © 2005 Shirley J. Rollinson All Rights Reserved

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Last Updated : June 11, 2017

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