An Expression of Christian Faith in Song

Hymnody– the practice of singing hymns- is the foundation for all music at The First Church. Whether accompanied by the Anderson Memorial Organ, or sung a cappella (unaccompanied) in smaller worship services: hymnody is integral to the long-standing tradition of strong congregational participation in our worship experience.

The body of hymns produced for the modern Congregational tradition date as far back as chant-tunes from the early Christian church, through post-Reformation hymn influences from Germany, France and England; to more contemporary American contributions in the 19th through early 21st century.

The First Church music ministry and its congregation are proud to continue use of The Pilgrim Hymnal, as the primary source for its hymnody in the 21st century. The hymnal’s rich Christian tradition in both melody and lyric continues to inspire. Based on church season and in coordination with weekly scripture passages found in The Revised Common Lectionary, our hymn planning weaves the fabric of word and song together, allowing music and scripture to be unified within the weekly liturgy.

The First Church’s rich tradition of hymnody was further enhanced starting in June 2008. From that period, the hymns used in worship- whether known for many years or new to the congregation- were chosen in a sequence that did not repeat titles until nearly all possible resources in The Pilgrim Hymnal had first been exhausted. Furthering this project in recent years with inclusion of many cherished hymns “not” in the Pilgrim, our congregation has experienced 425 different hymns within its worship services, with 325 of these hymns coming from the Pilgrim Hymnal.  This expansion of hymn repertoire, and its rich theology through song, has enriched the worship service and encouraged bolder singing in both well-known and first-time hymns. The varied resources found in The Pilgrim Hymnal– with some vibrant, yet less common hymn tunes untouched for generations- have both surprised and inspired.

Consequently, as The Pilgrim Hymnal in its inception did not embrace much cross-denominational music outside of some particular influences from the Lutheran and Episcopal communion, the CCLI license (Christian Copyright License International) allows the occasional reproduction of standard hymns not found in The Pilgrim Hymnal, for congregational use. These hymns are drawn from sources such as The United Methodist Hymnal, Hymns for the Family of God, The Harvard Hymnal, and The New Century Hymnal (a more recent publication of the United Church of Christ).

As much as the music ministry has many ensembles that grace our worship services, the congregation remains at the center of hymnody at The First Church, and its hymnody remains a key element, worshipping in both word and song.

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