By Robert C. Mann, D.M.A.
Resource Library Director
Do you take seriously the texts that are represented in the hymns and anthems used in your worship services? Do texts reflect the best 21st-century authors as well as prayers and statements of faith from the saints of many centuries earlier?
Texts for Christian worship should replicate the whole cadre of spiritual experiences and liturgical emphases present throughout the church year. They should be profound, thought provoking, unmistakable in communicating the faith, and elegant in drawing the listener to a deeper life experience through creative imagery and poetic genius. Such texts should reflect the entire gamut of life experiences from praise to lament and be seen in hymns, psalms, and anthems selected for Christian worship.
One of the fascinating authors from the early Anglican Church is George Herbert (1593-1633). Herbert was a Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest whose religious poems show a precision for the language and ingenious use of imagery. Herbert described his poems as pictures of “spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master.”
The best known poems are Let All the World in Every Corner Sing, Teach Me My God and King, Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life, and King of Glory, King of Peace. In the latter poem, King of Glory, Herbert says: “Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee; e’en eternity’s too short to extol thee.”
Don’t fail to use Herbert’s wonderful poems in worship. Go to the Author index of your hymnal to see which poems can be used for congregational singing. Then, see which of these titles you have among the anthems in your choral library that could be sung by your choir.
If you are a member of CMI, you can enter Herbert’s name in the eLibrary search box and find 49 anthem settings of his texts. Composers of several generations are represented, and many of these settings are available for purchase to add to your choral library.
It is essential that the congregation receive the full benefit of the words by being able to read the text in the bulletin as the choir sings. Copyright restrictions may apply. On the home page of the CMI site, find Resources. Scroll down to Useful Links and click on Reprint Permissions where you will find OneLicense.net and LicensSingOnline. These sites will introduce you to copying texts in worship bulletins.
As of this writing, there are 1,015 authors represented in anthems in the CMI eLibrary. On the Home Page of CMI’s eLibrary, look under Quick Search Tips. You will find a list of all the authors of texts in the database as of 9/30/13. Browse this alphabetical list and find names of familiar and unfamiliar authors that have contributed to church music. What a joy it is to be able to experience the writings of these poets and saints, both historical and present, who contribute to worship in such a unique way. Share the results of their efforts with your congregation.