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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

August 13, 2014

UCG Hymnal Revision?

Filed under UCG-Germany

After UCG-Germany members worked over a year to produce a one-to-one replication of the United Church of God English-language hymnal in 2009, I was amazed to learn that a revision of the English hymnal is being considered.

Revising the hymnal will again create separation between the English-language church and the non-English congregations. So, on the 53 anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, I wrote a reponse to this news item from this week's Council of Elders meeting in Cincinnati. My email was sent to the Council chairman, the Council secretary and UCG President Victor Kubik (with no acknowledgment or response).

August 13, 2014

I trust that this week's Council of Elders meetings are progressing well.

In the video from this week's first day of meetings mention was made of a possible revision to the current United Church of God hymnal. Please allow me to comment on this possibility.

In the late 1960s Mr. Emil Peter Schnee (Mr. Frank Schnee's father and a talented musician) produced a German-language hymnal for the Worldwide Church of God based on that church's gray paperback hymnal in use at the time.

The German WCG hymnal did not have all the hymns in the English hymnal, and Mr. Schnee allowed himself the luxury of editing some of the notes in about a dozen songs to make those songs more melodic, in his opinion.

At the time, no one seemed to mind, since the possibility of having a combined service with brethren from other language areas who would be using another version of the hymnal seemed remote.

With the establishment of a German feast site in 1974 and the opportunity to have international visitors, the differences between the English and German hymnals were obvious. Songleaders had to make sure to choose hymns that were in both hymnals, and when certain hymns were sung (with the accompanyment according to the German hymnal's melody), international visitors always seemed surprised. Announcing multiple page numbers in English, German and later Dutch became the norm, since the hymns being sung were not all on the same page in their respective hymnals.

Mr. Schnee's version of the hymnal was in use right up to 1995 when the United Church of God-Germany was established. We continued to use it until 2009.

In 1996 we were asked (and I assume the other non-English language areas were asked as well) for input on the parameters for producing a UCG hymnal. At the time I suggested a core of common hymns for all language areas (the first hymns in the hymnal, regardless of their number) plus a variety of hymns at each region's discretion following the "common core". With the first 50-100 hymns being uniform, everyone would really be "on the same page" so to speak at combined international services.

UCG first had a soft cover hymnal, later supplemented by additional hymns, and then the current hard cover hymnal was produced. At that point we thought it would be safe to produce the hard cover hymnal in German, allowing us to have a uniform hymnal for the first time ever. With the investment of considerable time and expense (all paid for from local funds) we produced the German hymnal, which contains the same hymns as the current UCG hymnal, all on the same page and with exactly the same notes.

If revising the current English hymnal is "mission critical" to UCG's success, may I suggest that those current hymns that will be retained please stay on their current pages, i.e., with their current numbering? That way when we again become the "odd man out" hymnal-wise at least we can all turn to the same page when we have an international service and we choose hymns that we know are also in your revised English hymnal.

Although I write on behalf of UCG-Germany, these comments would likely apply as well to our other non-English language areas.

Best wishes for a successful conclusion to your meetings this week!

Best regards,

Paul Kieffer

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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