Monday, March 26, 2012

Hymnody Resurgent: Retained and Retexted

Sunday School Publishing Board, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc./GIA. Total Praise: Songs and Worship Resources for Every Generation. Nashville/Chicago: SSPB/GIA, 2011. Cloth. $18.00. (LH)

Abbington, James and Uzee Brown, Conductors. Atlanta Sings New Wine in Old Wineskins. Chicago: GIA, 2011. Audio 2-CD set. $25.95. (H)

Our friends at GIA recently shared with us some of their recent publications. We offer our review of them together.

A new hymnal is an important resource in the life of a church body, whether The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod or the National Baptist Convention. The LCMS introduced Lutheran Service Book in 2006. GIA and the NBC USA Sunday School Publishing Board introduced Total Praise in 2011.

From humble beginnings in 1880 with only 151 delegates, and in spite of several major splits, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. remains the largest black Baptist convention, counting millions of members from churches, district associations and state conventions across the Continental United States and around the world.

Go to for this body's articles of faith.


Total Praise

Songs and Other Worship Resources for Every Generation

In the pages of Total Praise: Songs and Other Worship Resources for Every Generation, you will find a multi-faceted worship tool for your traditional or modern-day service. Ideal for pastors, choir directors, praise teams, and the assemblies they lead, this hymnal is great for anyone striving to give glory to God!

Total Praise
  • 569 traditional and contemporary songs
  • 52 Responsive Readings-one for every Sunday of the year
  • 46 Litanies-Designed for special days throughout the year, such as Church Anniversaries, Advent, Singles Ministry, etc.
  • Extensive indexes to find just the right music
  • The best new songs, including the music of Richard Smallwood, Kurt Carr, and others
  • Music of all styles: hymns, spirituals, historic and modern gospel, and praise and worship music
  • Special Features—including the Church Covenant and Articles of Faith
Much more than a hymnal, this is a landmark publication that enables the people of God everywhere to offer Total Praise!

Co-Published by GIA Publications, Inc. and the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

(GIA website)
$18.00 is a good price point for a new hymnal for church, choir, home, and school.

GIA has expanded beyond its Gregorian and Roman Catholic roots as a publisher to include various hymnals for other denominations ( as well as new ones designed for use with the new Roman Missal (

Total Praise retains historic African-American and Baptist hymnody. There is only a modest overlap with Lutheran Service Book, as there was with The Baptist Hymnal/The Worship Hymnal,  produced by the Southern Baptist Convention and previously reviewed by QBR. That review serves as inspiration for the following paragraphs.

Hymns and songs from the 19th and 20th Centuries appear to dominate the volume.
Total Praise gives evidence of honest differences in theology and practice between Lutherans in the LCMS and Baptists in the NBC. We have many hymns in common, but that number is noticeably shrinking.
I was honestly surprised to note that so few hymns referred to Baptism in a Baptist hymnal (653-661, Ordinance/Baptism). It was pleasing to note so many hymns about who Jesus is and what He has done for us (165-304).
The Life in Christ section begins with hymns on "Salvation/Invitation and Acceptance," teaching a traditional Arminian emphasis, “decision.” I would respectfully remind all Christians of Jesus’ words in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”
Some hymns with a distinct Lutheran pedigree are found within: “A Mighty Fortress” (119), “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (242), and the Ronald Nelson setting of BEACH SPRING (661)
I was pleased to see "For All the Saints" (339), The Lord Bless You/Sevenfold Amen (622), and Gloria Patril (640) set to the Old Scottish Chant Lutherans know from the "page 15" Gloria.
Lutherans familiar with LSB will note "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (478). 
There is nothing like a hymnal to give one insight into a church body's doctrine and practice. 
The Sunday School Publishing Board (SSPB) is the official publisher of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. We serve more than 36,000 churches within our constituency and offer resources for African-American, multicultural, and diverse churches seeking sound curriculum, Bible study materials, and spiritual growth and discipleship resources to meet their needs. Our Faith Series Sunday school curriculum, S.E.E.D. discipleship series, Total Praise hymnal collection, and Vacation Bible School (VBS) materials are just a few of the product lines developed for enriching the spiritual growth and development of students of all ages, teachers, and those serving in leadership.
This appears to be a body open to the ordination of women contrary to the New Testament, yet willing to carry forward its own long hymnic tradition.
I appreciate the opportunity to live with and sing through Total Praise the last few months. I welcome conversation with other Christians on why they retain what they retain from their tradition at worship and how and why they choose to add both old and new Christian song from every time and place that confesses the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

Our series, Hymnody Resurgent, has largely focused on "retuned" hymns, where new tunes are provided for historic Christian hymn texts. The following CD and same-title resources feature "retexted" hymnody, new texts supported by old tunes.

Atlanta Sings New Wine in Old Wineskins features the church choirs of Ben Hill United Methodist, Big Bethel African American Episcopal, First Congregational, Friendship Baptist, Radcliffe Presbyterian, and Uzee Brown Society of Choraliers under the direction of James Abbington and Uzee Brown.

Some of the finest choirs in Atlanta teamed up at Cannon Chapel on the campus of Emory University to record excerpts from New Wine in Old Wineskins, Vols 1 & 2.

Conductors James Abbington and Uzee Brown highlight many soon-to-be classics in our worship and devotional time.

Familiar songs include: I Am Kept by the Grace of God; Thank You for Hearing Our Prayer; O Lord, Fix Me; Renew in Me a Right Spirit; Christ Is for Losers; As We Enter; and Oh, Give Thanks. 
(Publisher's website)

In addition to the CD, sheet music/supplements and mp3 audio downloads are available from GIA.

I did not have the sheet music (melody or texts) available to me for this review. Track 1:10, "The Lord's Prayer" may have the most potential for choral/solo use among Lutherans. FINLANDIA (Track 1:11, "When Memory Fades") may be the most familiar tune to me on either CD. I personally though the tempo on that hymn was rather slow.

Highly contextual language may communicate well in one time or place, but it may be easily be misunderstood (e.g., "Christ Is for Losers") or could be considered dated.

Much of the song presented in these two resources was totally new to me. Texts, as I overheard them, were consistent with the message of hymn titles that focused on hope, joy, salvation, and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, our Lord. I can imagine how fun it would have been to be part of the choirs on this recording!

I am a son of The Lutheran Hymnal that has been taught the treasures of Lutheran Worship, Worship Supplement, Hymnal Supplement 98, and Lutheran Service Book

I am a student of hymnology and welcome the hard, time-consuming work of discovering what would be worthy to sing in Lutheran Worship at Divine Service and in the Daily Office. We at QBR will continue to listen to new hymn texts and tunes, new tunes for historic texts, and new texts for historic tunes. 

Nagel writes, "We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who ent before and, in making the tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day--the living heritage and something new."

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.