I was surprised to discover that the Chalice Hymnal is heading toward its final printing in September of this year. The orders for new hymnals are down 85% as a result of membership decline in the Christian Church coupled with worship styles that do not include hymns or, at least, the Chalice Hymnal.
As a Disciple convert, I’ve only ever known the Chalice Hymnal. So this saddens me. It saddens me to think this collection of hymns, prayers, and wisdom will be “history” as we move in new directions as a denomination. I want to cling to “Be Thou My Vision” and “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry” with a fierce love rooted in rich memories (my wedding day, my ordination service) and robust theology. But the truth is more complex than those yearnings: these songs are not gone forever, even if this collection recedes. And–maybe more important to recognize and work with–how we worship in song is changing (and has been for quite some time whether we care to admit or not). And whether or not we are fond of “contemporary music” (whatever that means…) or projected, paperless hymns to keep our heads out of our hands while singing, new forms of worship will bring new memories, rich experiences, and a chance to encounter God in a fresh way.
Still, I’m not so certain we are “post-hymnody.” I just don’t know how to imagine a future without my cherished Chalice Hymnal… yet.