Hymns (letter)

Hymns (letter)

David Schutz

I share Eric G. Miller's concern regarding the current state of hymnody in Australian parishes. For the last 12 months I have been employed as Music Coordinator in my parish. Previous to my conversion to the Catholic faith, I spent 13 years on the national liturgical and hymnody commission of the Lutheran Church, and helped to publish a wide range of worship resources, so I have some idea of the long and winding road taken by texts before they appear in the hymn books, bulletins and overhead screens in our parishes. So on the basis of this experience, I will attempt to answer some of Eric's questions.

Firstly, we must exonerate "Word of Life International" from all blame in regard to mutilated hymn texts. They are simply a copyright licensing body, and as such they provide an invaluable service to the Church in Australia. In fact, Word of Life is responsible for making sure that copyright texts are not altered without the author's permission.

The fact is that many authors of more recent hymns have altered their texts themselves. A good example of this is Suzanne Toolan's "I am the bread of life", for which at least three different texts exist (cf the copyright information at the bottom of the music in Gather Australia, 204, which gives four separate copyright dates). All changes to this hymn have been made to make it "non-sexist", and all have been done with the agreement of Ms Toolan.

It must be recognised that hymn texts have a vastly fluid existence. Centuries old hymns that we have come to cherish today often had original forms that we would not recognise. This is so even for English hymns, let alone those that we have received in translation. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which point of view is being imposed) there are no "Church Police" who demand that we use this or that text of our favourite hymn. As long as hymns do not fall outside the bounds of orthodoxy, the final choice seems to fall with whoever it is in your parish who does the choosing.

If you have complaints, I would suggest letting them know. If it really is a matter of a heretical text and not just personal preference, then your parish priest or the bishop may be the next point of contact.

Boronia, Vic

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