Big steps for the WELS Hymnal Project in 2019

The development of the new WELS hymnal and its supplementary products is making significant progress this year in anticipation of the final release scheduled for Advent 2021. A preview of the new hymnal will be available in 2020.

“It’s really wrapping up,” said Hymnal Project Director Rev. Michael Schultz. “Almost every aspect of the main content is going to be finished at the end of the calendar year.”

The Executive Committee of the Hymnal Project reviews and finalizes all content. Several specialized subcommittees lead the design of certain elements or worship resources that serve the specific needs of churchgoers, musicians, and pastors.

For example, the Hymnody Committee evaluates which hymns to include in the new hymnal. Similarly, the Psalmody Committee is completing the text of the Psalter, a resource containing the full text of all 150 psalms with multiple musical settings for each. Other subcommittees focus on rites and Scripture as well as the technology for and communication of the project.

The pew edition of the new hymnal will be designed to make the text and music on the page clear and intuitive for all worshipers. Separate accompaniment editions for liturgy, psalms, psalter, and hymns will provide a robust resource for organists and pianists. Three settings of the main communion service will be included in the hymnal pew edition, each following similar worship structures while varying the musical style. Several additional musical settings are in development and will be made available digitally.

In addition to performance guidelines like tempo markings, the “Accompaniment for the Hymns” edition will include additional musical options for many hymns. A team within the Hymnal Project called the Musicians’ Resource Group is gathering even more arrangements for other instruments not included in the accompaniment edition, such as brass, flute, and guitar.

After four years of development, the updated lectionary for the new hymnal was recently completed. Each Sunday, the three Scripture readings, Prayer of the Day, Psalm of the Day, and Verse of the Day will now fall under one theme. The new Commentary on the Propers will help leaders plan their worship around these integrated service themes.

Each of these elements contributes to the Hymnal Project’s overall mission, which reads, “We begin our task so that worshipers now and long into the future can both hear for themselves and proclaim to God and the people around them the saving work of Jesus Christ.”

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