H is for (Methodist) Hymnals

I don’t know how many of those hymns were meant to be sung, because – I neglected to mention – there is no music in the book, only lyrics! Evidently, “everybody” already knew the tunes.


When I was growing up at Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church in Binghamton, NY in the 1960s, we used a hymnal that looked exactly like this. (A.M.E. stands for African Methodist Episcopal.) The first hymn was Holy, Holy, Holy [listen], and when I was younger, I mistakenly believed that the phrase “Blessed Trinity” was a reference to my church, rather than to the preceding phrase, “God in three persons.”

The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) initiated the process of creating a new hymnal in 1928, with Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC,S) joining in 1930, and the Methodist Protestant Church (MPC) soon thereafter. The hymnal has a 1932 original copyright date. Not incidentally, “The Methodist Church was the name adopted by the Methodist denomination formed in the US by the reunion on May 10, 1939, of the northern and southern factions of the MEC with the MPC”, the three entities that had created the hymnal. Ironically, since the split within the MEC had arisen over 19th-century treatment of blacks, the newly-formed Methodist Church created a segregated entity known as the Central Jurisdiction as a compromise.

Still, the hymnal was of such quality that the black Methodist churches (A.M.E., A.M.E. Zion, C.M.E., and others) often adopted it.

But once the United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, getting rid of the Central Jurisdiction, I suppose the powers that be decided that the UMC needed a hymnal of its own.

When I started attending the United Methodist Church in Albany in the mid-1980s, coincidentally also called Trinity, they were using a different hymnal (the red one). Still, many of the congregants at that time referred to the hymnal I grew up with as the “real Methodist hymnal,” such was the universality of its use, due to the quality of its structure of the Christian life.

Still, the black hymnal may not be my favorite. That title might fall to the one pictured below; the one to the left looks more like mine, in terms of condition. It has an 1849 copyright date. In the mid-1980s, my girlfriend at the time bought it for me for the handsome sum of $2.50. It has a LOT of hymns by Charles Wesley, many more than in subsequent iterations, starting with O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing [listen] on the first page, and including Hark! the Herald Angels Sing and Christ, the Lord, is Risen Today, plus a whole bunch with which I am not familiar.


And I don’t know how many of those hymns were meant to be sung, because – I neglected to mention – there is no music in the book, only lyrics! Evidently, “everybody” already knew the tunes.

It too had a structure, but in addition to those in the 1932 hymnal, it also included Duties & Trials, and Humiliation. Fun stuff!

ABC Wednesday – Round 9