Hymn book release celebrated

Published December 1, 1998

Anglicans had to navigate through crushing crowds of excited children attending the annual Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, but that didn’t stop 250 people gathering on Sunday, Nov. 14 to sing and celebrate the release of the new hymn book, Common Praise.

The celebration was a musical service at the Church of the Redeemer in the downtown core of the city, next to the path of the parade. It was also to thank the people who worked on the book.

Even Primate Michael Peers said he had to wade through thousands of children at the subway station waving parade banners and wearing foam reindeer antlers, as did many other worshippers who all somehow got to the service on time.

But it appears the parade was the only hitch the service organizers had to contend with. The other concern was resolved days before the event.

Five hundred copies of the hymn book arrived at the Anglican Book Centre at national office a few days before the service, erasing fears the books would not be back from the printer, Transcontinental Printing Inc. in Peterborough, in time.

“It was a great sense of relief,” said Rev. Paul Gibson in an interview after the service. Mr. Gibson is the project manager of the new book. “It would have been very frustrating not to have them. I was very impressed with the commitment of the production people who made sure we had the book for this service in spite of understandable delays.”

Putting the new book together has been more than a 10-year project for the nearly 20 members of the hymn book task force and various others who helped.

Earlier this fall, many errors were found in the final draft that had to be corrected before it went to press.

Musical notes were incorrect, words were misspelled and some copyright information was inaccurate.

The final, corrected product is encased in royal blue and contains 769 hymns and service music on nearly 1,000 pages.

The crowd that gathered for the service sang 10 hymns and listened to a choir. A dancer carried two candles down the aisle at the beginning of the service and performed briefly after placing the candles on the altar.

In his homily, Mr. Gibson spoke about the history of hymns and explained how hymn books “are only containers for the tradition.” The hymns come alive “when people sing, whether a congregation on Sunday morning, a solitary performer in a Sikh (temple), or by myself in the shower,” he said.

After the service, he said he felt “very positive and excited, very satisfied.”

He said he’s proud because “we fulfilled the mandate we were given and we have produced a book that both maintains and enriches the tradition.”

Others also seemed pleased with the service.

“Well I’m very elated,” said Robert Maclennan, publishing manager at the Anglican Book Centre. “I’m glad for all of those who put years of work and thought into providing a hymn book that will take us into the next century.”

Primate Michael Peers joked with the crowd during the service that some people over the past few years have said, “We don’t need this book.” Then in the latter part of this year, he quoted the same people as saying, “Well, where is it?”

He drew further laughs from the crowd when he reminded them that the copy of the book they were given as they entered the church was not theirs to keep. “Buzzers will go off if you take it out the door,” he said.

Afterwards, the Primate said he was delighted with the service. “It was great,” he said. He described the book as “a wonderful book to hold,” and “splendidly produced.”

About 22,000 copies of Common Praise have been ordered to date at a cost of $24.95 each.

The last edition of the hymn book was produced in 1971. Some members of the task force have said the normal shelf life of a hymn book is about 25 years before it begins to sound dated, so they felt the time was right to produce a new edition.


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