“Sing a new song to the Lord” is a compelling call from the psalms to newly affirm and proclaim God’s greatness, goodness and love. This song for renewed hearts bursts out with the energetic joy of the Spirit, nourishing the faith of God’s people, and re-energising them for God’s mission in the world. For over four decades, this goal has been central to the ministry of the Australian Hymn Book Pty Ltd (AHB), a company founded and jointly owned by Australian churches.
The Australian Hymn Book and its successor, Together in Song (TiS), were both produced by AHB to provide excellent, singable music and theologically reliable texts. Both ecumenical collections have been used for decades in churches large and small across the nation, enabling well-known songs to be shared and new songs to be learned. The new publication, Songs of Grace, is designed to meet the needs of the contemporary church, supplementing the 783 items in TiS with 54 additional items drawn from international and Australian sources.
Songs of Grace is the result of years of devoted work of an Editorial Committee of leading experts from across the Christian denominations. There are many new songs in this exciting collection, some for Christmas and other festivals, others to pray through both adversity and joy; some prayers for peace, and others about the power of the Holy Spirit in the world. The songs, psalms, prayers, alleluias, hymns and meditative responses (in English and some other languages) fittingly cover a huge range of themes, just as our worship does. While including texts by Desmond Tutu, Shirley Murray, John Bell, Bernadette Farrell, and many other outstanding international songwriters, Songs of Grace also features wonderful items by Australians and, in particular, songs by the four finalists of the AHB International Hymn Competition.
The competition brought to the surface some 128 entries from remarkably skilled authors and composers from around the world. The committee tested the poetry and theological accuracy of the words, as well as the singability and tunefulness of the music, finally arriving at a short list from which the finalists were chosen. Remarkably, the winners were from both sides of the Australian continent. Helen Wiltshire (words) and Norm Inglis (music) have provided new music at Pilgrim UCA in Adelaide for many years, and their inspired song (‘Love may not sing an anthem’) is about love enabling us to meet the challenges we all face, and reminding us that:
‘love stands when all has fallen;
it holds and will prevail.
Love shines with sacred presence as puzzling shadows pale.
When all we know is ended, faith, hope and love will live,
with love the greatest treasure:
the gift we all may give.’
And it has a terrific and very singable tune!
‘Come, Spirit God’ by Brian Hill of the Billabong UCA in WA celebrates the reconciliation that comes through repentance and forgiveness, both for individual Christians and for their faith communities as they seek to live authentically in the power of the Holy Spirit. The final verse is a prayer that this movement of the Spirit will further sweep though the broader cultures in which the Church exists, transforming society itself. Brian’s own original tune in contemporary style is both energetic and attractive, and a powerful vehicle for his words.
Both from NSW, Rod Horsfield’s interpretation of Romans 6, and George Garnsey’s ‘In Jesus Christ God makes us new’ are each important and very useful additions to the repertoire of Australian churches. Remarkable songs such as these reveal the power of singing our praise to God, and how singing our faith engages – as nothing else can – our intellect, our hearts, and our sense of mission, energising us for Christian life and action.
Songs of Grace comes in full harmony edition, with a CD ROM available containing all the words of the songs, plus the excellent indexes integrating all items with those in TiS, ensuring texts are readily available (without re-typing) for use in orders of service, and enabling those responsible for worship planning to access the extensive indexes via their computer’s search engine.
Songs of Grace: Supplement to Together in Song, Australian Hymn Book II is published for AHB by Australian Church Resources and both book and CD-ROM are available through their website.