Tech replacing hymnals

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The ubiquitous hymnals filled with worship songs and found on the back of nearly every church pew are becoming a thing of the past.

Audio-visual equipment using large screens to display the song lyrics are taking the place of the traditional hardback books of Christian songs that have been a standard feature of Christian worship in all denominations.

The congregations at Bell Ridge Christian Church and Otterbien United Methodist Church utilize both the hymnals and the projection screen.

“Hymnals for the congregation are available, and we use a projection screen also,” said Bell Ridge Church pastor Kurt Speece. The hymnals are located on the back of the wooden pews along with a Bible.

He said the older generation continues to use the books while the younger members in the congregation prefer to read the words to songs from the large projection screen located directly behind the pulpit of the church.

“A majority of the congregation prefer the projection now that we have been using it,” said Speece. “The older generation was hesitant but now they enjoy it, and we use in every Sunday.”

Pastor Jeff Stahl at Otterbein echoed the same sentiments and added, “Some of the congregation also prefer to have the hymnals in their hands with the lyrics and music notes in front of them to follow along with the song.”

He noted the projection screen doesn’t show the notes. It simply displays the words.

Both Stahl and Speece said their respective churches have been using the projection screens for approximately one decade.

Speece noted during the weekly services the Bell Ridge congregation mainly sings songs accompanied by a pianist and sometimes an organist.

“We have two very faithful ladies who play for us,” he said. Periodically, a young performer from Marshall performs more contemporary praise songs.

Volunteers take turns operating the projection screen at Bell Ridge for displaying the lyrics along with Bible verses and various screenshots relating to the Sunday services.

“We try to blend our music to reach all different ages and to appeal to different tastes and opinions of music,” Speece said adding some older hymns like “How Great Thou Art” remain a favorite along with more Christian contemporary pieces.

Speecer said music and the hymnals remain an important part of the church’s weekly service.

“Many of our church goers have grown up using the old fashioned hymnals and the hymnbooks bring them back to their roots,” said Speece.

He added, “Music is an important part of worship and a large part of it. The songs, especially hymns, bring us to God and take us out of our daily world to focus on him by using our voices to sing. Christian songs definitely move us closer to Christ whether it be from a hymn book or more contemporary songs.”

Stahl said his congregation finds both the hymnals and the projection screen beneficial.

“We have a nice cross section of people in the congregation and some prefer hymns while others enjoy standing up without anything in their hands and reading the lyrics from the projection screen,” said Stahl.

The worship service at Otterbein uses a laptop computer in the back of the chapel to access the Internet and download hymns through a program called Music Box. In the middle of the church, up by the ceiling, is a projector that displays the song words on a large screen that is easily visible to all the worshippers.

Stahl said the Music Box program does more than display the verses. It can also be used to download music and transform it into different sounds such as an organ playing. It can also change the tempo and the key.

“I sometimes prefer to use the hymnal,” said Stahl. “I have one at the front of the church for me to see the number of verses and the different notes.”

He said hymns are performed at the beginning and end of each service by the church pianist, with a more contemporary music selection to accompany the video played before his weekly sermons.

No matter how technology changes the way worshipers sing in praise, the collection of songs found in hymnals will always have their place in church.

“I value and can still appreciate the history of the hymnals, the meaning of the old songs. Hymnals carry on traditional worship songs from hundreds of years ago,” Stahl said, adding his favorite hymn is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Other churches still rely on the hymnbooks.

Kevin Levillie, pastor at Nevins Christian Church, said the congregation utilizes hymnals for the main body of the service but compliment that with the use of course books. He described the course books as small spiral bound books containing newer worships songs such as “Give Thanks” and “Learning to Lead.”

“Our congregation is comprised mainly of older worshipers so the course book gives the younger generations some more modern Christian music,” explained Levillie.

The church often has an instrumentalist, usually a pianist, who accompanies the Sunday singing.

Levillie believes hymnals will have an important place in churches for years to come.

“Hymnals have a rich history and the songs in them were slowly added one at a time over many centuries,” said Levellie. “Every song in the hymnal are proved to be great pieces that have lasted generation after generation. The hymns and content have a staying power.”

He said the hymnals at Nevins are approximately 18 years old and one of the hymns he prefers to sing is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

“Hymns and music engages the heart and head,” Levellie said. “The lyrics are not just statements. They discuss topics that mean something to us and are important, and we do that through music.”