The Church Sings Its Faith
Reviewed By Jo Deen Blaine Davis
The Church Sings Its Faith
by Robert C. Mann
Copyright - GIA Publications, Inc, G-10646, $29.95.
Written by Robert C. Mann, The Church Sings Its Faith is clearly written and valuable for the church musician, clergy, and all interested in hymnody. Robert C. Mann is the originator of Choral and Organ Libraries, Resource Library Director, and Senior Resource Librarian of the Church Music Institute. He is a Professor Emeritus of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Published in 2022, The Church Sings Its Faith was a COVID project started in 2019. The book explores the church song and how each period in history and each denomination sings its traditions. Mann defines "congregational song or church song or hymn" and explains how and when it was used in the church service. He reminds us that a singing congregation is the church's choir.
An essential resource is the second chapter, when Mann gives attention to text, its metrical index, and when "the congregational song or church song or hymn" is appropriate to sing. These explanations, such as how to exchange hymn tunes with texts of the same poetic meter, expand the congregation's usage of hymns. Although this information seems to be the basics when selecting service hymns, this is clearly defined, and he gives examples to assist the novice and to remind the seasoned musician.
The vast majority of The Church Sings Its Faith offers a broad and chronological view of the church's use of "the congregational song or church song or hymn." From the first singing notated in Biblical times through singing in church in the 21st century, eight chapters review specific periods and countries with examples to support their influence. In addition, he gives pertinent details about the composers, poets, and their hymns. Especially useful are lists of hymns that composers have written, with the name of the hymn tunes, their poetic meter, and the dates they were written. When has this been done with such organization and clarity? Mann captures this information in an understandable and interesting read!
A unique inclusion of the book appears at the end of every chapter when Mann poses questions. Whether offered in a group discussion or for personal exploration, these questions expand possibilities for conversation and research. For example, Mann learned through his research that most churches sing an average of 100 hymns!! And our ever-present question for review: "Why do churchgoers not sing?"
The power of "the congregational song or church song or hymn" is strong, and as church musicians, we are given tools to sing the theology of our church! The Church Sings Its Faith reminds us of our responsibilities in this quest. This book is helpful for all denominations, and I highly recommend The Church Sings Its Faith as a user-friendly and clearly stated informational resource! ■
Jo Deen (Jody) Blaine Davis is the Director of Music Ministries at The Congregational Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, a position she has held since August 2005. An enthusiast of church music, she has served on the National United Church of Christ Musicians Association board since 2012. She was elected president of the United Church of Christ Musicians Association in 2015 and remained in this office until July 2019. In addition, Jody has been a guest organist at the national United Church of Christ Synods in Baltimore and Milwaukee, playing for plenaries and all worship services.
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