David and Barbara Leeman
Reviewed by Chris Ashton
If present trends continue, the future of Presbyterianism in Australia is unlikely to include another hymnbook. But maybe it should– if not for the sake of baby boomer pastors and their dislike of the great hymns of the faith, then perhaps for the sake of our covenant children. Which brings us to one of the most unique children’s resources available, the Hosanna, Loud Hosannas student hymnal.
Hosanna, Loud Hosannas is Smyth Sewn and altogether beautifully manufactured and presented. Arranged thematically in the traditional order, each entry features a Bible passage, the text of the hymn set to the melody line and, uniquely, an adjacent page of detailing the history and inspiration for music and lyrics, and a short devotional that Christian parents, teachers, and children will find helpful.
As to the selection, the canon of 115 are, as the subtitle rightly says, “essentially hymns every child should sing”. Holy catholicity is emphasised, not only by the historical notes but also by the chronological range of the hymns, the oldest of which dates back to the 12th century (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) and the newest, the 21st century (Come, People of the Risen King). Given the appropriate attention paid to tunes, the lack of a tune index surprised me, as did the absence of even suggested tunes for the selection of psalms – which I would have loved to have seen versified, and not just provided in a responsive arrangement.
But this is an amazing book, with an important function. As Keith and Kristyn Getty write in their foreword, despite the “highly involved, complex, mystical” character of modern children’s literature, “much current children’s theological teaching, songs, and even worship to Almighty God can be so simplistic and shallow rather than telling the ascendant and beautiful story of Christ”. Hosanna, Loud Hosannas seeks to do the latter in the timeless, beautiful, and aesthetically appropriate language of the Church Vocal.
Luther said that after his Bible, his hymnal was his most prized possession, a sentiment evidently not shared by many in the PCA. I’m not sure if my breakfast table humming of A Mighty Fortress is helpful here, but what a sweet kindness from God it would be – to this father and to the church – if my daughter and son were with Luther on this one.
Available from http://www.studenthymnal.com.
Chris Ashton is pastor at Penshurst Presbyterian Church, NSW.