Two Diverted Paths: An Analysis and Comparison of Two Recent Hymnals for Baptist Worship (2023)

Two Diverted Paths: An Analysis and Comparison of Two Recent Hymnals for Baptist Worship (1)

In July 2014, I had the privilege of giving a section presentation at the annual meeting of theAnthem Society of the United States and Canadaat Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was a wonderful experience listening to plenary sessions by Christopher Anderson and Marcia McPhee. There have been some notable hymn festivals led byjohn bellfrom the Iona Community and Swee Hong Lim.

The Baptist Hymnal (2008) and Celebrating Grace (2010) are two recent hymnals for Baptist worship that reflect different traditions within broader Baptist life. This session will analyze both hymnbooks and show how their song choices, theological emphases, and overall structure share a common historical legacy but significant differences in approach. Special attention is given to song selection in light of earlier Baptist hymnals and the influence of contemporary worship music on both hymnals. The aim is to show how these hymnals reflect theological and practical concerns of specific traditions within the Baptist church.

Song titles and melodies for Baptist Hymnal (1991), Baptist Hymnal (2008) and Celebrating Grace (2010) were manually entered into a spreadsheet. There was a specific entry for each unique lyric and melody combination. Due to variations in song titles among the three hymnbooks, where the lyrics were largely consistent, they have been included in the same row in the table.

Two Diverted Paths: An Analysis and Comparison of Two Recent Hymnals for Baptist Worship (2)


main presentation

Two Diverted Paths: An Analysis and Comparison of Two Recent Hymnals for Baptist Worship (3)

Within a few years, two different hymnbooks for Baptist worship were published. The Baptist Hymnal (2008) published by Official Publishers of the Southern Baptist Convention Lifeway Christian Resources and Celebrating Grace (2010) published by Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. As we will see below, they are two very different hymnbooks, representing different worship practices and theological perspectives. The very nature of the Southern Baptist Convention is partly responsible for this rich diversity. Each Southern Baptist Church is autonomous and works voluntarily with other churches to further state, national, and global denominational goals, especially missions. As such, there have never been officially sanctioned worship practices and liturgies like those found in other denominations.

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At the beginning of this talk, I would like to emphasize that I believe both hymnals are valuable additions to church worship and will serve congregations well for decades to come. It is important to take each hymnbook at face value and measure it by its own purposes and standards, not those we might project onto it. Each hymnbook has its strengths and weaknesses and seeks to achieve a specific goal. As we will see, both hymnbooks have specific audiences and purposes in mind, and they are quite different. The 2008 Baptist Hymnal is an updated version of the 1991 and represents the significant shift toward contemporary styles of worship in Southern Baptist Churches. It maintains the central hymnbook that is the Baptist legacy, but largely limits its new entries to popular styles of music. It is a record of what many SBC congregations sang in 2008 and provides a variety of resources to complement the congregational singing and music ministries serving these communities.

The Celebrating Grace Hymnbook represents the worship practices of a smaller subset of Baptist congregations, but fulfills an almost prophetic role as it seeks to expand the vision and practices of worship through a wide range of hymns and worship songs. It includes many ecumenical worship practices, such as the church calendar, new hymns for worship, and sensitivity to gender language and social issues. It falls firmly into the stream of traditional worship hymns and continues that tradition well.

Having dealt with the general format, organization and non-musical materials, we now turn to the musical content of both hymnals. Song titles and melodies for Baptist Hymnal (1991), Baptist Hymnal (2008) and Celebrating Grace (2010) were manually entered into a spreadsheet. There was a specific entry for each unique lyric and melody combination. Due to variations in song titles among the three hymnbooks, where the lyrics were largely consistent, they have been included in the same row in the table.

traditional hymnal

I tried to determine the composition of each hymnbook by categorizing the content and comparing the results. I identified ten categories of hymns and hymns included in hymnals. Traditional hymnody consists of hymns that make up much of the common core of English hymnody, including Lutheran hymns, psalm settings, the works of Watts and Wesley, early American folk hymns, and Victorian hymns. Traditional hymnals represented between 20% and 30% of the content of each hymnal, with broad consensus among hymnals. Traditional songs found in all three hymnals include "A Mighty Fortress is Our God", "Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound", "Crown Him with Many Wreaths", "Holy, Holy, Holy", "How Firm foundation", "There is a well", "When I contemplate the wonderful cross" and many others. 89 melodies/texts of traditional hymns were found in the three hinários. 22 additional traditional hymns were found in 91 and GC.

One of the interesting features of the Celebrating Grace Hymnbook is the setting of traditional hymn lyrics with various melodic combinations. Although some of the pairings of lyrics and melodies appear in several different hymnals, some were new to this hymnbook. "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" was set to a new song by Milburn Price titled RIDGECREST, named after North Carolina's Southern Baptist Retreat Center. Southern Harmony provided familiar tunes for "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds/DOVE OF PEACE" and "Jesus Calls Us O'er the Turmoil/RESTORATION". Mark Edwards and Ralph Manuel wrote new songs for Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending/WESNATE and O Love That Will Not Let Me Go/DONNA, respectively. Finally, Swee Hong Lim's joyous melody, CHE LEUNG, is combined with Wesley's lyrics, "Ye Servants of God".

  • All shiny and beautiful (SPOHR-ROYAL OAK)
  • Restoration of the most popular music
  • "Christ Is Right" Foundation (OUR RULER-EDEN CHURCH)
  • Of All That Dwell Under Heaven (DUKE STREET-YOUNG)
  • The only hymnal with this combination of melodies
  • God spoke through his prophets (BEECHER-HYMN TO JOY)
  • God moves in mysterious ways (ST. ANNE-RIDGECREST)
  • New song by Milburn Price
  • How sweet the name of Jesus sounds (ORTONVILLE-POMBA OF PEACE)
  • VoteSouthern Harmony
  • I heard the voice of Jesus say (VOX DETECTI – Kingsfold)
  • In Christ there is no East or West (ST. PETER - MCKEE)
  • Jesus, lover of my soul (MARTYN-ABERYSTWTH)
  • Jesus calls us over the turmoil (RESTORATION OF GALILEE)
  • Southern Harmony(Come you sinners)
  • Behold, he comes with clouds descending (REGENT SQURE-WESNATE)
  • New song by Mark Edwards
  • Ralf Manuel
  • Ye Servants of God (LYONS-CHU LEUNG)
  • Swee Hong Lim - Lift up your hearts and psalms for all seasons

Gospel music/Sunday school music

One of the enduring legacies of Southern Baptist hymns is the composition, celebration, and dissemination of gospel music in their hymnals. As we have already seen, Sandy Creek's revivalist tradition found an ideal combination of the Sunday school and gospel songs that became popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is not surprising, then, that gospel songs made up the largest percentage of the material on both the 1991 and 2008 BAPs. Many of these gospel songs speak to the need for repentance and personal conversion and play a prominent role in revivalist Baptist worship. As all denominations have struggled to navigate the waters of so-called worship wars, Southern Baptists' struggle has often been between contemporary pop forms and gospel music, not the traditional hymn as in other denominations. It is not uncommon to hear new musical arrangements of traditional hymns in mega church services alongside contemporary worship songs. In general, the gospel music genre is a rapidly declining style in modern Baptist worship.

The North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention reports that most Southern Baptist congregations are rural in nature and that the typical congregation has 90 regular participants in joint worship services. While contemporary worship styles dominate congregations with more than 1,000 members (70% of these churches), most Southern Baptists identify their worship practices as traditional. This is clearly evident in the content of officially sanctioned Southern Baptist hymnals. 91 and 08 had nearly identical numbers of gospel songs (192–195), while Celebrating Grace had significantly fewer, with 93 representative gospel songs.

The biggest difference from the Celebrating Grace Hymnal was that many of the wake-up gospel songs were left out. The Celebrating Grace Hymnal is missing songs like "Are You Washed in the Blood", "Count Your Blessings", "Faith is the Victory", "I'd Rather Have Jesus", "Room At the Cross", "Set My Soul Afire,” “There's Power in the Blood,” and “We Hear the Sound of Joy.” Another theme that stands out in many gospel songs is the emphasis on eternal life and heaven, perhaps due to the challenging living conditions at the time these songs were written. written. Many of these hymns are missing from the GC and have been replaced by a much greater emphasis on social justice and mission on earth. This change corresponds to the change in emphasis of the hymnal in general, although many Southern Baptist congregations do not address these issues in worship. ordinary.

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Lob Chor

One of the outstanding features of the 1991 Baptist Hymnbook was the inclusion of many of the best-known choruses that emerged after the Jesus movement and the charismatic renewal of the 1960s. For this discussion, the choruses have been identified as short works, limited to one or more two stanzas, with little emphasis on meter and poetic structure. Hymnal 91 contained 64 of these choruses, including "Seek Ye First", "I Love You Lord" and "Glorify Thy Name". On the way to several non-confessional hymnals that emerged in the meantime, including theHymnal for Worship and Celebrationit's athymnbook to celebratethe 2008 Baptist Hymnal contains a much larger percentage of these choirs. Praise hymns make up nearly a quarter (24%) of the hymnbook's total content, with 161 occurrences. The vast majority of these choirs were included in many of the hymnals published in the 1990s and 2000s.

That oneCelebrate the Hymn of Gracefeatured the hymn of praise in a much less prominent place, as only 38 of these choirs made it into the hymnbook for just 6% of the total content. Most of these choruses can be found in 91, 2008, or both, but there are also several new choruses. Some notable examples are "Lord, Listen to your Children Praying" by Ken Medema and "Creation Sings" by Getty and Townend.

  • creation sings
  • go with us sir
  • He has done so much for me
  • Heal me, hands of Jesus
  • Lord, hear your children pray
  • to rain
  • Get the bread, kids, get the bread
  • We are raised to newness of life
  • We give you endless praise
  • What does the Lord ask of you?

worship song

It can hardly be argued that the popular styles that found their way into the singing of many congregations radically changed sacred music. The introduction of acoustic and electric guitars, amplifiers, synthesizers and drums replaced piano, organ and choirs in many communities. Following in the footsteps of gospel musicians who wrote and collected songs for worship, the contemporary Christian music artist has become a leading figure in congregational singing from the late 20th century to the present. What started with Keith Green, Andrea Crouch, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith led to Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Hillsongs, Paul Baloche and many more. While it is not the purpose of this discussion to discuss the merits or demerits of this style of music, its influence is undeniable.

Beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a subtle shift began in which these artists recognized the untapped market for 'praise and worship music' and wrote multi-verse worship songs. Although these songs lack the lyrical quality of "classic" hymnals, they have become increasingly theologically sophisticated and doctrinaire. Both hymnbook publishers tried to include what they considered to be the best of these songs in their collections, albeit with different criteria. Celebrating Grace was much more selective in this genre, with only 22 selections consisting of only the most sung songs, including "How Great Is Our God", "Shout to the Lord" and "You Are My All in All".

The 2008 Baptist Hymnal captured a “snapshot” of what was sung in many contemporary-style services in Baptist life, with 87 contemporary worship songs in its hymnbook. This number will be expanded through the online portal,🇧🇷 All prominent contemporary Christian artists are well represented, including Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche and Matt Redman. Many of these songs have long been used in Baptist worship through the use of digital projections and song lyrics, but 2008 offers many parishioners their first glimpse into the actual music of these songs. This is a valuable resource for congregations trying to integrate new musical expressions into established congregations.

One difference between the two hymnbook approaches to worship music is the page layout. The Celebrating Grace Hymnal offers an accompaniment that emerges to a greater extent from the harmonic structure. It offers a much richer musical structure for keyboard players. Primarily designed for community use, the 2008 versions are little more than lead sheets with chords over a bass line. This is in keeping with the practice of many contemporary worship bands, but also points to its full library of musical resources to support the hymnbook, including full keyboard accompaniments that can be purchased separately.

Modern Hinodia

The 20th century saw an explosion of new hymns in North America, Europe and around the world. Globalization has allowed different music styles and influences to cross borders with ease. After two world wars, civil rights movements, and major mid-century social upheavals, Southern Baptists struggled to embody music that expressed the zeitgeist. As we have already seen, the hymn of praise quickly became a part of Baptist worship and was included in the 1991 hymnbook. Beginning with William J. Reynolds' work on the Baptister Hymns in 1975 and continuing into 1991, greater attention was given to the growing writing of hymns of the so-called "New English Renaissance" and included works by Wren, Dudley-Smith, Kaan and Pratt Green. For many Baptist congregations, these songs were their first experience singing about social justice issues and challenging them to expand their perspective on the gospel of conversion and personal godliness.

While it is safe to say that many of these hymns have not gained widespread popularity in Southern Baptist circles, their presence in the hymnals of denominations has served as a prophetic voice, urging congregations to deeper theological reflection and action. For the purposes of this study, I have classified songs as "modern hymns" if they were written in the 20th or 21st century and have features consistent with a formal hymn. That is, a poem with several stanzas, in which attention is paid to poetic and hymometric metrics, rhyme scheme and other poetic devices.

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The 1991 Baptist Hymnal included 107 of these modern hymns, including "When in our song God is glorified", "Tell, my soul, the greatness", and "When Christ was lifted up from the earth". As we have discussed, the publication of the 1991 Hymnbook came at a time of tremendous upheaval in Southern Baptist life, leading to a decisive shift toward a fundamentalist emphasis on biblical inerrancy and literalness. This change resulted in the departure or nominalization of many parishioners who described themselves as moderates. The 2008 Baptist Hymnbook reflects this shift in emphasis by including 39 of these hymns and none by Kaan, Wren, Dudley-Smith and only one by Pratt Green.

New hymns were an apparent focus of the Celebrating Grace Hymnal, as evidenced by the inclusion of 207 of these hymns, making up the highest percentage of the hymnbook at 34%. Dr David Music, Editor and Chairman of the CG Texts and Melodies Committee, describes some of the changes that have been made to modern hymns: . Some hymns have been restored to their original form (i.e. before their change in the 1991 Baptist Hymnal).” Examples of these changes include:

  • How the ancients brought their firstfruits - How the saints of old brought their firstfruits
  • God who stretched out the bright sky (HINO A JOY-BEACH SPRING)

Several new tunes were used for hymns included in the 1991 Hymnbook, including several by Baptist hymn writers.

  • Richardson - As he gathered at his table (STUTTGART-STUART)
  • The people of the Passover lift up their voices (REGENT SQUARE-WESNATE)
  • York – God Our Father You Guided Us (CLAY-CWM RHONDDA)
  • York — Living Stones (ARLINGTON-ST. ANNE)
  • Leeches—Make Room in My Heart, O God (FOREST GREEN-MASSACHUSETTS)

Modern hymns by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty featured prominently in both the 2008 Hymnbook and the CG. The depth of these lyrics and the singability of the melodies have encouraged a renewal of congregational singing in contemporary and traditional churches.

  • How deep is the Father's love for us - both
  • In Christ alone (my hope is found) - beyond
  • Jesus is lord
  • A Alegria Amanheceu - 2008 - Christmas
  • O Church, Arise - 2008
  • My Heart is Full of Gratitude – 2008
  • Speak, O Lord - both
  • The Communion Hymn (Behold the Lamb) – nur 2008
  • The power of the cross - both
  • The Risen Christ – 2008 only


In light of the Second Vatican Council and the interdenominational renewal of worship that followed, Baptist membership in the Christian year is increasing. Many parishes celebrate Advent and Christmas, and more and more churches are expanding their Easter celebrations to include Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Hymnals in Southern Baptist life reflect this lack of musical development in congregational singing. Very little attention has been paid to music for the Advent season, as evidenced by just 6 hymns in '91 and 4 in 2008.celebrate the gracehave obviously given special prominence here by including 20 Advent songs in their hymnbook. The number of hymns specifically related to Christmas was approximately equal across the three hymnals, with a broad consensus of the same hymns.

baptism and supper

Another area of ​​historical deficiency in Baptist worship was hymns to the two recognized ordinances—baptism and the Lord's Supper. The 1991 hymnbook contains only 3 baptismal hymns and the 2008 hymnal only 2! The Celebrating Grace Hymnal fares best with 7 of these hymns, including new hymns like "We Are Raised to Newness of Life" and "Come to the Water." For a denomination identified by the order of baptism, this lack of music for baptism probably speaks to its general approach to the celebration of baptism. Baptism is more commonly referred to as the believer's first act of obedience after conversion, rather than entering into the fellowship of worship. As such, it is individualistic in nature and parishioners are spectators rather than participants.

This inward focus is evident in the Lord's Supper hymns. Interestingly, the Celebrating Grace Hymnal titles its hymn section The Last Supper, while the 2008 uses the term Communion. While these terms are interchangeable in many churches, Communion is the description used in the Baptist faith and message and lends itself more to this individualistic understanding. CG shows a clear shift towards a congregational approach to this celebration of 'Come and feast, for all are welcome' and 'We are one in Christ'. The 2008 includes the Getty/Townend collaboration The Communion Hymn.

Global Hymnody/Spirituals

The final categorization of hymnology we will explore is global hymnology and African American spirituals. The 1991 hymnbook contained 14 of these songs, while the 2008 hymnbook reduced that number to 6 and only contained the best-known spirituals. Celebrating Grace shows clear interest with 29 entries, including songs from across the world's Christianity. CG marks the first time that songs from the Taizé (7) and Iona (2) congregations have made it into Southern Baptist hymnals. Baptists have long had a presence in Latin and South America, and particularly in Brazil. Several Brazilian hymns can be found in CG, including "At the break of the day", "For troubles and sufferings" and "O Cante ao Senhor".

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After this thorough analysis of the contents of each hymnbook and comparison with the 1991 Baptist hymnbook, we know we can make some observations about the Southern Baptist hymn. The two new hymnals show that there is a common hymnal core that persists to the present day, regardless of theological or liturgical beliefs.

common core

There are 250 common text/melody pairs that appear in all three hymnals. There are almost as many folk songs (93) as gospel songs (84). They share 25 common Advent/Christmas songs and 21 pairs of praise/choir songs. These totals show that the core of Baptist hymnology is firmly in the American tradition of hymnology and gospel singing. It reflects the dominance of the revivalist worship tradition, the formal note hymn, and the Sunday school/gospel song tradition.

repertoire hymns

Comparing the hymnals also shows which songs came out of the Baptist repertoire of church hymns. 155 lyric/melody pairs appear in the 1991 Hymnal, but none of the more recent releases. Most of these (62) are examples of modern hymnals that were new entries into Baptist worship when the Hymnal was published in 1991. Many of these songs were not widely used in Southern Baptist worship practices. It should be noted that CG included several of these lyrics with different melodies in their release. The 1991 hymnbook contained quite a significant collection of service music features at the end of the hymnbook that was not duplicated in the two later hymnbooks.

Notable anthems missing from new releases include:

  • All hail the power of the name of Jesus (MILES LANE)
  • Save the day that sees you rise
  • He has the whole world in his hands
  • I will sing the wonderful story (WONDROUS STORY)
  • Jerusalem the Golden
  • Out of my bondage, sorrow and night (Einladungshymne)
  • Take Up Your Cross (Invitation Song)

New songs for Baptist worship

21 new hymn/melody combinations were found in both Celebrating Grace and the Baptist Hymnal, indicating common hymns that entered traditional Baptist worship. The vast majority are the most popular contemporary worship songs such as "How Great is Our God", "Here I Am to Worship", and "In Christ Alone".

Interesting additions include the soundtrack of "Away in a Manger" for CRADLE SONG, "Be Still, My Soul" for FINLANDIA and the recording of "O Canada!"

Company x individualist focus

An interesting observation is the interrelationship between individually focused hymns and collective hymns in each hymnal.

  • BAP Songs 41 "I"
  • 18 "we" songs
  • CG 27 songs "I"
  • 30 "we" songs

revivalist hymns

Finally, the Celebrating Grace hymnbook made a conscious choice to restrict its selection to gospel songs common to many Baptist congregations. 73 collaborative gospel songs appear in the 1991 and 2008 Baptist Hymnals but not the Celebrating Grace Hymnal, including:


  • You are washed in blood
  • Faith is victory
  • Have faith in God
  • I'd rather have Jesus
  • Just a closer walk with you
  • room on the cross
  • There is power in the blood
  • The rescuer is waiting


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