Hymn-books have occupied an important place in British Methodism since the movement’s beginnings. Their significance is expressed institutionally through the Methodist Conference’s practice of authorising specific hymnals for use across the connexion. More personally, for much of Methodism’s history, many members have owned their own hymnal. Authorisation and personal ownership point to an understanding of the hymnal has having a dual purpose, which can be traced back to John Wesley: they serve as both a practical manual for participation in communal worship and as a resource for personal devotion. For both purposes, authorisation confirms that the hymnals and their contents express and represent Methodist doctrine and theology. Hymn-books occupied a prominent place among the wide-ranging publishing activity of John and Charles Wesley. Beginning with A Collection of Psalms and Hymns (the Charlestown Hymn-Book, 1737), John vigorously pursued the task of compiling and editing anthologies of hymns, including translating hymns from German and other languages and contributing as an author in his own right. Subsequent volumes bearing the same title as the Charlestown collection appeared in 1738, 1741 and 1743, while a parallel series entitled Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739, 1740, 1742) was the first to contain hymns written by Charles. Charles’ poetic output burgeoned from 1738 onwards, and he was customarily the most highly represented author in the various compilations issued throughout the eighteenth century. Many collections consisting solely of Charles’ work were also published, often on specific theological or liturgical themes, such as Hymns on God’s Everlasting Love (1741), Hymns on the Nativity of our Lord (1745), and Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (1745). Several later collections under John’s editorship, including Hymns and Spiritual Songs intended for the use of Real Christians of all Denominations (1753) and Hymns for those to whom Christ is all in all (1761) preceded the hymnal that exerted the strongest and longest influence on Methodism, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1780), which contained more than 500 hymns. Two strands are identifiable among the various compilations: one addressing liturgical needs and the other more focused on matters of personal devotion and discipleship (see Leaver, 2010). While most of the volumes published by the Wesley brothers contained only texts, several tune collections were also issued during the eighteenth century. While the first, A Collection of Tunes, Set to Music, As They are commonly Sung at the Foundery (1742) Foundery Collection, was hampered by poor musical editing, it set important precedents in its borrowing of tunes from Germanic tunes from Moravian sources and in its adaptation of a secular melody by Handel. John Frederick Lampe’s Lampe, John FrederickHymns on the Great Festivals and Other Occasions (1746) ''Hymns on the Great Festivals and Other Occasions''was the first publication to contain tunes specially composed for Charles Wesley’s words. Thomas Butts’ Harmonia Sacra (1754) provided a much more extensive body of repertoire and served as the basis for John Wesley’s Select Hymns with Tunes Annext (1761; rev. 1765 as Sacred Melody)Select Hymns: with Tunes Annext. The 1742 and 1761 collections contained melodies only, but the latter was revised and extended as Sacred Harmony (1780/1, rev. 1790)Sacred Harmony, which included bass lines and occasional second parts. Most branches of Methodism continued to use the 1780 Collection for much of the nineteenth century, often supplementing it with seasonal and liturgical hymns and, as the century went on, more recent hymns from Anglican sources. The Wesleyan Methodists published extensive new editions in 1831 and 1876, the Methodist New Connexion and Bible Christians both published supplemental volumes in 1825, as did the Wesleyan Methodist Association (1830) and the Wesleyan Reformers (1853). Later in the century, these groups all produced new hymnals, but the thematic construction of the 1780 Collection remained influential. Primitive Methodism pursued its own path more quickly, with volumes compiled by Hugh Bourne (1809, 1829) Bourne, Hughand John Flesher (1854) Flesher, Johncontaining much repertoire suited to the denomination’s revivalist practices and methods. The Primitive Methodist Hymnal (1887), however, showed ecumenical influences similar to those observed in other Methodist books in the second half of the century. Early in the century, congregations often relied on locally compiled collections of tunes to use in conjunction with the various denominational books, but printing a specified tune for each individual text became standard practice in the later volumes. The Methodist Hymn Book (1904) was a joint endeavour between WM, MNC, the Wesleyan Reform Union and the Methodist Church of Australasia. Heavily dominated by the hymns of Charles Wesley, it also contained Anglican chants and many new tunes from eminent Anglican musicians, under the musical editorship of Frederick Bridge, Organist of Westminster Abbey. The high status afforded to hymnals in Methodism was emphasised by the publication of The Methodist Hymn Book (1933), just one year after the union of most Methodist groups to form The Methodist Church. Its committee, chaired by F. Luke WisemanWiseman, Dr Frederick Luke, was strongly influenced by the contents of the 1904 book. They sought to emphasise unity by reprinting John Wesley’s famous preface to the 1780 Collection, reaffirming the place and value of hymnody in Methodist worship and devotional practice. The 1933 book enjoyed an unusually long life as Methodism’s authorised hymnal. It was supplemented in 1969 by Hymns & Songs, which contained new hymns in traditional metrical forms by writers such as Fred Pratt GreenGreen, Frederick Pratt, MBE, Fred Kaan and Albert Bayly, folk hymns by the likes of Sydney Carter and Patrick Appleford, responsorial psalms by Joseph Gelinau and new tunes for older texts by composers associated with the Twentieth-Century Church Light Music Group. Several of these innovations were preserved in the next authorised hymnal, Hymns & Psalms (1983). It was intended to be an ecumenical hymnal, but the Methodist Conference’s resolution that it had contain 200 hymns by Charles Wesley (a requirement that was ultimately not met) impeded this aim. The growth in popularity of new repertoire by songwriters such as Graham Kendrick in the 1980s emphasised the traditional character of Hymns & Psalms and limited its appeal among congregations keen to have music led by a worship band rather than an organ. The 1990s saw further diversity, as contemporary songs from writers in Australia, the USA and elsewhere became well-known alongside those of their British counterparts, and the work of the Iona Community’s John Bell and Graham Maule both in writing original hymns and in compiling repertoire from the global church gained a stronger ecumenical foothold. Many churches supplemented or replaced Hymns & Psalms with non-denominational collections such as the Songs of Fellowship and Mission Praise series, or, assisted by technological developments, produced their own supplementary collections. Early in the new millennium, the Methodist Publishing House proposed a supplement to Hymns & Psalms, but with the agreement of the Methodist Conference in 2007, this became a complete new authorised hymnal, published as Singing the Faith (2011). Attempting to represent British Methodism’s increasingly broad musical repertoire it is stylistically considerably more varied than any previous authorised hymnal. Hymnals for children and young people were published by many of the Methodist denominations in the nineteenth century. This genre continued in the twentieth century with The School Hymn-Book (1950), Partners in Praise (1979), Story Song (1993) and Big Blue Planet (1995). The first Welsh WM hymn-book, Diferion y Cyssegr was published by John Hughes, (Brecon, 1802). Much altered and enlarged editions appeared in 1804, 1807, 1809 and 1812. Like all subsequent hymnals, these depended heavily on the Calvinist William Williams, Pantycelyn. The connexion itself published books in 1817, 1845 and 1900, and in 1927 joined with Welsh Calvinistic Methodism (the Presbyterian Church in Wales) to publish Llyfr Emynau a Thonau y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd and Wesleiadd (1927) and a supplementary volume in 1985. Methodists, Presbyterians and several other denominations came together to publish the ecumenical Welsh-language hymnal Caneuon Ffydd in 2001.

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  • G.J. Stevenson in Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology (1892) pp.726-32
  • Frederick L. Wiseman, in New History of Methodism 2 (1909) Appendix c
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