This little blog post about hymnals, written over five years ago, continues to be read and shared. For that, I am grateful. It also continues to provoke friendly responses like this one:
The HYMNAL IS A TOOL like any other! If you are handicapped and can’t hold the hymnal or can’t see well and read the hymnal would you not look for other tools? A variety of tools are helpful for a diverse population with various needs. It is not all about your needs and preferences in a community! If you leave my church because it is trying to be inclusive and thus has screens- Goodbye, Good riddance, and I hope you will be happy someplace else (although since it is all about you, I doubt it) – Nancy K.
In case you didn’t catch what Nancy was trying to say, let me summarize. Hymnals are only valuable in their ability to help people in the act of congregational singing, and that those of us who don’t like screens in the sanctuary are being hard-headed, self-centered dummies who also probably over-salt the veggies at every church potluck social.
In all seriousness, buried in her comment is a decent question. How do we accommodate for those who are unable to use the hymnals for whatever reason (But Nancy, I think the preferred nomenclature is “disabled.”)?
In my career, I have helped more than one person in this situation. Here are some suggestions:
- You can make a friend and hold the hymnal for them.
- You can order them a large-print edition of the hymnal..
- You can print hymns and liturgy in a booklet for those who can’t hold the hymnal.
- You can invest in an app they can use on their own personal device.
- You can have a monitor set up in one particular section for anyone who absolutely must have it.
Because if you put up the Jesus Jumbotrons in your sanctuary, you will still be doing these things:
- You will be encouraging able-bodied people who are fully capable of holding the hymnal to use them instead of the books.
- You will be making the sanctuary more ugly.
- You will be distracting people from what is actually happening in the liturgy.
- You will create a focal point away from table, font, pulpit, altar, cross, and the other symbols of Christian worship.
- You will hinder people from using good singing posture.
- You will increase unnecessary screen time, proven to be detrimental especially to children, in liturgy.
- You will symbolically tell your people that the words they speak and sing are disposable.
- You will exchange something that is real for something that is fake.
Don’t buy into the prevailing aesthetic relativism hijacking the church. It’s not simply a matter of preference. It is good to make accommodations so that all may participate, but they don’t need to be carried over to the entire congregation.
Flickr, creative commons 2.0