Many of us have now been working with Lutheran Service Book (LSB) for a full three years. So there has now been some chatter on the net about the liturgies and how they are wearing. From the moderate sampling of opinion I've read and heard, it seems that initial excitement about the Service of Prayer and Preaching has waned, with many folks returning to Vespers for mid-week catechetical services (the service seems to be working better for school chapel services). On the other hand, many congregations that only used one setting of the Divine Service from a previous hymnal are now reporting that their folks are using two, three, or all five settings in LSB. Indeed, one comment consistently heard is a desire for a "sixth setting". So, Liturgy Solutions will soon be providing one option for those who would like another setting.
But what about the hymnody? With so much of the successful hymnody from Hymnal Supplement 98 (HS98) included in LSB, there were fewer genuinely hymns that were genuinely "new" to the LCMS provided in this book. Though certainly congregations that had been exclusively using The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH, 1941) have many new songs to sing, congregations that used Lutheran Worship (LW) or that were "LW/HS98" did not get the usual full plate of fresh hymnody one expects in a generational hymnal. To be sure, the need to bring "LW" and "TLH" congregations back together under one hymnal necessitated this, but it did make LSB less exciting for many churches.
Nonetheless, there are a good number of entirely new hymns added to the LCMS hymn corpus with LSB. While we are still a couple of years away from knowing what the real "hits" will be - such as "Thy Strong Word" and "Lift High the Cross" and "O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth" proved to be for LW - I think we are at a point now where we can begin to evaluate what hymns are working for us, and what hymns haven't proven to be as useful as we initially thought.
We look forward to your thoughts. For now, let me be brave and get the ball rolling:
A Hymn that Is Proving to Be As Good As First Thought - LSB #941, "We Praise You and Acknowledge You" was a hymn I knew the people would love and Pastor Stephen Starke is to be commended for this excellent paraphrase of the Te Deum. I continue to get requests for it! The tune for this hymn, THAXTED, is from Gustav Holst's "The Planets". So while it is a new hymn-tune for the LCMS, it is not necessarily unfamiliar. So let me add a follow-up in this category, this one with an old text but a brand new tune: LSB #874, "O Splendor of God's Glory Bright". My Liturgy Solutions partner Stephen Johnson has given the Church a real gift with this new vestment for this morning hymn of St. Ambrose. I also highly commend an evening hymn, "Lord, Support Us All Day Long", LSB #884. We sing this hymn, based upon the concluding collects of Compline, at Doxology retreats and it has worked well in all sorts of different settings using a variety of instruments. A great hymn to add to the prayers for any evening worship service.
A Hymn that Hasn't Met Expectations - OK, I know I'm sticking my neck out here, so let me just say up front that I acknowledge quite freely that what doesn't work as well in one congregation may be a great fit for another situation. That said, I must confess some objective disappointment in LSB #654, "Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure". I really loved that hymn when I first played it, and it was one of the first LSB songs I introduced to my congregation. I thought it would really provide a boost to a summer stewardship campaign built around the theme "Till the Soil". The campaign proved successful - but the people never really took ownership of the hymn. Lots of folks remember - and speak approvingly of - the hymn I chose for a subsequent campaign, LSB #782, "Gracious God, You Send Great Blessings". But this one just didn't go over. I'll use it again, but I doubt it will become the "hit" that I thought it would be.
A Hymn that Worked Surprisingly Well - We actually sang LSB #669, "Come, We that Love the Lord" last week. I noticed that hymn in there when the hymnal came out, but must confess I really didn't know what that old Lowry song was doing in a Lutheran hymnal. But the readings last week (3-year) made it an obvious pick. So I went for it! And I even surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this hymn. Would I want a steady diet of this musical style? No. But just as it's OK for us to break out the percussion for "Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia" or get meditative with a little Taizé music as the appointed Word suggests, so I think there is room for some old-fashioned Americana. One of my sopranos may have thought it was a little too much on the "Chitty-chitty Bang-bang" side of things, but the people really bought into once they realized we were serious. And with the texts from Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4 this past Sunday, I can't imagine more appropriate words for us to sing for an Entrance Hymn. Yes, I'll be bringing this one out again in three years - and a couple of times before then. ;)
A Hymn We Haven't Sung Yet, But Will - I really like LSB #339, "Lift Up Your Heads, You Everlasting Doors". It is not the most intuitive of melodies, so I've held off on using it - especially since the congregation I serve has so many Advent favorites. But this is the year we're going to do it. I'm confident it will be a "hit". Friends who have introduced it to their congregations give it a confident endorsement. Let's hope I'm not wrong about this one!