When a hymn needs to address modern issues or speak with a particularly trendy voice, Jane Park Huber’s new collection of 73 songs (Westminster Press) is a useful resource. In A Singing Faith, she writes out of a love for congregational (and recreational) hymnody. Her style is predictable and familiar, but the topics are often omitted: human worth, women in biblical stories, peace and justice, the dignity of work, the joy of social service. Although written in the last decade, the texts’ anachronistic style resembles nineteenth-century hymnody shifted to use inclusive (nonsexist) language.
Huber, the wife of a minister and mother of six, was born in China of missionary parents. She calls her vocation “homemaker and church volunteer,” and sees herself on “a journey that many people of [her] generation have taken”: She observes that her approach to inclusive language is followed “more deliberately than [by] younger women.” Huber wants women to “unlearn” the assumption that “men” means both men and women; to approach “inclusive language first in terms of people.” And she struggles with gender in reference to God: “How gender-specific is Christ after rising from the dead?”
Huber’s hymn texts are less than powerful. Except for four that are connected to equally new tunes, her seemingly new wine is poured into old wineskins with predictable results. Familiar tunes become a distraction since Huber’s rhyme scheme and phrasing usually parallel well-known words that have been associated with a tune for many years. For example, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” becomes “Designer, Creator, most ...1
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