In the Spring of 2008 I received a call from the Executive Presbyter of the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery in South Carolina, Donnie Woods. He said that he had submitted my name for consideration for the Hymnal Committee which was going to be formed to develop a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church. My first reaction was that I was not qualified for such a position. I also knew it meant a lot of traveling to Louisville, Kentucky. This would amount to four trips a year for four years. In addition to this, there would be hours of work which would need to be done in between meetings. My plate was already overflowing with my responsibility to SIPC and extra outside commitments. But, I said I would consider it.
I then approached Pastor Steve and told him I wanted to consider this opportunity. I told him about the time commitment it would require, and I asked him to think about it and get back to me with his thoughts. Immediately, he looked at me and said I should do it. He said that he thought it would be good for our congregation, the Presbytery, and me. He also said that I would make a valuable contribution to the committee. His only request was that I make sure his favorite hymn was included in the new hymnal, “I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art.”
As I applied to serve and was then selected, I felt excited, surprised, grateful, and also humbled. This humility would be carried throughout our time together. I still am very humble about my work on this project. At the same time, I felt this was a calling from God for me to be actively involved in the new hymnal.
Before our first meeting, I was thinking that we could do this in a couple of years. After all, the only thing we needed to do was suggest our favorite hymns and a few others. I quickly found out how wrong I was. We began to dialogue about what our approach would be. After many months of studying and talking, we developed a Theological Statement which would be our guide for working together and selecting hymns as well as the order in which the hymns would appear.
We developed a system for considering and selecting potential hymns and songs. We also decided that our name needed to reflect our work and the contents of the final hymnal. So, we changed our name to the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song.(PCOCS) I quickly grew to appreciate what we would be doing and how we would do it. Over time our committee became a community. We enjoyed being together. We worked well together. We enjoyed spending time in the evenings socializing together. We shared with one another what was taking place in our personal lives. During our time together we shared many joys and some unhappy experiences. We truly had bonded as one. There was much sadness when we held our last meeting. Fortunately, our work has brought some of us together at various Conferences and Gatherings for the denomination.
One of the many joys I have experienced the last five years has been the opportunity to share about Glory to God. Promoting it has been a most gratifying experience. I have met with committees, given presentations in churches, led Hymn Festivals, presented workshops, spent time on the phone talking with people, and much more. I have traveled to large Denominational Gatherings such as General Assembly and the Presbyterian Women’s Gathering to help promote the hymnal. I represented the committee at the National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Dallas, Texas. I have been a workshop clinician at several Presbytery Leadership Events. I have traveled to six different states promoting Glory to God.
One of my most meaningful meetings was with a small church in South Carolina. It was about two and a half hours from my home. I had gladly accepted the invitation to meet with their Worship Committee. When the time approached for me to drive to their church, I was thinking, “why am I going this far?” I was tired. The drive was boring. When I got there, I met with five people. The church has about fifty people in Worship each week. But, something strange happened. As I started to talk about my work on the hymnal, our process, what would be included in the hymnal, and much more, I found myself as excited talking to five people as I usually was talking to very large groups. The people were very hospitable. They had lots of interest and enthusiasm about the hymnal. They wanted their church to purchase it, which they did. On my drive home which was on roads with few other cars and were very dark, something occurred to me: small churches deserve as much attention as the larger churches. Numbers should not matter. Too often the church is prone to feel that a worship service, concert, or event, has not been successful if a large number of people have not attended or participated. From that moment on, I made sure I devoted as much time and attention to any individual, group, or church, regardless of their size.
I know this is going to be a resource which will serve the Church well for many years to come. It will enrich the worship of not only Presbyterian Churches, but the church universal. I will cherish the many memories connected with putting together this hymnal. Because of my sense of call to serve on this committee and my strong belief that what we have put together is making a valuable contribution to Worship, I continue to travel, meet with committees, and share with anyone who asks me questions about the hymnal. May God receive all of the glory and praise for what we have accomplished.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Charles D. Frost is the minister of music at Sea Island Presbyterian Church