In May, 1925, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States created a committee to publish a new hymn book. As a result the Presbyterian Committee of Publication copyrighted and released The Presbyterian Hymnal in 1927. The title page of my copy reveals itself as a 1949 reprint.
The Creation of The Presbyterian Hymnal
According to James Rawlings Sydnor, in “Sing a New Song to the Lord: An Historical Survey of American Presbyterian Hymnals,” (cited below), gospel songs prevailed in previous song books of this denomination. Perhaps this explains the note in the Foreword that, “We have made large use of the judgment of Dr. Louis F. Benson in selecting hymns and musical settings from his books.” Dr. Benson, known as a hymnologist, served in the formation of several other hymnals. He was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, a different denomination.
According to Sydnor, the fact that the committee had no trained hymnologist or musician on the committee created a weaker hymnal. The committee itself consisted of 8 individuals. Apparently Walter L. Lingle served as chair of the committee. His name appears first in a list otherwise in alphabetical order.
Dr. Lingle served as president of Davidson College in North Carolina from 1929 until his retirement in 1941. Prior to that he was president of the General Assembly’s Training School in Richmond. The Presbyterian Hymnal was published during this time. Earlier in his ministry, he served as a church pastor. Three of the churches caught my eye because I live in northeast Georgia. They include the Presbyterian Church, Dalton, GA, the First Presbyterian Church, Rock Hill, SC, and the First Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA.
The History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
The Presbyterian Church in the United States came out of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America founded in 1789. Earlier division arose because of the liberal bent of some of the churches. The more conservative churches (Old School) tended to be southern churches. When the American Civil War began, even these churches divided. At this time, in 1861, the denomination formed as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. When the war ended, they changed their name to the Presbyterian Church in the United States.
For many years, they were known as a theologically conservative denomination. However, in the 20th Century liberal leanings began to arise. Some churches left in 1973 to form the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In 1983 the remnant of the Presbyterian Church in the United States reunited with the successor of the original denomination to form the Presbyterian Church (USA). Thus ended the PCUS.
The Contents of The Presbyterian Hymnal
As to content, the original committee charged with creating The Presbyterian Hymnal received instructions to print the hymn texts within the music scores, add “Amen” to each of the hymns, and include scripture responsive readings (Sydnor). You can see this on the pages included.
A section entitled “Doxologies, Responses and Chants” ends the musical portion of the hymnal.
I find it interesting that in addition to the Contents and a Grouping of Hymns, we find almost all of the indices at the front of the hymnal. Only the “Index of Subjects and Occasions” (the Topical Index) exists at the end of the hymnal.
Also, note that per instructions, Scripture Readings are included. However, this section also includes The Apostles Creed at the very end.
Finally, we see that the inside of the front cover includes “The Doxology” and “The Gloria Patri.” In addition, inside the back cover we find a “Dismissal Hymn” and an “Evening Hymn.”
The background information was not extensive, but I found the articles listed below to be very interesting. I encourage you to read them and discover more details, especially about the Presbyterian Church in the United States and Dr. Walter L. Lingle.
A significant reference for this article was:
Sydnor, James Rawlings. “Sing a New Song to the Lord: An Historical Survey of American Presbyterian Hymnals.” American Presbyterians, vol. 68, no. 1, 1990, pp. 1–13. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23332649. Accessed 1 Sept. 2021.
Additional resources for the article include: