WELS Connection Close-up

Christian Worship, the WELS hymnal published in 1993, is used by more than 95 percent of WELS congregations. In 2012, WELS launched a new hymnal project, with plans for the new hymnal to be available by 2024, the 500th anniversary of the first Lutheran hymnal and 31 years after the publication of Christian Worship. This project is a collaboration between the Conference of Presidents, Northwestern Publishing House, and the Commission on Worship.

“The goal of a new hymnal 30 years after Christian Worship allows for several benefits,” explains Rev. Bryan Gerlach, director of the Commission on Worship. “It provides for earlier and wider usage of excellent new hymns, addresses beneficial worship trends, consolidates WELS’ primary worship resources into one book, and contributes to unity within WELS.”

Rev. Michael Schultz (shown preaching at the 2013 synod convention) began serving as the director of the hymnal project in December 2012. Schultz was chairman of the Hymns Subcommittee for Christian Worship: Supplement and compiled the guitar edition of the supplement. He is also a talented hymn writer, and some of his new or altered hymn texts are included in Christian Worship and Christian Worship: Supplement.

In addition to coordinating the pew edition of the new hymnal, Schultz is also exploring how emerging technologies should be used to serve WELS congregations’ worship needs.

Schultz says, “This project is predominantly about continuing to make excellent worship resources available to the congregations of our synod. With the expectation in our day and age that these resources will be digital and downloadable and device-ready, the technology aspect of the project will certainly be receiving our attention. We do recognize, however, that before worrying about the method of media delivery, we have a higher concern about the integrity of the materials—that they are faithful to God’s Word and that they proclaim Christ as Savior and King.”

The hymnal project executive committee met for the first time in September 2013. Seven subcommittees were populated in the fall, and 60 people began working on the project.

Schultz notes that he’s looking forward to “being involved with many other devoted Christians in a project that will not only result in a new hymnal but that all along the way will have in its sights overall worship education and enrichment for the congregations of our church body.”