"Have You a Favorite Hymn?"
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Publisher:The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada
Citation:Schneider, Tina and Emily Preston. "'Have You a Favorite Hymn?'" The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song 69, no. 4 (2018): 20-26.
The fields of theology, social activism, hymnology, and pacifism often overlap, although it is rare to find them all represented in one artifact such as a hymnal. A hymnal alone can combine theology and music; a hymnal filled with 4000 autographs, including those of leading theologians, politicians, and activists, presents an opportunity to look deeply into the intimate choice of choosing a favorite hymn. The creation of a database to make these autographs findable is an important step towards making this unique information available to researchers. Prominent Presbyterian minister Stanley Armstrong Hunter carried hymnals with him for decades, asking people to autograph their favorite hymns. In so doing, he created unique historical artifacts revealing global ecumenical ties of the mid-twentieth century. His copy of the American Presbyterian hymnal of 1895 (rev. 1911) contains over 4000 autographs that reveal a pattern of interfaith cooperation during a time of significant religious and political change. The creation of the index of autographs and hymns serves as a gateway for researchers to understand the hymnological leanings of theologians Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, politicians Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, and global activists Eleanor Roosevelt and Muriel Lester. No other comparable artifact that is searchable in this way. However, because historians look closely at the personal choices of historical figures, they can now draw additional conclusions about a person’s theological or musical preferences. Each autograph in this hymnal was deciphered, recorded, and cataloged into a database, along with the title of the hymn each person chose to sign. This database crystallized international pacifist and ecumenical social networks, and revealed unique insights into the choices of influential persons. This tool can enhance historical research of prominent figures and could lead to new social network discoveries within the international ecumenical and pacifist movements of the mid-twentieth century.
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