Although we hope it will be welcomed as a valuable collection in its own right, New Hymns and Worship Songs has a more specific purpose: to update existing Anglican hymnals so that congregations can sing the best and most loved compositions of recent years alongside the traditional hymns found in all books.
Almost 90 per cent of the 440 hymns given here will not be found in either of the two most widely used Anglican hymn books. It is a great pity that congregations should be denied such standard fare as the Taizé chants, the beautiful music of Iona, Graham Kendrick's ever more popular songs or those hymns which, although widely used for many years, are not to be found in other collections, fine pieces such as O Lord, my God (How great thou art); How lovely on the mountains (Our God reigns) and Be still, my soul set to the majestic tune Finlandia.
As well as including hymns and songs composed in recent years, this collection has a small number of rewritten traditional texts. For example, God is working his purpose out, notoriously wayward in its metre, is given in a strictly metrical version which makes it easier to sing and, therefore, more enjoyable for all concerned.
Another editorial consideration had to do with the kind of images sometimes used. There is a growing belief that, in an increasingly violent society, militarism and triumphalism should not be expressed and apparently sanctified in hymnody; the scope for misuse of those themes is frequently demonstrated. However, it must be acknowledged that some such texts have fine tunes which we should not lose, and the solution in certain cases has been to commission new texts, such as Stand up, stand up for Jesus; God is our strength from days of old and Onward Christian pilgrims, to fit the original tunes.
The singing of hymns and psalms in worship pre-dates Christianity. It is something that Jesus himself would have been familiar with in the temple, and he certainly sang at the Last Supper - 'After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives', writes Matthew. What a wonderful tradition we share!
We hope that in this diverse and approachable collection of hymns we have sown some seeds; that is all we can do. It is in the worship of the churches that those seeds must be brought to glorious flower.