Bishop Gordon Light, retired bishop of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, plays guitar and sings along with members of the Khoros vocal group as lyrics from the song are displayed at the bottom in a screenshot from the 'Sing Hallelujah!' video hymnal.

Video hymnal a boon for small congregations

A new ecumenical resource is offering an alternative way for small groups and congregations to lead worshippers in the singing of hymns and spiritual songs.

Sing Hallelujah! is a video hymnal comprised of a five-volume DVD set. In each video, musicians perform well-known traditional and contemporary hymns while lyrics scroll in large letters along the bottom of the screen, allowing viewers to join in and sing along.

Ralph Milton, a retired former missionary and longtime member of First United Church in Kelowna, B.C., played the lead role in creating the video hymnal. Reflecting his ecumenical outlook, Sing Hallelujah! was designed for use by all denominations, though many selections are drawn from United Church hymn books.

“Having been a writer and penned more books than anybody would want to read, I did a lot of travelling around at one point to small, various congregations,” Milton said.

“The small [churches], it always seemed to me that [they] wanted so badly to sing, but very often there was nobody to lead the singing and the singing was a chore.”

With the advent of technology that made this project financially feasible, Milton hatched the idea of an electronic hymn book that congregations could use to lead them in singing.

He reached out to musicians from a variety of different backgrounds. With financial assistance from BC Conference ProVision Fund and the United Church of Canada Foundation Fund, their collaboration ultimately resulted in Sing Hallelujah!

The video hymnal features approximately 100 different hymns and songs that may be used throughout the church year, including favourites such as Amazing Grace and For All the Saints. An index facilitates the selection of hymns for different points in the liturgical calendar or from a variety of topics.

Bolstering the Anglican presence in the videos, one of the featured musicians is retired bishop Gordon Light, who previously served as bishop of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI).

An accomplished singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Bishop Light performed six of his own compositions for Sing Hallelujah! alongside eight vocalists from Khoros, a small choir based at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kelowna.

“It’s an interesting idea, a kind of Mitch Miller version of a hymn book,” Bishop Light said, comparing the video hymnal to the 1960s sing-along TV show Sing Along With Mitch.

“I think it could be valuable in a small congregation with no musician,” he added. “It would be like being led by a choir and being able to pick up the song or hymn.”

APCI itself extensively used Sing Hallelujah! at its recent assembly from May 1 to 3 in Valemount, B.C., where the room they were using had no piano or other musical instruments. The video hymnal was used throughout the assembly for all worship and during breaks in business sections.

“We found it to be really easy to find things on it and quickly set it up, and so it was really easy to sing along and people really engaged in it,” Bishop Barbara Andrews of APCI said.

“So many of our congregations who are without music leadership just found it to be a wonderful resource and just know it will enhance their worship,” she added.

Published by the General Council of the United Church of Canada, Sing Hallelujah! is available for purchase online through United Church Resource Distribution or Wood Lake Books. The full set of five DVDs costs $99.95, while single volumes are $24.95 each.

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