There will be no new printings or editions of Together in Song (Australian Hymn Book II), the hymn book most widely used in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA).
Publisher HarperCollins has told The Australian Hymn Book company, the ecumenical body that produces the hymnal, that it will not renew licence agreements with copyright holders when they expire in 2018.
“Parishes, schools and other institutions contemplating introducing the hymn book, or those who require additional copies of congregational or full music editions would be well advised to place new orders soon because the book will no longer be available once the copyright agreements have terminated,” the Australian Hymn Book company said.
Australian Hymn Book company director Philip Nicholls, said HarperCollins would have decided that it was not worth their while to renew the 12,000 copyright arrangements. He said when Together in Song (TIS) was first published in 1999 it would have been expected that the 20-year deal on licences would be renewed when the time came.
“No one foresaw so much of a move online. People worship in a different way now,” Philip said.
Philip said many congregations project lyrics on a screen and use their own repertoire of worship songs.
Brisbane-based Uniting Church minister David MacGregor, who is a Uniting Church representative on the Australian Hymn Book editorial committee, said the decision not to continue printing TIS was regrettable and also urged congregations, schools and agencies to stockpile copies.
TIS contains 783 psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, including some especially written for the book, and includes the work of writers from 48 countries, with a strong representation of Indigenous and female authors. The Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic churches, as well as the Church of Christ are all currently involved with the book’s production.
“A hymnal such as Together in Song by its ecumenical nature joins us to the wider church… the world church,” David said. “Even for UCA congregations not regularly using TIS, its existence is something which tangibly holds us together, offering hymnody, eg Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley which connects us to our inherited past.”
David said TIS was carefully curated, mixing in the revered traditional hymns with more contemporary worship songs. He said the book was also valuable in its theologically sound modern and eclectic approach to worship.
“The careful attention to (where possible) inclusive language for God and people points us to informed contemporary scholarship,” he said. “Will this be ignored? TIS gifts the church with a broad array of themes and emphases in worship, beyond the danger of a praise-only focus.”
The Australian Hymn Book company will be releasing one more supplement of TIS, contacts for suppliers are available at australianhymnbook.com.
This article originally appeared in Crosslight, the publication of the Uniting Church Victoria/Tasmania.