Hymns Modern & Ancient is a 2011 publication that contains 133 various hymns meant for congregational singing. This hymnal is a resource for those who want a supplement to an existing hymnal. Much of the work for this book was done by Fred Coleman, a Baptist pastor, and his wife Ruth. The songs in this hymnal are meant to be singable and biblical. There is a regular hardcover version and a spiral bound version for pianists.
Many of the hymns in this book are familiar, including “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,” “Beneath the Cross,” “Jerusalem the Golden,” “Just As I Am,” and so forth. Some of the older hymns have newer tunes, which some people may not appreciate. There are also quite a few new hymns, including the popular, “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” A quick look at the index shows that the bulk of the new hymns were written by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Bob Kauflin, Stuart Townend, and Fred Coleman. I have to admit I’m not at all familiar with these authors/composers, so I can’t comment much on them aside from noting that roughly half the hymns in this book belong to one of the above named authors/composers. (As a side, D. A. Carson has a few selections in the hymnal as well.)
The music in this hymnal is singable for the most part. Many are written in standard 4/4 or 3/4 time and most of them don’t go higher than E (so we don’t have to strain for the high notes!). I did notice there were many songs that took up two pages and from time to time I ran across a hymn with those pesky rests in the middle of the song or alternate endings that may throw some people off. Some of the songs are just words with no score – another thing some singers might not appreciate.
I am disappointed that there’s no Scripture index in the back of the hymnal, but my biggest critique of the hymnal is that there are very few psalms – 6 total if my count is correct. I do appreciate solid biblical hymns, but I believe psalms should have priority in congregational singing. So the chief reason I can’t give Hymns Modern and Ancient a five-star review is because it only has a few psalms.
If you’re looking for a hymn resource that contains some solid and singable hymns, you should check this hymnal out. I’m glad I own it; it is a good resource with edifying hymns. It might be a big hymnal upgrade for those churches whose primary hymnal is weak and fluffy. Perhaps we can look forward to future editions of Hymns Modern and Ancient that include more psalms. At that point I would be more eager to give it a hearty recommendation.
NOTE: I was given a copy of this hymnal by the publishers in exchange for an honest review: Hymns Modern and Ancient (Milwaukee: Heart Publications, 2011).
rev shane lems