Hymnary.org is launching a new tool called FlexPresent aimed at helping churches and people worshiping at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is available free of charge to any and all who might need it.
"FlexPresent will make it easy to project songs for use in worship, whether lyrics only or lyrics with music notation," said Hymnary founder and Calvin computer science professor Harry Plantinga. "Users also can choose different music notation styles and sizes, select stanzas and more. They also can play a recording of the accompaniment."
FlexPresent is part of a bigger project called My.Hymnary which will launch later this year.
Plantinga said he and the team decided to launch FlexPresent now when it saw how many people are holding worship services at home, a trend that is likely to grow and continue for some weeks to come.
In this new model for church, Plantinga noted, congregational singing can be a problem.
"The main options," he said, "are for churches to send out to members either a recording of a performance or a score. Neither option is really a very good way to support congregational singing. The score needs accompaniment and the recording encourages just listening. Our new system lets home worshipers see the song as either lyrics only or lyrics plus music, to hear the accompaniment and to sing along. And worship leaders only have to search for a song and send out a URL."
FlexPresent Part of My.Hymnary Scheduled for Later in 2020
Plantinga added that Hymnary.org is more than 10 years old now, and he has been having numerous conversations with individuals and groups on how Hymnary.org can best serve congregations and worship leaders over the next decade and beyond.
"One area in which Hymnary.org has been limited is in its support of projecting songs in worship services," he says. "And that is something that about half of U.S. congregations do. Many congregations would project music notation if it were easy to do. So we designed and built the FlexPresent system as part of our development of My.Hymnary."
When it is launched later this year, My.Hymnary will support worship leaders and congregations with tools for planning, printing and presenting songs. The new FlexPresent system will serve as the presentation piece and the existing FlexScores system will serve as the printing piece.
"My.Hymnary is not ready for release yet," Plantinga says, "but we thought that if we could get an early version of the FlexPresent system online it might help with home worship for some in this unique and disorienting pandemic time."
There are currently more than 150 public domain songs as part of the new FlexPresent tool with more being added every week. All of the songs added thus far have particular relevance, Plantinga said, for this current time of uncertainty.