The beta version of a new product from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Hymnary.org is live, online and ready for user test drives and feedback.
Dubbed My.Hymnary, the website can be found at: My.Hymnary Beta Version
Already early reviews of the site are glowing with "this is awesome," "so cool" and a simple "excellent" among some of the comments from Facebook users who stumbled upon the tool even before the beta launch.
So what is My.Hymnary?
One way to describe it is as a free suite of online worship planning tools that makes it simple to plan worship services, print high-quality sheet music and present songs during worship.
CCEL and Hymnary founder and director Harry Plantinga is not one for hubris, but he said his hopes for My.Hymnary are that it has the potential to change the ways that churches around the world think about congregational singing and worship planning.
A Full-Service System for Congregational Singing
"My.Hymnary is really a full-service system for supporting and managing congregational singing," Plantinga said. "It is intended to help leaders select songs and present them to congregations in a variety of formats, whether in print or by projection. It’ll support multiple languages. It’ll keep track of the songs your congregation sings and make suggestions based on what you’ve sung recently and the details of the upcoming service. Eventually, it’ll take care of licensing and reporting of copyrighted songs. But maybe the best way to understand it is to give it a try. And send us some feedback on this initial test version, so we can improve it!”
My.Hymnary is built around three Ps: Plan, Print and Present.
Plan is to highlight the ways in which My.Hymnary can assist in the rapid building of service plans. Provide a scripture passage or set of topics, and My.Hymnary will provide custom song suggestions suited to a congregation's unique preferences.
Print means being able to print exceptionally crisp, high-quality scores custom-tailored to a service, instantly transpose sheet music to any key with one click and letting church musicians print customized scores on-demand for upcoming services with simple, intuitive sharing tools.
Present is because My.Hymnary allows for the effortless display of music and lyrics during worship, automatically synchronized to an audio recording of each song. Song presentations can be toggled to fit a congregation's specific needs: between light and dark backgrounds, various font sizes, and form of music notation (harmony, melody, lyrics-only, or an innovative "piano roll" format).
Artificial Intelligence to Learn with a Church
Plantinga added that My.Hymnary encourages a high degree of local customization. And My.Hymnary uses artificial intelligence to learn with a church and to provide suggestions for hymns that might fit liturgical seasons, the lectionary, the scripture passage and other relevant parts of a particular service.
"This is a big project," said Plantinga. "We’re attempting to envision the future of congregational song and develop it."
CCEL and Hymnary developer Will Groenendyk noted that while the project is large and ambitious, it's been a thrill for him and the other four My.Hymnary developers to be part of the vision for the project.
"It's exciting," he said, "to see the compelling ways we will be able to come alongside churches all over the country and world, assisting these churches each week in their worship preparations and services."
Nyna Sykes, associate director of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, concurred.
"To a person our staff here talks about how blessed they feel to be part of this project," said Sykes, who manages all CCEL staff. "We all know how hymns have played a gargantuan role in Christianity. As technology is changing the church service, Hymnary.org and My.Hymnary will be positioned to help maintain the essential role of music in the life of the church."
The Hymnary.org website, begun 11 years ago, provides free access to hymns and hymnals and contains 6,000 hymnals, one million hymns and information on almost 40,000 authors, composers, arrangers, translators, hymnal editors and others.
See a video tour of My.Hymnary from Brian Hehn, The Center for Congregational Song
My.Hymnary Video Tour