Letter: 'Jerusalem: counterblast from Scotland's green and pleasant land

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The Independent Online
Sir: In the hubbub following the Church of Scotland hymnary panel's decision to announce that some hymns may need to be removed, what is distasteful is Lord Broadbridge's personal comment about the Rev Charles Robertson, a man he has apparently never met (Letters, 1 May). The Rev Robertson, secretary of the hymnary, is one of those liturgists notorious for his resistance to fads of political correctness. To suggest that he is either small-minded or idiotic advances reasoned debate not one whit.

The issues raised by those charged with preparing a new hymnary are concerned with shifts in culture and language. Not everyone will find feminist challenges to the well-known words and forms congenial, but we cannot wish them away. It is the responsibility of those who prepare worship to find language that will reflect the good, the true, and the beautiful in equal measure. Gender-inclusive language does not per se threaten any of these concerns, as the United Reformed Church demonstrated in its 1990 hymnary Rejoice and Sing.

Six years ago, the Joint Liturgical Group of Great Britain produced a collection of papers and essays entitled Singing the Faith. Much of what it said then rehearsed the issues confronting those who oversee the production of new hymn books. Interested readers can make themselves informed critics by reading that book or Brian Wren's What Language Shall I Borrow?.

In the meantime I hope that Lord Broadbridge, whom I have never met, has the opportunity to attend the Kirk of Canongate, where the Rev Robertson exercises a ministry distinguished by decency, order and the affection of his parishioners.

The Rev Dr Paul P J Sheppy

Barnoldswick, Lancashire

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