Wiki: Hymn Selection

Huilin Shen


There is a world of hymn books and resources to choose from for worship. Also, Wikipedia provides an exhausting – but undoubtedly not exhaustive – List of English-language hymnals by denomination.

In order to offer some continuity, shared experience, and the security that comes with repetition, the Methodist Church has designated certain “authorised” hymn books, the most recent of which is Singing the Faith. That said, Methodist congregations are often open to learning new hymns and songs from other sources (including our own StF+ New Hymns). It can be worth taking the time to become familiar with new tunes/words before using them – perhaps by learning them before the service begins, or by asking one your organist/pianist to play them over in full before singing. We should remember, too, that many of our church members are familiar with – and have loved – other music styles and publications, and be responsive to their needs.

Qianqian Xie

A combination of several principles may be used as a guide in choosing hymns and music :

  1. Choice according to the place in the Service The opening hymn sets the mood for the Service – it should generally have a familiar, bright tune, and be easy to process in with. Similarly, the closing hymn should generally be one which gives praise to God, or reinforces the call of the sermon, or encourages people to go out into the world as Christian disciples. It should be easy to process out with. If there is a hymn after receiving communion, it may be quiet and meditative, or express joyful thanks. Solemn occasions such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, funerals, days of penitence etc. call for slower less bouncy tunes
  2. Choice according to the Liturgical Season The hymns in the Hymnal 1982 are grouped according to the seasons of the Church year – however, not all the hymns in any particular section may be suitable for the whole of that season. There are also sections for times of the day, Sundays, and particular saints’ days.
  3. Choice according to the Scripture Readings and/or the theme of the Service See below
  4. Choice according to frequency of use Try to avoid using the same hymn several Sundays in a row, or to over-use some old favorite. Ideally, the choice of hymns for a particular service should be mainly of ones which the congregation already knows, with maybe one new hymn to be introduced and used until it is familiar.

Once you have a clearer sense of what the service as a whole will be about (based on the lectionary texts), look up any hymns or songs that come to mind and search for others that might tie in. How many hymns do you normally have in your worship service? Which hymn selections work best as opening or closing hymns and which might work well before or after the sermon?

Search the topical and scripture index in the back of your hymnal and search keywords and scripture references on

If the hymn or song has more than three or four verses, make sure to read through all the verses and choose the ones that will be most relevant in the service.

Anastasia Rege

When selecting hymns, it is important to consult with the readings and religious themes of the service at hand. The Lectionary and Missal will have the readings and most of the spoken text for any mass in it. In addition to the readings, a Catholic service has a homily, this is the section where the priest reflects on the readings of that day and gives their own interpretation and message.  Drawing inspiration from the readings and homily are a good place to start.  

There are a finite amount of themes, and in most hymnals, you can search for them, for example, “Faith” “Ressurection” “Holy Trinity” “Community” etc. You can also search for liturgical seasons Advent/Christmas/Lent/Easter/Pentecost, etc. which will have appropriate music categorized for you.  After a few years, you start to collect an internal repertoire of hymns that you can choose from.  This weekend at church, themes of Jesus as a shepherd were used throughout the readings and homily so I utilized “The King of Love,” “My Shepard Will Supply My Need” and “Psalm 23:The Lord Is My Shepard.”

Yingying Xia

Selecting a hymn can depend on various factors, such as the occasion, the theme of the service or event, the denomination, and personal preferences.

Here are some general steps to consider when choosing a hymn:

  1. Determine the occasion: Is it a regular Sunday service, a wedding, a funeral, or a special event? The occasion can help guide your choice of hymn.
  2. Consider the theme: What is the theme or focus of the service or event? For example, if the theme is love, you might choose a hymn like “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” or “The Love of God.”
  3. Think about the congregation: Consider the age range, musical preferences, and denominational background of the people who will be singing the hymn.
  4. Consult a hymnal: Look through a hymnal or online resource to find a hymn that fits the occasion and theme.
  5. Listen to the melody: Once you have chosen a hymn, listen to the melody to make sure it is appropriate and that the congregation can sing it comfortably.
  6. Practice: Practice the hymn with the congregation or choir to make sure everyone is comfortable with the lyrics and melody.