St. Thomas Choir School
Liturgy is the term for the church's sacramental rites and texts used in public worship. In An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church (Church Publishing, 2000), Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum explain that "liturgy expresses the church's identity and mission, including the church's calling to invite others and to serve with concern for the needs of the world." Although many liturgies of The Episcopal Church are included in the Book of Common Prayer, newer liturgies, such as same-sex blessings and rites for departed pets, are developed and reviewed by the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission for Music and Liturgy on an ongoing basis.
Music in the Episcopal Church can be as diverse as its worship services. Although final authority over the music used in an Episcopal service is "the duty of every Minister" (Canon 24, Section 1), our hymnal draws all Episcopalians together musically in the same way that the Book of Common Prayer draws us together in prayer and liturgy.
Most recently revised in 1982, The Hymnal of the Episcopal Church offers 720 hymns in addition to liturgical music. While some of the hymns date back to monastic chants, the hymnal offers more modern music as well.
"The Hymnal 1982 retains the best of the past and sets forth many riches of our own time. [The Standing Commission on Church Music] looked for theological orthodoxy, poetic beauty, and integrity of meaning. At the same time, the Commission was especially concerned that the hymnody affirm 'the participation of all in the Body of Christ the Church, while recognizing our diverse natures of children of God.' … Texts and music which reflect the pluralistic nature of the Church have been included, affording the use of Native American, Afro-American, Hispanic, and Asian material" (Preface, The Hymnal 1982, Church Pension Fund, 1985).