When Church Missionary Society [CMS] team led by Henry Townsend and Samuel Ajayi Crowther came to Nigeria with church mission in 1842, they could not have brought along with them a hymn book, because they were coming into a country that was ignorant of what they brought and of different language. It stands to reason that while preaching, teaching and healing ministries took off immediately they arrived; the musical aspect of worship was developed gradually. Effective communication between the foreigners and the local [prospective] converts became the first preoccupation of the missionaries who tried to bridge the language gap. Their efforts led to the translation of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into the local languages starting with Yoruba and Igbo. We may not be able to know actually what the singing life of the church looked like between 1842 and 1865 when the first indigenous hymnals, were published in Yoruba [Iwe Orin Yoruba – 1865] and Igbo [Iweri Mumo – 1869]. The first two hymn books were later reviewed and expanded to become Iwe Orin Mimo and Ekpere Na Abu. Later, hymnbooks in other local languages, Nupe, Bini, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Hausa, etc came up, with the translations of the Book of Common Prayer.
On February 24, 1979, The Church of Nigeria became an independent Province in the Anglican Communion with her inauguration on the Feast St Matthias. The development which the Church has witnessed since then has called for the production of local worship manuals, with a view to keeping pace with the expansion, and the modern trends in Church life. One of such productions was the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer [BCPN 1996], which was reviewed in 2007. This was followed by having a hymn book, which is of international and interdenominational standard. THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA HYMNAL is to serve as a hymnal companion to the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. The compilation contains some of those good old hymns most of which are fast passing into oblivion, but are still relevant to our daily life in our spiritual pilgrimage. It also contains many hymns written within the first part of last century and those written recently by Nigerian.
The foundation for the hymnal was laid in 1982, when the Liturgy Commission was set up by the Church, with Rt. Revd. G. I O Olajide as the Chairman. One of the terms of reference of the Commission was production of Nigerian version of the Book of Common Prayer and a companion Hymnal. Attention was first directed at the BCP [N] with the first edition published in 1996. Compilation of a suitable hymnal did not start until November, 1995. A manuscript of 949 hymns was produced and submitted in 1998. It happened that it was in the year that the Chairman, Bishop Olajide retired, and which also the Primate, Most Revd. J A Adetiloye was about retiring. This stalled further work on the production for seven years until October 2005, when the Revd. Canon ‘Bola Omodun Ilori [the key personality in production of the first manuscript] was commissioned by the next Primate, The Most Revd P. J. Akinola to start work on a new manuscript of 1,000 hymns or more.
THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA HYMNAL – containing 1250 hymns with the Service Music and Canticles for Matins/Evensong and Sung Eucharist – which has just been released from the press, is a product of about fourteen years (starting from the commissioning of Canon Ilori in 2005 by Primate Akinola) continuous work of the Board of Editors (Music unit of the Liturgy and Spirituality Committee of the Church of Nigeria) chaired by Most Revd Henry Ndukuba, Bishop of Gombe Diocese. Other members of the Editorial Board are: Rt Rev’ds Samuel O. Oke, James Oladunjoye, Abraham Akinlalu, Venerables Princewill O. Ireoba (Desk Officer at the Primate’s Office), Aaron Njoku, Sir Chuma Chukwuka and Rev’d Canons ‘Bola O. Ilori (Secretary) and Tolu Daramola (Asst. Secretary)
(To be concluded next week)
The Rev’d Canon Adebola Omodunnbi Ilori
Is a Consultant Hymnographer and the Secretary to the Board of Editors for the Church of Nigeria Hymnal.