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Hmong hymnal will be unveiled April 26

4/10/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

By Kimberly Pace*

A United Methodist hymnal catering to the language and music of the Hmong community will be introduced in a special celebration April 26 in Milwaukee.

Seventeen years in the making, The Hmong United Methodist Hymnal, containing more than 300 hymns, will be unveiled at Hmong Christian Community United Methodist Church. The hymnal includes many hymns from Southeast Asian sources, as well as translations of traditional and contemporary songs familiar to most English-speaking United Methodists. Organized in the same manner as the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal and making use of the same headings and subheadings, the Hmong hymnal also includes 18 Wesley hymns.

The Hmong came from Laos, and their ancestors originated in southwestern China. The United Methodist Church has Hmong congregations in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Before the hymnal publication, most Hmong Christians used the only songbook in their language available at the time, a words-only edition prepared by the Christian Missionary and Alliance Church.

In 1986, the Hmong Community United Methodist Church of St. Paul, Minn., prepared a text-only hymnal, Cov Ntseeg Yesxus Phoo Nkauj, which contained 323 hymns. Although the congregation had developed the hymnal for its own use, it distributed the resource to other Hmong United Methodist churches. By 1990, that hymnal was in its fifth edition.

In 1999, Chou Yang and the Milwaukee Hmong Community United Methodist Church formed a committee to begin work on a new hymnal, the first in the Hmong language to contain both words and music. The hymnal was patterned after most traditional hymnals, in particular the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal. Musician and composer Sou Yang took on the tasks of typesetting, arranging and composing new music. The first draft was completed in 2001, followed by copyright clearance and additional editing. The final version was completed in February, 17 years after the St. Paul text-only first edition.

The United Methodist Board of Discipleship funded The Hmong United Methodist Hymnal with additional support from sources that included the Minnesota and Wisconsin annual conferences, the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation, the Asian Caucus and the Hmong Caucus.

Although the board provided significant funding, "the committee is still in need of funds to pay production and printing costs," said Dean McIntyre, who served as editorial consultant for the hymnal and a staff member of the board's worship section.

"From the beginning, the committee has desired to distribute the first printing to Hmong United Methodist congregations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and North Carolina without charge. The first printing of 5,000 will accomplish that task," he said. The committee also wants additional financial assistance with production and printing costs from any annual conference, church agency, congregation, group or individual.

More information is available by contacting the book's editor, Chou Yang, at Hmong Christian Community United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, (414) 645-4844.

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*Pace is director of communications for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.

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