There are a variety of good times and manners to introduce new hymns, just as there are numerous poor occasions for new music. This Sunday, unfortunately, we may have stumbled across the very worst of all possible moments to introduce a new hymn: as the closing hymn at 11:20 on a sunny, summer day, with no announcement to explain the cryptic note in the bulletin about verses one and two.
The most unfortunate part is that I think the hymn in question, "Hail Thee, Festival Day!" will be a great addition to our congregation's repertoire. It has a great march tempo, an easily learnable refrain, and appropriate texts for various festivals and holidays. Plus, it falls under my axiom that any hymn title with an exclamation point must be fun and uplifting to sing.
If I have a problem with the hymn, it is the overly complicated nature of verses one and two. Very few of the hymns in the ELW have proper verses that differ based on the season or holiday, and they are always confusing when they get scheduled. Next time we sing this hymn (or any other hymn with similar structure), we will be sure to make an announcement to help the congregation find the correct text.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear people's reactions. A couple of people after the service said that the tune itself was quite nice. I've been humming it to myself while doing some yardwork this morning. Since the hymn is officially for Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, it will likely be some time before we sing it again. When we do, we'll try to do a better job of reintroducing the music!