Retiring Dvorak to Continue Brown Hymnal Tradition

1 Comment » Written on March 20th, 2006     
Filed under: News
CROMWELL, CT (March 20, 2006) – The Brown Hymnal Society will continue, even though its unofficial leader, Bob Dvorak, is retiring as superintendent of the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

“I’m the music director, chairman of the board, and the only board member,” Dvorak quips. The Brown Hymnal Society has no formal organization, but the name is attached to those who gather to sing songs from the brown hymnal as well as other older hymns.

Dvorak recently led hymn sings in three California cities that attracted 275 people. He travels annually to California, Minneapolis, and Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in Swanzey, New Hampshire, to lead the hymn sings. He also has led the singing at the last two Feasts in Keystone, Colorado, as well as “wherever I’m invited.”

Some Swedish hymns are sung in the native tongue, as well, even though they are not in the hymnal, but Dvorak says, “It’s a Swedish that would make any true speaker blush.” A standard is “Let a Little Sunshine In” by J.A. Hultman. That song led Hultman to be known as “The Sunshine Singer.”

Evangelical Covenant Church hymnals generally are referred to by their colors. “The Covenant Hymnal” was brown and published in 1931. It was replaced by “The Hymnal,” which was green, and was eventually followed by red and the current blue editions.

“You don’t have to be able to sing” to participate in the hymn sings, Dvorak laughingly insists. “It’s a plentiful noise, and I hope a joyful noise.

“It’s just having some fun with the old hymns that people like to sing,” Dvorak continues. “We chuckle at ourselves a fair amount at this.”

He notes, however, that the hymns were an important part of the spiritual formation of those who come to sing. “They’ll say, “We haven’t sung this one in a long time.”

People of many ages participate in the sings. “It’s interesting to me that the younger persons who come to this are amazed when they see how uninhibited the older people can be.”

Dvorak started the hymn sings when he was pastor at Winnetka Covenant Church, a Chicago suburb, where he has convened the Brown Hymnal Society on numerous occasions. And, he says he will continue to lead the events when asked.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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One Response to “Retiring Dvorak to Continue Brown Hymnal Tradition”

My church is looking into an old-fashioned hymn sing and one of the seniors told me how much fun the old meetings were for the Brown Hymnal Society. We could use ideas and wonder when the next meeting will be in the Minneapolis/Plymouth MN area. Thank you!

Nancy Fleming and Jon Russell (PCC church music director)

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