Beaufort resident Charlie Frost helps choose music for national Presbyterian hymnal, 'Glory to God'

loberle@islandpacket.comSeptember 8, 2013 

As a sixth-grader, Beaufort resident Charlie Frost would show up early for Boy Scout meetings on Monday nights at the Methodist church in his hometown of Red Bank, N.J., just to listen to the church's organist, Herbert Burtis, practice.

Frost sat in the pews at the back of the sanctuary and became inspired by the music, which Burtis later taught him to play.

Now 61, Frost is the musical director at Sea Island Presbyterian Church in Beaufort. He was selected out of 220 applicants across the country for a 15-person committee to update and revise the national Presbyterian hymnal, "Glory to God," which will be released in mid-September.

The music in the church isn't just traditional or gospel or contemporary, and the committee sought to have the hymnal reflect the diversity of congregants in the church.

They looked all the way back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries to see what had lasted in hymnity. "Amazing Grace," written in 1779, remains one of the most prominent songs in the Christian church and was included in the hymnal. Contemporary worship songs also have been included, such as "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High."

"The hymnal is like a family album," Frost said. "You don't take out wedding pictures from a wedding 20 years ago. You add new ones. That's how we approached the hymnal, trying to take the best and putting it together."

Some contemporary churches have done away with hymnals, projecting lyrics on a screen instead, and an electronic version of the hymnal is included. But Frost says having a hymnal is like having a Bible -- it is a written collection of worship.

"Sometimes there are hymns written long ago that people can't relate to, but what it does is tell the story of those people," Frost said. "It helps us to connect to Christians throughout the ages, so it's not just me and now."

A hymnal provides a musical foundation for all Presbyterian churches to be connected.

"Music is a unifying factor," Frost said.

Beginning in 2008, the committee met in Louisville four times a year over four years. The committee chose 850 hymns from more than 10,000 submitted.

Frost has traveled to six states promoting "Glory to God." Much of his work involved matching texts and tubes; matching lyrics submitted without music to music submitted without lyrics.

Not everyone on the committee comes from a musical background. A cross-section of people, the group included a seminary president, seminary professor, part-time musicians, full-time musicians, those young and old. As a church music director, Frost brought knowledge of what music works and doesn't work for a congregation.

"I brought the practical side of church music," Frost said. "Some music is academically wonderful but not practical for a congregation. It needs to be relatable. It has to be in a comfortable key."

The hymnal is ecumental and not tailored to a specific denomination, and it has been ordered by other churches.

"It will enrich the worship of not only Presbyterian churches, but the church universal," Frost said.

Sea Island Presbyterian will dedicate the new hymnals and use them for the first time during the Sunday services on Oct. 27.

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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Sea Island Presbyterian Church website

Presbyterian Hymnal Project website

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