Let the People Sing!

Singing has always been a part of Sabbath School, and song service is still a part of adult Sabbath School in many of our churches. Some people can’t truly worship without including singing.

One of the interesting things that developed during Sabbath School’s early history was songbooks designed just for Sabbath School. Originally, about every 10 years someone produced a new Sabbath School songbook. The first one, published in 1878, was called The Song Anchor. In 1886 Ellen G. White’s son, James Edson White, with the aid of his cousin Frank Belden, produced a Sabbath School songbook called Joyful Greeting for the Sabbath School. This songbook was designed for use by all the Sabbath School departments. It grouped together “Primary” songs for the children’s departments. The rest of the book was grouped under the headings “Historical,” “Miscellaneous,” and so forth. Adventist historian Arthur Spalding remarks that children lifted “their piping voices in ‘I’m a Little Pilgrim.’ ” He also talks about “Edson White’s crashing chorus to Perronet’s ‘Coronation.’ ”

In 1895 Frank Belden produced the Gospel Song Sheaf. This songbook was divided into sections for the Sabbath School departments. It also had a section titled “Standard,” which contained historic hymns for the adult division.

In 1931 the General Conference Youth Department produced The Junior Song Book, later changed to Missionary Volunteer Songs. It was used a lot in Sabbath School and was the first Adventist songbook to contain Negro spirituals (it had four of them).

In 1941 the church published The Church Hymnal, which had a Sabbath School section containing 134 songs divided into categories that went along with Sabbath School themes, such as “Offerings,” “Missions” and “Study of the Word.”

The Church Hymnal contained songs that many people considered “high church” or “classical” and that didn’t have much appeal to young people. In 1952 the General Conference Sabbath School Department published Sabbath School Songs, later renamed Songs of Praise, which restored many favorite songs left out of The Church Hymnal. It contained 250 songs, 200 of which were from the 1908 version of Christ in Song. In 1977, again in response to changing tastes in music, Advent Youth Sing appeared, with guitar chords printed above the score. It is still used in many Sabbath Schools. No matter what songbook you use, singing is a vital part of Sabbath School at all age levels.

© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists