Q:

How can one decipher hymn board numbers?

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Quick Answer

Hymn boards are signs with removable numbers and letters that inform a congregation which hymns and readings will be featured during a church service. Boards usually display numbers corresponding to the locations within a hymnal.

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Full Answer

Hymn boards are intended to allow congregants to follow or participate in a church service. For example, churchgoers who wish to join in singing a hymn may look at the numbers listed on the hymn board. Churchgoers may then use the numbers to find words and music for the appropriate hymns, which are typically listed in increasing numerical order in a hymnal.

Hymn boards may also list numbers for readings so that congregants can follow along while texts are read aloud. Some modern hymn boards display numbers digitally, while the numbers on more traditional boards must be rearranged manually between services.

Additional numbers and letters can help congregants locate hymns. For example, some church hymn boards may list "Pro." before processional hymns, or hymns sung at the beginning of a service, and "Rec." before recessional hymns sung at the end of a service.

The first hymn boards appeared in the 16th century and originally displayed the first words of the hymns to be sung. The modern practice of listing numbers corresponding to hymns within a printed text became widespread in the 18th century.

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