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The truth is that I've never enjoyed carrying a mini library to church every week. The Bible, Hymnal, lesson book and the occasional red book written by Ellen White was a constant struggle in and out of the car. Most people don't view this as a problem, but I always thought there should be a better way. When I got hold of my first iPhone, I immediately searched for a 'Bible' App and found the amazing 'YouVersion' App, by lifechurch.tv, which I still for my daily reading. I also downloaded an App with some of Ellen White's books, but sadly, I still had to take my hymnal. Then came the televisions...
We decided to install massive plasma screens at the front of the church so that the lyrics could be projected as we sang the hymns. However, I still wanted to have the hymns with me, especially when the next verse came in very late as 'the person' pressing the button was concentrating on something else. As I am also responsible for the computer, I am often 'this person'! So I still brought the hymn book with me, as did many others.
It was then that I saw a friend singing from His iPhone. It was true - the Adventist Hymnal was now available on the App Store. I noticed that to use the app legally, my church should have a CCLI license, which thankfully, it did! So after using it every week since then, here is my opinion on the latest version - the one with the playlists.
The user interface is centered around the hymn numbers. You type the hymn and it immediately lands on that hymn. However, you can also search by category, which I imagine preachers would find useful. Another great feature is the search. In previous versions of the app you could only search for the titles. However, this latest version allows for full text search, which is very useful. For example, the other week I didn't catch the title of the hymn nor the number, but I noticed they sang the word 'spheres'. I quickly typed that and quickly found hymn number 92 - 'This is my Father's World', which I then joined at the beginning of the second verse! i also discovered recently that if I turned the phone horizontally I could get a full screen view of the lyrics, which I found very useful.
Another feature that I imagine can be used by people leading the song service is the 'Playlists'. Once in a hymn you can click the '+' button and add that hymn to any playlist you create. I only have a favorites list, but I'm sure others would use it more extensively. However, here is a limitation I wish they fixed - once I click on a hymn within a playlist, there is no easy way to navigate to the next hymn in that playlist, which is crucial if you are using it to lead a song service. Another limitation is the lack of responsive readings or music scores. The description in the App Store says that they will release that in a Pro Version by the end of the year. I'm sure it will be useful.
Taking everything into consideration I will give it 4 out of 5 stars. It does exactly what it promises in a beautiful and instant interface. The features are simple to use and quite efficient. However, there is still room for improvement with responsive readings and music scores, even if they were part of a pro version. Therefore, whether your church has projection or not, it's worth getting it.
Vili Costescu is communications director for the Newbold Church.