The nationally known Macalester Plymouth United Church Hymn Contest began in 1996 began as a continuing memorial to A.A. “Al” Heckman, a church member who was widely known as Minnesota’s “Dean of Philanthropy.” Heckman was one of the nation’s first men to earn a graduate degree in social work and went on to create many private and public partnerships to help the needy. He was a pioneer in establishing integrated social services at the city, county and state levels and served on the boards of many philanthropic foundations. His life was an inspiration to those seeking to integrate Christian faith and social action.
Former Pastor Roger Grussing and music director Curt Oliver conceived the contest as a way of continuing Heckman’s legacy by encouraging the writing of hymns which call the church and its people to greater awareness of social issues and concerns. The first year’s contest focused simply and directly on calling the church to work for social justice. As the contest continued and participation grew, hymn writers were asked to address more specific topics such as care of children, the environment, gay/lesbian rights, religious tolerance and peacemaking.
From its inception, the contest has carried an annual prize of $500 for the winning hymn. Occasionally, the prize may be awarded among several winners. The judges have also frequently awarded Honorable Mentions.
Macalester Plymouth is grateful to all who have entered our contest and to all who choose to sing these winning hymns. The church does not hold the copyrights to the hymns, however. Permission for wider use must be obtained from the authors or copyright holders.