Thursday, November 12, 2009

Singing God's Words - The New Book of Psalms for Worship

In addition to the 1973 edition of The Book of Psalms for Singing comes the new Book of Psalms for Worship. Crown & Covenant Publications of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America have produced a new Psalter. They have updated the language and have used modern English to make it easier to understand. Included in this updated version is fresh translation work from the original Hebrew in addition to consulting updated English translations--which means that when one sings these Psalter selections, one is singing the very words of scripture--this is a translation, not a paraphrase. They have updated some archaic expressions, and have also switched certain words to provide a more up to date word that better expresses the intended meaning. You can go here to see some examples.

In addition to changing and updating the language, they have also updated the appearance. They have given it a new page lay out with a uniform presentation of the music and font. The now identify the Psalm selection with the first line of the Psalm in addition to the number. They have used a larger font for the Psalm number and selection letter for easier identification and navigation of the Psalter.

They have also updated the tunes used for singing the Psalms. Some of the Psalms have retained the same tune, but many of the Psalms have been given new tunes. Some of the new tunes are traditional hymns tunes that are readily recognizable, some are new tunes that were written specifically for the Psalter, while others have been borrowed from other cultures. These changes are not for the sake of being contemporary, but an attempt to help the worshiper understand the Psalm by using a tune that reinforces the setting and meaning of the Psalm. (I am particularly interested in this improvement since one of my beef's with the old Psalter is that many of the tunes did not match the Psalm.) A complete chart noting the changes in words and tunes can be found here. If you want to hear the new musical arrangements, a complete library index of the tunes (MIDI files) and Psalm selections can be heard here.

However, in all the updates and changes, my favorite improvement is that they have taken steps to help the worshiper see the broader connection that each Psalm has with the rest of scripture by including a New Testament reference that goes along with the theme of the Psalm. This NT reference is to help the worshiper have a more Christ-centered experience of singing the Psalms by helping the worshiper understand the Psalm as Christian scripture in light of its fulfillment in connection with the person and work of Jesus Christ (see Luke 24.27 & 44):
It is deemed important to help the singer associate and appreciate the presence of Christ and the Gospel of the kingdom in the Psalms. Though these are old songs, they are new in Jesus Christ; promise followed by fulfillment.
They hope for this new Psalter to encourage Psalm singing again in the Church and in the home. When we sing the Psalms, we are singing God's truth and learning true theology, which serves to nourish us and form us in the image of our savior. Jesus, himself, sung the Psalms and by them he learned prayer and he learned the nature of his own calling. Jesus saw himself in the Psalms (his life and experiences) and he found his voice in them. And when we sing them, we who are united to him by baptism and faith, find our own lives, experiences and words hidden in the one of whom the Psalms speak, and who continues to speak through them.

If you are interested but don't want to buy it without seeing it, you can sign up for a free Psalter sample kit first. Check it out.

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