2nd Printing Arrives

<i>photo by Shelley Davis</i>
Seminary students and staff join C&C staff to unload psalters. (photo by Shelley Davis)

For the second time in two months, we have received a shipment of the new Book of Psalms for Worship. And, for the second time in two months, more than half of a printing has been sold before the books arrive. Now that the psalters are here, we are going to be very busy shipping those orders.


In the midst of that flurry of activity, we’re already looking ahead to the next printing. Our order for the 3rd printing of The Book of Psalms for Worship will be processed this week. The 3rd printing will have some surprises in store for our customers.


This has been a summer unlike any other. We were hoping for a good response to The Book of Psalms for Worship, but the response has far exceeded our expectations. We can’t help but be excited–this is God’s Word going out to be used in all kinds of worship (personal, group, corporate) in all kinds of places around the world. We are so blessed to have a small part in what God is doing. We are blessed to serve customers who share this mission with us.


Also on the truck that arrived today was the shipment of the new book Political Danger by J. R. Willson. This is a book of essays by a man who was centuries ahead of his time. See the previous blog post, “The Surprising Relevance of James R. Willson.”

First Edition Nearly Sold Out

We planned for a healthy amount of interest in the soon-to-be-released Book of Psalms for Worship. But we underestimated the early response.


With a week to go before the psalters are shipped from the bindery, prerelease orders have reserved 90 percent of the books. And our magazine ads for the psalter (such as in WORLD magazine) are just beginning to reach mailboxes.


The second printing has already been started. If you had planned to own a first edition, you won’t want to wait long to order.

New Psalter Update!

The Book of Psalms for Worship is currently at the printer! We actually received a proof of the entire psalter today for a final perusal.

Right now, the psalter is set to ship to our office at the end of June although this is subject to change if anything crops up in the production process.
blue_psalter_cover-1
Here are a few quick facts about The Book of Psalms for Worship:

  • It will be a bit larger dimensionally than The Book of Psalms for Singing. This was done so all the type could be a consistent size to allow for maximum readability.
  • The thickness of the book will be similar to the current psalter.
  • The new cover will be blue with silver lettering.
  • The first print run will be for 5,000 copies.
  • A special, limited, first edition will be released in addition to the initial print run. (Approximately 75 to 80 will be available for purchase.)
  • Familiar Hymn Tunes and the Psalter

    As mail clerk at Crown and Covenant, I often talk to people who are new to singing the Psalms. Since they are unfamiliar with singing from The Book of Psalms for Singing, I often suggest that they would benefit from a little tool that is available for free from us. This tool is called the Familiar Hymn Tune List in The Book of Psalms for Singing. It is a double-sided sheet of paper listing 120 familiar tunes of hymns that are used in The Book of Psalms for Singing. For example, Psalm 3 uses the tune of the very familiar hymn, Amazing Grace, while Psalm 45C uses the hymn tune for Crown Him with Many Crowns. Psalm 101 is sung to the tune of The Church’s One Foundation.


    I usually include a copy of this list with orders for The Book of Psalms for Singing and am happy and eager to send this free aid to anyone who requests it. It also is available online by going to our storefront and clicking on Psalter Copyrights. There is a link to this tool available on that page.

    Where Are the Psalms? (A Follow Up)

    How refreshing to attend a conference on psalm singing without any other Reformed Presbyterians! Not that I tire of RP fellowship, but rather I was energized by the enthusiasm of non-exclusive psalmists who are hungry to sing psalms. The buzz question (and name) of the conference was “Where Are the Psalms?” (See related post.)

     

    People were looking. Some were musicians, some pastors, some students. They asked questions like: “Why did the American church go from psalmody to almost exclusive hymnody so quickly?”; “How can we introduce more psalms into our worship?”; “What are the best kind of arrangements to sing?”

     

    Terry Johnson, pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Ga., summarized a history of psalmody and psalm books. He referred to the psalter as the “canonical hymnbook”; and he stressed that in reformed theology the “congregation is the choir” and music must be written with that in mind. He, unlike some others, preferred the Scottish metrical tradition with familiar tunes and clear, modern versifications.

     

    Composer Hal Hopson, on the other hand, introduced his responsorial psalm arrangements, which use the words straight from scripture. This style requires a trained choir and cantor, singing Anglican-chant style, with the congregation only singing a repeated phrase of the psalm occasionally.

     

    John D. Witvliet, author and director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, spoke of challenges to psalm singing and how to overcome them.
    1. Viewing worship as expressive not formative. When we think that worship is just about expressing ourselves, as opposed to us being formed and changed by worship, we might not choose to sing the psalms or at least not all of them, suggested Witvliet. He quoted from a few early church fathers to show that they thought that scripture, particularly the psalms, were meant for us to know how to feel and how to be—not just for us to use to express how we already feel or how we already are. Singing the psalms, all the parts, will change us toward what God wants us to be.
    2. Over-familiarity or casual familiarity with the psalms. Sometimes we are so casually familiar with certain psalms that we don’t think about their true meaning or all the applications to our hearts and minds. One solution, he said, is to juxtapose psalms with the sermon sometimes—not always singing the expected or familiar.
    3. The psalms settings we sing. Sometimes the melody doesn’t fit the whole psalm. Witvliet suggested singing different parts to different tunes or finding tunes that can adapt to different moods.
    4. The “untidy parts” of the psalter. Here, the challenge is how to sing imprecations, complaints, and despairing thoughts. “With a holy whisper,” was his reply. We must wrestle with God in humility. All the words in the psalter are profitable for us because they are God’s word, but this doesn’t mean that we sing them casually or with arrogance, especially those more difficult parts.
    5. Resources. If you think there are not enough resources for psalm singing, Witvliet has compiled an encouraging stack in his book, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship: A Brief Introduction and Guide to Resources. You will not be surprised to know that Crown & Covenant Publications is mentioned more than once.

     

    If I am able, I will provide a link to the recorded audio of these talks when they go online.

    J. Michael Morgan, organist of Central Presbyterian in Atlanta and psalm singing enthusiast, brought some of his collection of historic psalters.
    J. Michael Morgan, organist of Central Presbyterian in Atlanta and psalm singing enthusiast, brought some of his collection of historic psalters.

    The New Psalter’s Language

    Language is always changing. That is why etymology, the history of words, is so interesting. The word “nice,” for instance, didn’t mean something pleasant years ago; now it does. “Nice” came from the Latin nescius (ignorant). The adjective was not a kind thing to associate with someone’s name. “He is nice” meant “He is an idiot.” Ironically, the word, at a later time, came to mean “having refined taste”—rather the opposite.  Nowadays, “nice” is so overused it almost creates a vacuum. The hearer is quick to import his or her own idea of what the author means: nice can be good or bad or willy-nilly.

     

    Because language is always changing, my journalism professor was adamant about us having the current year’s dictionaries and style books. Usage and words, like it or not, evolve during our lifetimes. If we don’t recognize this, we may not communicate what we mean to communicate.

     

    Take the pronouns “thee” and “thou,” for instance. In early modern English, these words were the singular and informal counterparts to “ye” and “you.” If you were talking to a close friend, you would use “thou,” but if you were talking to someone you didn’t know well or a group of people, you would use “ye.” Nowadays, we make up for the absence of “thee” and “ye” by saying “y’all” and “yinz guys.” If one reads Shakespeare, one realizes that “thee” and “thou” are used more among the drunkards and thieves, and “you” and “ye” are used more among the polite talkers, but even then the distinctions were eroding.

     

    In the 1500s, Tyndale, used thou and ye to make the distinction between the plural and singular in the Hebrew and Greek; he didn’t take into consideration whether it was a formal or informal usage. As the usage became archaic in conversation, some Bible translations and religious orders like the Quakers kept the usage in the written word, but it lost its raison d’etre. Nobody was using “thou” to express familiarity or plurality, but more often to express the opposite: formality and respect.  In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which was published mid-20th century, “thou” is used only as a pronoun to address God and “you” was used everywhere else. What a reversal of the intended meaning!

     

    When The Book of Psalms for Singing was put together in 1973, there was some understanding about the current misuse and misunderstanding of “thee” and “thou” and “ye.” The committee worked to introduce more versifications that used “you” to refer to God and man, singular and plural.

     

    Now in 2009, we have the promise of a psalter that uses “you” consistently throughout. Surely, this clears the waters of intended meanings.

     

    Another illustration of the need to change wording occurred when I was working on the Kids Sign Psalm DVD, which brouhg some exposure to the new versifications of the psalter. Most of the changes I saw were minor. In some places, I wondered why the text was changed. One was such spot was in Psalm 57:7. The old versification reads, “My heart is fixed…” The new is “My heart is firm.”

     

    When I was singing it for practice, my then17-year-old who is a writer and poet with a knowledge of Latin and French, said, “Oh, wow, is that what that means?”

     

    He had thought that it meant that his heart was “repaired,” because of the outdated use of “fixed.” Firm, then, better communicates the idea of “unmoved” to this 21st century audience.

     

    Perhaps this is a reason to change our psalters as we change our dictionaries, at least more often than once in a few decades.

     

    There are many valuable things about using the common and spoken language of the people to communicate God’s Word. The 2009 psalter, entitled The Book of Psalms for Worship, is promising in this regard.

    The New Psalter and the Learning Curve

    When I was young, my worship song came from the 1950 blue psalter. My parents had joined the Reformed Presbyterian church just before I was born. The congregation was aging and they were, I’ve been told, a bit shocked at my dancing on the pews to the singing.

    But I always loved the psalms: the first tunes, the word pictures that were dear to me, even the smell of the books. I’m not sure if the aroma was from the glue, the paper or the blue-dye edging on the pages, but today if I pick up one of those books, it still smells like the 1960s worship service.

    In 1973, the words and tunes changed with the publication of The Book of Psalms for Singing. It wasn’t blue and it had more tunes. Worst of all, some of my childhood favorites—“The Birds of Heaven” and “The Lord Will Light My Candle” were gone. I was a teenager during the transition and found that the losses were more than compensated by the rewards. There were new tunes, less archaic language, and no page numbers. The new psalter was organized by the number of the actual psalm of the Bible. My mind became even more attuned to the scriptural origin of what I was singing.

     

    To this day, I still sing some “blue psalter” words by mistake (when everyone else is singing a 1973 edition psalm.) It is a minor jolt that makes me think about meaning and context and purpose. The disparate words make me more aware of the original Spirit-inspired text.

    This week, the Reformed Presbyterian Synod approved the work of a committee for a 2009 psalter. Once again, I will be learning new settings, singing wrong words, and exploring a new book of worship song.

    I look forward to the learning curve because I know what will come of it: a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s Word.

    Rediscovering the Psalms

    While psalm singing isn’t new to many who read this blog, it is still a newly-rediscovered practice for many. There is a great blog entry on the reformation21 blog that covers the topic very well. 

     

    Head on over to read this great post, and you can pick up copies of the psalters mentioned in the post —two of which are published by Crown & CovenantThe Book of Psalms for Singing and the Trinity Psalter.

     

    If you are looking for a good book on the topic of psalmody, we recommend Sing the Lord’s Song by John Keddie.