Emily R. Brink (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.
Articles by this author:
The first time I walked into a church and found two French Provincial pink and blue stuffed chairs near the pulpit, I thought they had been brought in for a drama of some sort. I was participating in a worship conference and had arrived early to check out the piano, organ, and sound system. I assumed someone would remove the chairs after the drama section of the program.
I Am the Lord Your God
The story of a hymn usually begins with a text, but this one starts with a tune. A little over 150 years ago, Nicholas I, Czar of Russia, ordered Alexis Lvov to compose a national hymn tune. For years Russians had been singing a Russian text to the English melody for "God Save Our Gracious King." Nicholas thought it was time his people had their own hymn. Lvov responded by composing the melody we now know as RUSSIA, or RUSSIAN HYMN.
Psalm 34: Lord, I Bring My Songs to You
Psalm 34 is one of those psalms that the Bible explains in a fascinating heading: "When he [David] pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left." The psalm, constructed as an acrostic in Hebrew, is a prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance, followed by an invitation to others to join in the praise (st. 1-2). From praise, the psalm moves to instruction in godly living (st. 3—6).
Austin C. Lovelace. Chicago: G.I.A. Publications, Inc., 1987,120 pages, $9.00.
This little book does exactly what its title says: it offers background material on hymns in short paragraphs that can be used in church bulletins or educational materials; anyone who purchases the book may use this information without permission or charge. The stated purpose of this resource is to help worshipers to sing not only with the Spirit but also with understanding, as Paul exhorts us to do (I Cor. 14:15).
Last year RW provided lists of organ music based on hymn tunes. The compositions listed were found in all sorts of publications. No organist could possibly get his or her hands on all those publications without spending a fortune—not to mention putting in a lifetime of practice to prepare the pieces.
For years missianaries from North America exported Western hymns. New Christians learned songs that were often foreign to their cultures. Usually these non- Western Christians adapted the hymns~moving pitches, changing rhythms and tempo, and wing instruments very different from the organ to accompany their singing.
With this fourth issue of RW we complete our first year of publication and introduce our first theme issue: Introducing New Hymns and Hymnals. Because hymns express emotions as well as faith, few things in the church are more challenging than introducing a new hymnal or new hymns. Such introductions call for sensitive planning and the cooperative efforts of all the church's leaders.
Singing Psalms of Joy and Praise.
Fred R. Anderson. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986, 77 pp. $5.95.
A Psalm Sampler.
Prepared by the Office of Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986,44 pp. $4.95.
These two paperbacks join the growing number of publications from the many different traditions that are once again discovering the riches of singing the psalms. Neither one is a complete psalter, but each builds on and expands the long Reformed tradition of psalm singing.
For centuries congregations who stood in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition had no choirs. Because Calvinists took the priesthood of all believers seriously, they jealously guarded congregational involvement in worship: the people were to speak (sing) for themselves. That meant no choirs, no anthems, no cantatas—-just the strong, vibrant sound of congregational singing in response to the spoken Word.