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Content about Psalmody

May 31, 2010

A colleague and friend once described a game she played with her children. They called it “I’ve got a song for that.” It was an opportunity to nurture in her kids a repertoire of songs for times of joy or sadness.

December 4, 2004

It happened again this past Sunday. A great worship service, including baptism. Wonderful singing—of hymns. No psalms, not one. This is a church that stands in the Reformed tradition known for its singing of the psalms. Whenever I go to ecumenical conferences, I’m identified as one who comes from a psalm-singing heritage. I smile wanly, agreeing. But that heritage is too often missing on Sunday mornings.

September 1, 2002

I have often been struck by how different psalms fit different parts of the entire church year. For this Advent service I related specific psalms to the season of Advent in the traditional lessons and carols format. The anthems we used reflected themes in those psalms. Because the budget for our small choir allowed for only one new anthem, I chose several older anthems—some now out of print—from their library. You may want to choose different anthems, depending on your resources. Many of the psalms came from Sing!

May 31, 2001

When I began working at the LOFT, the worship staff at the college agreed on a worthy goal: to embrace with both arms, and to lift up with both hands, the practice of singing the Psalms—a challenging task in a very contemporary setting. These are notes from a number of different Sundays recording the variety of ways we have tried to use the prayer book of God’s people in our worship.

10/14 Post Rehearsal
March 1, 2001

Listening to music on the Internet has become commonplace. These days, lots of folks are using Napster to download MP3 files from rock bands like Limp Bizkit. But others are logging on with a more devotional motive: to listen to and learn about psalms and hymns.

The Cyber Hymnal
May 31, 1999

In crafting a series that explores the richness of the Psalter for the life of prayer, I considered two approaches. The first was to spend one week on each of the main types of prayer in the psalms—for example, lament, songs of praise, enthronement psalms—choosing one psalm from each category to be that type’s model and the focus for the preaching and worship of that week’s service.

May 31, 1997

John D. Witvliet has been appointed assistant professor of worship and music at Calvin College and adjunct professor of worship at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two future articles will explore the way in which lament can function in the ebb and flow of weekly worship, apart from times of crisis.

December 1, 1994
My Song of Deliverance

The Gathering of the People for Worship

Organ Prelude

"Invocation in A Minor" [Guilmant]

"Air" [Handel]

Introduction to the Service

December 1, 1993

In spite of their poignancy and availability, the lament psalms are not much used. If you look in the back of the hymnals of most major Protestant denominations, you will find perhaps Psalm 1, then skip to 8 and 19 and perhaps 22. Even when lament psalms are included, they are not sung much. In Roman Catholic and liberal Protestant usage, most of the lament psalms simply do not exist. (Anglicans use the lament psalms, but set them to such wonderful music that you don't notice what is being said!)

March 1, 1989

In RW 10 Koyzis gave a brief historical overview of psalm-singing and offered suggestions for using the psalms in worship. In this second article, he compares ways of singing the psalms.

Psalm-singing Christians basically fall into two categories: those who chant the psalms directly from the Bible and those who sing metrical paraphrases of the psalms, in which the biblical text is reworked in poetic meter and (often) rhyme.

December 1, 1988

Although Psalm-singing has long been one of the identifying characteristics of the Reformed tradition, the singing of psalms in worship is by no means a Reformed innovation. We share the riches of the biblical psalter with the whole Christian church, as well as with the Jewish synagogue.

May 31, 1987

Versifying a psalm might sound simple. After all, psalms are poetry—how much effort can it take to make them singable? But as anyone who has tried can tell you, versifying a particular psalm in an appealing, singable, and authentic way is actually a very complex assignment.

March 1, 1987

In an attempt to answer that question we asked representatives of various denominations to sketch the history and current practices of psalm singing in their churches. The denominational material presented below is summarized or quoted from Robert Copeland (PCNA), Harry Boonstra (CRC), Norman Kansfield (RCA), Hugh McKeller (PCC), Arlo Duba (PCUSA), and John Frame (OPC and PCA).