Mini-Psalters!

In his absence, Michael asked me to write a post about the phenomenon known as “Mini-Psalters.”  I don’t really know what else to call them, and the prefix “mini-” implies all sorts of fun, kind of like mini-marshmallows or mini-golf.  And indeed these Psalters are fun.  They measure about 3.5 x 5 inches, with a depth of about 1 inch.  They are the “fun size” candy bar of the world of psalmody and can easily be tucked away into a purse, backpack, or glove compartment.

Publication history: Published in 1959, these little guys are complete reproductions (including confessions and liturgies in the back) of the Centennial Edition of the blue Psalter Hymnal of the CRC (which is identical in musical content to the commonly used 1976 edition).  They feature the same classic “stained glass” logo on the cover with “Psalter Hymnal” written in gold Gothic script.

Seen here alongside its big brother

There also exist black “mini-” versions of the earlier 1934 Psalter Hymnal, as well as the 1987 gray Psalter Hymnal.  I’m sure many other hymnals and Psalters come in “fun size” as well.  For instance, in my daily worship, I always use the “mini-” version of The Book of Psalms for Worship of the RPCNA.

Thoughts: The very existence of the “mini-Psalter” format points to a thriving tradition of singing in the church during the twentieth century.  They wanted to sing the psalms and hymns.  They wanted to carry around with them the worship of God they experienced on Sunday.  A Psalter Hymnal was something that everybody wanted to carry around with them, a beloved and cherished book of the people of God.

In my experience exhorting at various congregations in the URC, OPC, and RPCNA, one of the most uplifting comments I get is when someone will say that a psalm or hymn that we sang in church really spoke to them, and that he or she followed up on the service by meditating on the words of that psalm, praying through the words of that hymn, or just singing that psalm or hymn every day.  Witnessing that act of carrying worship throughout the week is a special delight.  Seeing people take the words of the Psalter and hymnal on their lips (and into their hearts) not just in church, but in their everyday lives, is such a boon.  And that’s the spirit that I think the “mini-Psalters” capture – the heartfelt desire to carry the worship of God with you every day.

These hymnals were meant to function as “tag-alongs,” to carry, like I said above, in your car, your purse, your backpack, etc.  From experience, I can say that these hymnals are perfect for road trips, camping trips, airports, etc.

“Mini-Psalters” are excellent tools for pastors.  I know several pastors who keep one handy in their car or briefcase, ready for hospital visits, family visitation, or any emergency situation that might come up.  In addition to a Bible, this is the item they’d never leave home without.  The “mini-Psalter” provides a quick way to reference the confessions, the liturgies, and the beautiful prayer forms in the back.  It also would enable the pastor to quote well-known psalms and hymns during his shepherding ministry.

The 1934 incarnation of the “Mini-Psalter”

“Mini-Psalters” are also excellent tools for family worship (the importance of singing in family worship was briefly discussed when Michael interviewed me, and I’m sure it can be further discussed at a later date).  Of course, this can be easily accomplished by normal-sized Psalters as well (but there is something overwhelmingly “adorable” about seeing a toddler carrying around an appropriately sized hymnal).  I’ve seen several families cultivate a love for the Psalter Hymnal by having their young children bring their personal “mini-Psalter” to and from corporate worship every Sunday.  In this way, the children see a connection between what they sing at home and what they sing in church.

“Mini-Psalters” are a good way to “interlock” your private worship with the corporate worship on Sundays.  It’s a declaration that these words, the words of the psalms and hymns of the people of God, are not just for Sunday, but belong to your everyday life as well.  Additionally, using the same Psalter or hymnal during the week as you do in church on Sunday encourages a solidarity among the congregation.  It develops a repertoire for worship, a common set of words, phrases, and stanzas with which to express our Christian community, our common experience of union with Christ.  It gives us a tangible vocabulary with which we can join together our disparate (and desperate) personal stories into one great narrative of salvation.  Can a “mini-Psalter” do all that?  Not on its own, but it sure can help willing and excited hearts.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Do you own, or have you ever owned, a “mini-Psalter?”  How do/did you use it?
  2. If mini forms of the blue Psalter Hymnal were republished, how much interest do you think there would be?  Would you order some?  How would you use them?
  3. When the new URC/OPC collaboration hymnal comes out, should a mini version be made available?  Would you use one?  Why?
  4. Finally, is anyone aware of a secret supply of “mini-Psalters” for sale?  I know that at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, for instance, they’re always a hot commodity, and I’m sure there’s a thriving “black market” for them elsewhere in the URC as well.  So if anyone has information, feel free to post about it in the comments below.  I can usually find one or two tucked away in various Grand Rapids used bookstores, but if anyone is aware of other suppliers, let us know.

–JDO

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14 Responses to “Mini-Psalters!”


  1. 1 Franks June 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I love the idea of a “mini” psalter/hymnal to come out alongside the new URC/OPC edition. These would be very helpful and practical for private/ family worship and a great way to build that churchly vocabulary you mentioned in your post. My wife and I have used the RPCNA’s “mini” Book of Psalms for Worship and while it is a great resource I would much prefer to use our own denominations. I am excited to see the outcome of our denominations working together in this great endeavor.

  2. 2 Sue Vanden Berge June 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I hope they publish a mini version of the new hymnal as well. I think it would be wonderful for the children of our congregation to each have their own copy of this hymnal – it would make them more excited to participate with the adults as they sing and read the forms along with the rest of the congregation using a book that’s the right size for their smaller hands. They can use their own copies at home for family worship as well. I remember very fondly bringing my own mini hymnal to church with me, and my children still use my copy at home.

  3. 3 Michael Kearney July 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

    A few years back, our church made a pile of old things to be thrown out. On top of the stack was a pocket edition of the 1934 Psalter Hymnal (the Second Edition of 1938, to be precise). Needless to say, that songbook never made it to the dumpster. I’ve owned it for about five years now, and I refer to it quite often.

    With this exception, I’ve never come across any other pocket Psalter Hymnals, which I think is a real shame. Until last week, that is. One of the girls who attended West Sayville’s TASC trip brought along her own pocket edition of the 1959 blue book, in hardly-used condition. I was not a little jealous.

    If these handy little books were republished, I would definitely buy a few. Even if only used copies were available, they would be better than nothing. Think about the significance of a pocket edition of the Psalter Hymnal. I haven’t yet met a person who carries around a copy of Hymns for the Family of God or The Celebration Hymnal, for instance, in his pocket; whereas the idea of a pocket Psalter Hymnal–with psalms, hymns, creeds, and confessions at our disposal–is an excellent demonstration of how unique our worship really is.

    –MRK

    • 4 Jim O July 2, 2012 at 10:50 am

      That’s true, Michael. The hand-held hymnal phenomenon seems to be centered on rich traditions of psalm-singing – whether Scottish, Dutch, or what have you. And people that get excited about mini-Psalters tend to come from those traditions. So their very existence, like you say, is a testimony to the richness and beauty of our psalm-singing traditions and also to the loyalty and love that those traditions inspire in Christians. I’ve known people fiercely loyal to their traditions, but none compare to the tender love and joy that psalm-singing traditions inspire.

      I do have to say that I think the Scottish Presbyterians have us Continental Reformed beat on this one. Now that’s a tradition of truly cherishing the psalms! I’d love to see even half of their love for the Book of Psalms mimicked in our circles!

      -JDO

  4. 5 Villatoro July 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    My mom has 2 mini Psalters, and as a kid I LOVED bringing them to church. Back then our church was using the gray psalter, so I can remeber having to look up each song in the index because the page numbers didn’t match. Of corse some of the word had been changed too, but it was always fun to use. One of our mini ones is black with pages that were reddish on the ends, the other is blue like we have in our church in West Sayville now. I don’t know what ever happened to those hymnals, but I’m sure my mom know where they are!

    • 6 Michael Kearney July 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      That’s so cool! One Sunday I went into the church office and found a stack of junk that was being thrown out. On the very top was a pocket 1934 Psalter Hymnal, which I grabbed right away. It’s dark blue with reddish ends–I think it’s an earlier edition of the black variety. Maybe your mom would know where that one came from too!

      –Michael

  5. 8 Ruth Weaver November 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

    I am in search of a mini Psalter. We had one when our children were young, but that one is long gone. If I had one now, I would do all I could to keep it useable. I want to have one in my bugout bag, and one in my Quiet Time bag. I love to read a Psalm, then sing it. We belong to a church now that doesn’t use the psalter; I miss it. I do a fair share of Scripture memorization, but I’m surprised how it sticks when put to music. So, yes, someone, please bring the mini Psalter back into print! I’d buy a dozen of them, at least. Until then, I’ll be scouring thrift and used bookstores for them.

    • 9 Michael Kearney November 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Another great feature of mini-Psalters–the advantage they impart to Scripture memorization! Thanks for sharing this. I think all of us would love to see a mini Psalter Hymnal back in print, but even if that isn’t feasible (for cost & copyright reasons) we can hope that the forthcoming URC/OPC Psalter Hymnal will be published in pocket form!

      –MRK

  6. 10 Brian Lee January 9, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I’m afraid the iPhone may make mini-psalters forever a thing of the past… you can have the whole thing in an app, along with accompaniment. Though I agree it would be cool to have one.

    • 11 Michael Kearney January 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Dr. Lee, always on the cutting edge of technology… 😉

      Seriously, though, I would be a fervent supporter of producing an app for the forthcoming URC/OPC Psalter Hymnal. Until then, we’ll just have to dig up as many mini-Psalters as we can!

      –MRK

  7. 12 Maria camp November 16, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I’m looking to buy some but can’t find them. Can anyone tell me where I can get them?

    Thanks
    Maria


  1. 1 “Dutch Door” Psalters « URC Psalmody Trackback on September 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm

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