Posts Tagged 'Book of Psalms for Worship'



Featured Recording: You’re in Providence

In the midst of our weighty discussions here on URC Psalmody, there comes a point when a spot of comic relief is inescapably needed.  If you’re at all familiar with the psalmody of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), this video just might hit the spot.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek promotional infomercial for the Book of Psalms for Worship.  URCNA members too should be able to get a chuckle out of the creative hyperbole in these scenarios and testimonials!

And thus, with no further comment, I present the Book of Psalms for Worship Infomercial.

–MRK

(Click here for last week’s [more serious] Featured Recording)

Contemplating the Covenanters

A personal reflection on the RPCNA

The Reformed Presbyterian Churches of North America (RPCNA) have an absolutely incredible history of God’s faithfulness to His people.  Arising from the Covenanter movement in 16th century Scotland, the first American RP Church was founded in Pennsylvania in 1743, with the first presbytery (similar to the URCNA’s classis) being organized in 1774.  Although there have been some rough passages in their history since then, the RPCNA has remained almost unbelievably faithful to their principles and roots.

The RPCNA is a confessional Reformed denomination, faithfully holding to the Westminster Standards and upholding the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.  True to their Covenanter roots, they are identified by their well-known “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant” banner, which is also the origin of the name of their publishing house, Crown and Covenant Publications.  The RPCNA has a wonderful college, an excellent seminary, and very effective missions.

More Germaine to this blog is their consistent singing of the 150 biblical psalms.  The RPCNA is an exclusive psalmist denomination, believing that the correct application of the regulative principle of worship is that the church’s “musical praise employs God’s Word only, thus making use of the divinely inspired Book of Psalms.”  Also notable is their practice of singing the psalms a capella, without musical accompaniment.  They maintain this practice in order to encourage “keeping with the New Testament Church’s directive for heart worship,” that is, to remove any distraction from “singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).

In light of the URCNA’s Synod 2012’s recent discussion of entering “phase 2” of fraternal relations with the RPCNA, Michael asked me to take a few moments to reflect on my relationship with the RPCNA.  There are many nuances to Synod’s discussion which I do not intend to delve into.  This blog is about Psalmody, after all, so that is where we’ll stay.

We’ve discussed exclusive psalmody on this blog before (and can discuss it further in the future), but today, I’d just like to focus on the richness of the RPCNA’s heritage of singing the psalms.

To be honest, I never knew of the RPCNA’s existence until I went to college.  There, I became intimately familiar with the denomination; in fact, most of my best friends were (and are) members of the RPCNA.  Through my friends, and the experiences I had worshiping at various RPCNA churches, I came to love and appreciate that denomination.

Being Scottish in background, the RPCNA uses Psalters that are rich in the heritage of Scottish Psalmody.  From the historical roots of the Scottish Psalter (1564, revised by the Westminster Assembly in 1646 and approved for use by the Church of Scotland in 1650), the RPCNA enjoys a rich tradition of excellent Psalters.  The Scottish Psalter went through a few reprints and was completely overhauled into The Book of Psalms for Singing in 1973 and most recently The Book of Psalms for Worship in 2009.  All of these Psalters are rich and faithful to the biblical Psalms.  Although these Psalters are from a Scottish, rather than continental, background, readers familiar with the Blue Psalter Hymnal and its family tree would probably recognize many of the tunes and phrasings, as the Scottish Psalter was one of the sources for the Christian Reformed Psalter and Psalter Hymnal.  I personally found the English and Scottish tunes to be easy to learn, robust and rousing.

Although I found the a capella singing to be a bit unusual and surprising at first, I have never been to an RPCNA congregation that doesn’t sing (I mean really sing!).  These churches take their psalm-singing seriously, and some of the most musically beautiful and heartfelt praise I’ve ever been a part of has taken place in RPCNA churches.  From young to old, each member belts out the words of Scripture in time-honored harmonies.  Whether singing in a service or around a campfire, it’s clear that each member of the RPCNA is brought up to cherish and love the biblical psalms.  It was from RP church members that I really learned afresh to love the psalms and the singing thereof.

I’ll never forget a Sunday afternoon I spent with a handful of my Covenanter friends.  I was asked to close the meal with a Bible reading, and I chose to read a psalm.  For whatever reason, I neglected to announce which psalm I was reading.  But immediately following the reading, several of my friends chimed in with the reference.  Thinking it was a fluke and that I could stump my Scottish brethren, I started a little game.  I would read what I thought was an obscure passage from the psalms and make them guess from which psalm it came.  With alarming accuracy, my RP brothers and sisters nailed the psalm references.

Now I’ll lay my cards on the table: I enjoy singing hymns.  I think they are an appropriate and glorious way to express Christian joy, even within the worship service.  But seeing what such a solid tradition of church psalmody can do really impressed on me the importance, the crucial necessity, of singing the psalms in worship.  We’ve listed so many reasons to sing the biblical psalms on this blog.  Another reason (among many) that I learned from the RPCNA was that we must sing the psalms in order to foster a love of the psalms, in order to memorize the psalms, in order to think in the language of the psalms, as I’ve seen demonstrated time and again by my RP friends.

I benefited (and continue to benefit) so much from my acquaintance with the RPCNA.  If that benefit on a small, personal scale can be reflected on a federational scale (in whatever stage of fraternal relations) with the URCNA, then praise God!

Don’t get me wrong, the Dutch Reformed background of the URCNA contains its own rich heritage of psalm-singing.  But if we can catch the zeal and exuberance that the RPCNA has for the psalms, we will be richer for it.  I learned to love Christ more passionately through the psalms from my friends in the RPCNA.  Let’s be clear – the URCNA and the RPCNA are not identical twins.  But at least in the area of psalmody, let us celebrate and enjoy our fellowship with this rich and historic denomination, for they have much to teach us.

-JDO


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