Psalm Singing: An Introduction

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I’ve recently become very interested in Psalm-singing. I can’t say that there was anything in particular that sparked this interest, other than really taking a look at this verse:

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

I’ve read this hundreds of times; I’ve memorized it, even; but it suddenly struck me that I had been neglecting singing Psalms. We sang plenty of hymns every Sunday in church, as well as specials; but what about Psalms? In both my personal devotional life, and as a music director, I began to feel that I had been guilty of not following a biblical command.

I started doing some research, trying to see what resources were available online. I found…hardly anything! It’s difficult to find Psalms arranged for congregational singing, and what I could find was of a low quality.

Since the internet failed to provide what I was looking for, I did things the old-fashioned way: I bought a Psalter. After some research, I chose the Book of Psalms for Singing, as it seemed to hew closer to the language of the KJV than some other alternatives. For those that may not be familiar with a Psalter, it is a book of Psalms set to chants or music. The Book of Psalms for Singing contains all 150 Psalms, set to multiple arrangements.

Since buying the Psalter, I’ve implemented it both in congregational singing, as well as my own personal devotion time. I typically read one Psalm per day, and it has been an absolute thrill to take those great Psalms and sing them to the Lord. In our church, we have begun featuring one Psalm per month during our growth hour, and I’ve fully enjoyed singing with our congregation as well.

Psalm-singing has a treasured place in Christian worship. The book of Psalms is a theologically rich book that covers every expression of human emotion. It contains jubilant praise to God for His goodness, as well as expressions of despair and cries for God’s mercy. Christians have been blessed by the Psalms for thousands of years, and enjoyed singing the Psalms for generations; in fact, in many times and places, the Psalter has been used as the primary, if not exclusive, songbook for worshipping God.

Yet it seems that the great practice of Psalm-singing has fallen by the wayside; I conducted a few polls, and 75% said that they never or rarely sang Psalms in their church. Only 25% said that they often (defined as once a month) or sometimes sang Psalms. These polls are by no means scientific, but my own experience would bear this out. I have grown up in church my entire life, but I don’t remember ever singing Psalms other than a few choruses at youth camp.

I’m determined to change that, at least, in my own personal life and in my church. To that end, I’ve begun doing research on the history of Psalm-singing, and how to implement Psalms in our lives today. I hope to dive into the history, but also the biblical commands to sing and how they relate to Psalms. I hope this will be informative and helpful to you, but let me encourage you, in the meantime, to begin using some Psalms in your private and congregational (if you can) worship. I think you’ll find it immensely beneficial!

~FERGUSON

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