Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Language of Praise

The second article in the current issue of Liturgy is an essay by Paul Junggap Huh which traces the history and development of the practice of sung psalmody from Calvin’s prescriptions for the church in Geneva to the 2011 revision of The Psalter: Psalms and Canticles for Singing, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Junggap briefly discusses the Psalter Committee’s decision to dispense with both metrical psalmody and spoken psalmody, and then reveals how the text for the psalms and canticles came to be chosen

The texts of psalms for the Presbyterian Psalter were chosen for singability and beauty of word and line rather than as texts for biblical study. The 1991 psalter of the Church of the Province of New Zealand (Anglican) was considered as a primary text for the final draft of the service book. However, when the New Zealand psalter was charged with anti-Semitism, Harold Daniels switched, only four months before the service book was to appear in print, to Gail Ramshaw and Gordon Lathrop’s revision of the psalter from the Book of Common Prayer. 
Daniels reflected on this incident at the 1995 meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy in Boston: “This is ecumenism. A Canadian Anglican alerted us to a problem. A Roman Catholic pointed us to the solution—an Episcopalian text, revised by Lutherans, destined for publication by Roman Catholic Benedictines, and first incorporated into a service book by Presbyterians. It is an example of the way service book revision should work in an ecumenical time.” (Harold M. Daniels, ‘‘Service Books and Ecumenism: Response to the Berakah Award,’’ Reformed Liturgy & Music 29:1 (1995): 46.)
These texts also reflect sensitivity to the issues of inclusive language. However, for the sake of tradition, Psalms 23, 100, and 136 were left unchanged.
How do you go about choosing psalm settings for worship within your own community, and how do you balance textual issues with musical issues?

Paul Junggap Huh (2012): John Calvin and the Presbyterian Psalter, Liturgy, 27:3, 20-21.
Paul J. Huh is assistant professor of worship and director of Korean American Ministries at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.

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