Nobody likes getting a letter of complaint about their work and worship leaders are no exception. So, when the letter arrived in my box, I slipped on my rhino-skinned armour and began to read. But the precaution had been entirely unnecessary. An elderly gentleman had found just the right words to thank us for our work and ask us to consider a small shift in worship planning. He didn’t accuse, he didn’t complain. He simply asked that we put more attention on the Psalms, especially singing the Psalms.
His graceful request spurred me to play through all the Psalms in the Psalter Hymnal and I was disappointed to discover how few of them seemed singable. But the gentle older man had told me something I could not ignore. The reason he wanted us to include the Psalms in worship was because it was through singing the Psalms as a young man that he had come to receive the promises of God and enter into a living faith.
Wow! That’s a rationale for responding to someone’s idea. We increased Psalm reading and use of Psalm texts for confession and assurance in worship. But we still had to deal with our perceived problem that the Psalms are so difficult to sing. We tried to compensate by finding more contemporary settings of the Psalms, but too many of those songs take just a phrase and don’t lay out the fullness of the text.
The following month, the Worship Coordinator and I met Eelco Vos, leader of The Psalm Project from the Netherlands. Their mission is to reshape the Genevan psalms so that people can sing them again. We are finding our way back to Psalm singing through their arrangements.
Listen to Psalm 118 here
Read more about the Psalm Project here.
I can’t seem to separate two important questions embedded in this story, so I’ll put them both out and you can choose which one to answer.
- How have you handled critique or requests to make changes in worship?
- How does your congregation sing Psalms?