Beginning with Psalm 1 on Sunday May 24, 2015 (Pentecost), we began a congregational project of singing through the whole book of Psalms in Sunday worship, one psalm each week (Psalm 119, the longest psalm, we will sing one stanza per week). Our project will culminate with Psalm 150 on Sunday September 2, 2018 at our Christ at Center communion service.
For the first 1800 years of church history, psalm singing was an integral part of Christian worship. However, in the 1800s hymn singing became so popular that, by the end of the 1800s, many evangelical churches no longer sang any psalms. With the advent of the praise chorus in the mid-twentieth century and then the modern worship song toward the end of the twentieth century, partial psalms made a reappearance in congregational worship, but typically not whole psalms. At WBC we realized that we rarely sang an entire psalm and we certainly didn’t sing the entire book of psalms. While continuing to sing the great hymns of our tradition, as well as many new songs, we began a deliberate effort to also sing the psalms.
The psalms were written to be sung by God’s people, and they have much to teach us about thanksgiving, praise, lament, hope, biblical history and theology. It is hard to fully absorb the language and worldview of the psalms without actually singing them as we are directed to do in Scripture (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19). This project has provided us a simple way to deliberately keep the word of Christ richly dwelling in us through hymns, spiritual songs, and psalms.
Following the example of the early church, we have chanted a few of the psalms–this has stretched us musically! Following the example of the Reformers, we have made good use of metrical psalters–translations of the psalms into the rhythm of English poetry–so that we can sing the psalms to familiar hymn tunes or other melodies. We have also used contemporary paraphrases that cover the thematic content of the whole psalm.
While the focus of the project has been and continues to be singing the psalms together in Sunday morning worship, in response to requests from our congregation we have started recording our psalm settings. Beginning on October 26, 2016 we have been releasing a new psalm recording each week: Psalm Recordings.
These are the musical settings of the psalms we have sung to date:
Psalm 119:57-64, Heth
Psalm 119:49-56, Zayin
Psalm 119:41-48, Waw
Psalm 119:33-40, He
Psalm 119:25-32, Daleth
Psalm 119:17-24 Gimel
Psalm 119:9-16, Beth
Psalm 119:1-8, Aleph