The hymnal of the early Church was the book of Psalms. These were the songs that were sung by the David as he tended his father’s sheep. These were the songs sung by the Jews as they went into battle. These were the songs the Jews sang as they made pilgrimage to God’s Temple in Jerusalem. These were the songs Jesus sang with his disciples. In fact, right after the Last Supper on the way to the Mount of Olives, the gospels of Mark & Matthew both record: “And when [Jesus and the disciples] had sung a psalm, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Mk 14:26; Mt 26:30). The early Church continued this practice started by Jesus at all of their gatherings. In his letter to the Church in Ephesus, Paul writes: “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” The psalms were always meant to be sung.
The Church has preserved this practice for the past 2,000 years. In fact, most Christians around the world sing a selection of psalms every week. Some even sing the psalms daily.
Our own Anglican tradition has always sung the psalms. You may have noticed that the psalms we read each Sunday have been arranged as poetic verse. This was done to make the psalms easier to sing. It is also why we read them differently than any other Bible passage on Sunday mornings. They always involve the whole congregation.
This next Sunday, we will begin singing the psalms together. Our choir under the direction of Catherine Miller will help us begin this new practice. Our music team under the direction of Jonathan Groover will likewise help us to sing the psalms.
For as long as I remember, I have sung the psalms in church services. When we sing the Scriptures, we hear and encounter them differently. One of the reasons Paul exhorted his congregations to sing the psalms together was so that they could engage in worship confidently with their whole being. Singing involves all of our self: our body, mind, and spirit. When we sing Scripture, we can be confident that the words we are saying are true and glorifying to God. As St. Augustine wrote, “He who sings prays twice.” I am so looking forward to praying and singing the psalms with you on Sundays!