Sincere Questions for Hymn-Singing Pastors

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Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
PLEASE NOTE -- This thread is not in any way for debating psalmody/hymnody. Any posts attempting to do so will be deleted.

The following questions are mostly directed toward Presbyterian pastors, though the first question will be open to non-ministers/elders. I promise there is no hidden agenda or motive in these questions, and answers will not be turned back around against you in any way: this is simply an inquiry for those willing to take the time to provide answers. I promise you will not be engaged or challenged based upon responses here.

1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?

...

Questions 2-5 are for ministers and elders:

2.) Tthough you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?

3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?

4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?

5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns? Or would this be considered inappropriate?

6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?

Again, please note that I am mainly interested in Presbyterian ministers' answers to these questions, though if other ministers wish to answer, please feel more than free! I thank in advance any willing to take time to provide answers to these questions.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?
We are not exclusive psalmodists but of the 5 songs that are typically included in the liturgy the majority are always Psalms. So at least three songs a service, and often more, are Psalms.

Article 39 of the URCNA Church Order speaks of our practice in this way:

The 150 Psalms shall have the principal place in the singing of the churches. Hymns which faithfully and fully reflect the teaching of the Scripture as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity may be sung, provided they are approved by the Consistory.
Questions 2-5 are for ministers and elders:

2.) Tthough you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?
Yes, they are commanded by God to be sung in our services.

3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?
No.

4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?
It depends on the tune (familiar or not). Certainly I choose from a broad range of Psalms for our worship though there are some Psalms we sing more often than others.

5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns? Or would this be considered inappropriate?
Yes, I believe it would be appropriate if they did not sing our hymns, though I cannot speak for our elders. I trust that they would not try to force his or her conscience on the matter. However if they were so convicted I might be more inclined to direct them to another congregation that practices exclusive psalmody.

6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?
Yes, elders are responsible for the 'maintenance' of worship.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
1.) Not really, but not by conviction. I'd love to introduce the psalter at some point. But we have not done so yet.
2.) No.
3.) I'm not sure I understand this question. If you are asking if there are any psalms that I do not think it would be appropriate to sing, then no.
4.) N/A
5.) Given our current worship practice, I believe I would encourage him to find a church where he will be able to worship and not violate his conscience.
6.) Of course. As I said, I'm not opposed to psalmody. I'm just not EP. If the session were, it would not, therefore, violate my own conscience to practice EP. I wouldn't be doing so by theological conviction, however.

You and I have interacted extensively on this issue during the formative stage of my convictions. As you can see -- and much to your disappointment, I'm sure -- I have not come down in agreement with you. I hope we can maintain the love and respect that was evident in our early discussions.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Thank you both very much for the answers so far!

Mr. Brooking, to clarify what I meant in the third question: I have often heard people maintain that some Psalms would be inappropriate for the Christian to sing in this present church-age, such as the imprecatory psalms. I am wondering if such is commonly held or held at all in the American Reformed churches.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
OK, I'll bite, Paul. ;)

First, keep in mind that the ARP amended (by an act of General Synod) the WCF in order to allow the singing of hymns (making them permissible). I personally believe this was a mistake, or it was at least not done in an adequate fashion without foresight into the consequences. It was probably not done for the right reasons (i.e., everyone else gets to sing hymns; so should we). And now, half a century later, many in the ARP realize that psalmody is being lost because of this. Efforts are taking place to reclaim psalmody within the denomination. I have no problem singing hymns, as long as they are carefully selected and are theologically sound. But I believe that psalms should also be sung in worship.

Now to the questions:

1) Yes. I do try to include a psalm of some sort in worship. I primarily try to make use of our Bible Songs from time to time. Some EPs would object here because these are not often metrical psalms. But then again the lady protests too much me thinks -- I know of one RPCNA member who complained when I was singing Psalm 133 one day because Bible Songs uses the word "ointment" instead of "oil" in a verse. I later found out the ARP version was taken directly from the Scottish Psalter. To each his own, I suppose. Also, our postlude each service is congregationally sung and comes from the psalter.

2) I pretty much would fall into the "wise and prudent" category here.

3) I would not think so. I'm guessing you are talking about imprecatory psalms maybe? I would have no problem sing those as long as the occasion was appropriate.

4) The congregation is so rusty in singing psalms that I select ones that are set to more familiar tunes. So we only have a small "pool" that I currently draw from. I also try to select hymns that are at least based on psalms (e.g., "O God, Our Help in Ages Past").

5) We had an RPCNA member worshipping with us for a while; he would politely stand for the hymn singing, but would not sing. He would not even sing when we sang psalms, though. I thought this was odd, since we had an RPCNA minister preach at our General Synod last year (the preaching professor at RPTS -- can't remember his name) and he had no problem singing from our Bible Songs, set to music no less. We currently have a couple from an EP ARP church worshipping with us, and although they prefer the psalms, they have no problem singing hymns with us either.

6) If the major became convinced of EP, I would shout Hallelujah and we would move more decidedly in that direction ASAP (I can dream, can't I?). It would mean that we would include more and more (if not all) psalms in worship. But all would not be done, as we would then probably start with the musical instruments issue... ;)
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
BTW, these two paragraphs are included in the ARP Directory of Public Worship, which was revised just a couple of years ago.

The Psalms of the Holy Scripture ought to be used regularly in the public worship of God. This collection of thanksgivings,
lamentations, confessions, petitions, and praises formed the book of praise for Israel, and became in part the basis of
praise in the New Testament Church. They should be sung frequently, whether by one, by several, or by all the people
of God. They also may be prayed, read, or chanted by one, in unison, or responsively.

Other hymns and spiritual songs may also be used, provided that their content is in agreement with the Word of God. The Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, and the doctrinal standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, should guide us in the use and composition of such other hymns and spiritual songs.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
PLEASE NOTE -- This thread is not in any way for debating psalmody/hymnody. Any posts attempting to do so will be deleted.

The following questions are mostly directed toward Presbyterian pastors, though the first question will be open to non-ministers/elders. I promise there is no hidden agenda or motive in these questions, and answers will not be turned back around against you in any way: this is simply an inquiry for those willing to take the time to provide answers. I promise you will not be engaged or challenged based upon responses here.

1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?

...

Questions 2-5 are for ministers and elders:

2.) Tthough you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?

3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?

4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?

5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns? Or would this be considered inappropriate?

6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?

Again, please note that I am mainly interested in Presbyterian ministers' answers to these questions, though if other ministers wish to answer, please feel more than free! I thank in advance any willing to take time to provide answers to these questions.

Answer 2: Yes, they are commanded.

Answer 3: Absolutely not.

Answer 4: I have not had long enough to see this through, but I would hope so.

Answer 5: It is based on his own conscience, however, in my personal opinion, given that public worship is a time of worshipping together. I would say that each person ought to sing, submitting to the elders. It is the same for giving in worship, if the elders have an element of giving in worship (some have a box in the back) then each congregant (at least each head of household) ought to give something.

Answer 6: I think that it would depend upon the ruling of the Session. I'm not a Baptist :)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
I think it would be hard to use a good reformed hymnal without having many songs out of the Psalters, so they are included in that way. We almost always read a Psalm responsively.
 

Reepicheep

Puritan Board Freshman
1. We do not use the Psalter per se', we use the Trinity Hymnal which has various Psalter Psalms- we sing many of those and other Psalm "arrangements".
2. Yes, they are commanded, so we sing them (and read them, pray them, preach them, for that matter)
3. No
4. No
5. I'd probably suggest they go to the local RPCNA church with whom we have a very good relationship. Regular, public displays of disagreement with the leadership of the church isn't good or healthy for a church, it could strike at the peace of the church. Not singing 6-7 hymns (or partial hymns) is just too hard to hide.
6. This is a wild hypothetical, but if this happened and the Session determined (minus my vote) worship would indeed be altered accordingly-not to mention they'd have a new pastor soon enough.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
1) yes, it varies.

2) yes

3) never came up

4) no

5) not in 1,000,000 years would you find a person like that here.

6) If you preach the gospel, don't ordain women, and will baptise babies the few reformed people that show up will be so happy they will never leave.

Your questions assume an enviroment where many reformed church exist in a single town. When you have to travel hours for any evangelical reformed church, these things seem less important.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?
No.

However, when we have traveled we have used the Trinity Psalter, a complimentary book to the Trinity Hymnal.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
This is a link to the Trinity Psalter, produced by the joint PCA/OPC publishing company.
CEP Bookstore - TRINITY PSALTER

In the churches that I have seen use it, it seems there is often one or two Psalms built in to most services, with a mixture of hymns, psalms, and carefully chosen choruses.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I choose the music for our worship (I answer to the pastor). I attempt to choose one or two Psalms or large portions of the Psalms in some form every week, though they don't come directly from a psalter. There are a lot of settings of the Psalms that are taken verbatim from the Psalms but not found in psalters. As was already mentioned, a lot of the hymns in the Trinity are based on Psalms.

We hold to the belief that Colossians teaches we should sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, so we sing a variety of each every week.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?
Approx. 50%. I actually attempt this ratio purposefully.

2.) Tthough you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?
I think it is commanded, implicitly if not explicitly, going to Paul in Eph/Col. If we do not sing the Psalter, we have basically no foundation for our singing in worship, period.

3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?
No, we simply need an educated congregation regarding the Christology of the Psalter, and of the OT generally.

4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?
No. I do not have a schedule for any song-selections. I ordinarily base my choices on relation to the message. It is preaching that guides the selections.

5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns? Or would this be considered inappropriate?
I doubt very much if I would impose anything on a conscience-bound person.

6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?
I believe the session has significant power to govern worship. It ought to be doing so in a harmonious way, with the good of the congregation in mind. The minister sits on the session, but it is not his session. I will accept limited constraints (only) and appeals regarding my ministry of the Word; however while I preside and lead in worship, it is the session as a whole that is responsible for the conduct of worship.

If a session calls a man to a church where the policy is EP, the minister should make his decision to accept a call with that knowledge in mind, and readiness to comply with the current policy. If the stance of the church changes to or from EP, he should examine his conscience whether he can continue in that call, after the change. But insisting on standing pat, and imposing his stance on the worship seems inconsiderate of the church's well-being.
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
PLEASE NOTE -- This thread is not in any way for debating psalmody/hymnody. Any posts attempting to do so will be deleted.

The following questions are mostly directed toward Presbyterian pastors, though the first question will be open to non-ministers/elders. I promise there is no hidden agenda or motive in these questions, and answers will not be turned back around against you in any way: this is simply an inquiry for those willing to take the time to provide answers. I promise you will not be engaged or challenged based upon responses here.

1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?
Yes. 25% or so. Not necessarily
...

Questions 2-5 are for ministers and elders:

2.) Tthough you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?
Perhaps; depends if Eph 5 and Col 3 are addressing corporate worship

3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?
Maybe, imprecatory?
4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?
No

5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns?
Yes
Or would this be considered inappropriate?
No

6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?
Good question

Again, please note that I am mainly interested in Presbyterian ministers' answers to these questions, though if other ministers wish to answer, please feel more than free! I thank in advance any willing to take time to provide answers to these questions.
Thanks for letting me participate
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
If a session calls a man to a church where the policy is EP, the minister should make his decision to accept a call with that knowledge in mind, and readiness to comply with the current policy. If the stance of the church changes to or from EP, he should examine his conscience whether he can continue in that call, after the change. But insisting on standing pat, and imposing his stance on the worship seems inconsiderate of the church's well-being.
And as a result, the Session should think about the disruption to ministry and to the flock that would be caused by the resulting departure of the minister before it changes.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
Yes. We use the Trinity Hymnal and the Book of Psalms for Singing. Every Sabbath Day our praise uses about half Psalm-settings taken from the BSFS or the TH, extra-Psalter hymns take up the other half of songs we sing (during the morning and evening worship services.) Sometimes one service does not include any Psalms, (but sometimes only Psalms), but invariably there are psalms sung during the other service if that is the case, whether the morning or evening service. In addition to the worship service we have a Psalm-sing for 15 minutes prior to our evening worship service every Sabbath just to practice and learn to sing the Psalms out of the Book of Psalms for Singing.
 

sdesocio

Puritan Board Freshman
1.) If your church is not Exclusive-psalmody, do you still make use of the psalter in public worship? If so, roughly how much of what you sing is from the Psalter? Is there by intention at least one/some psalms at every service, or does it vary?
We do not use a psalter, or a hymn for the matter, we print all the songs in our bulletin each week.
I'd say out the 6-7 songs we sing at least one of them is a scriptural song, but its not a requirement.

Questions 2-5 are for ministers and elders:

2.) Though you do not maintain that the Psalms are *exclusively* commanded, do you believe/teach/practice that they are nevertheless *commanded*? Thus, if you at least occasionally or regularly use the Psalter in worship, is it because it is a divinely commanded ordinance, or simply because it is prudent and wise to include these songs?
As an exRPCNA I have come to exegete certain passages differently than one who might say that the singing of songs from the 150 Psalms is a requirement.
But I would say that we are supposed to dwell in and focus on God's word. While I something think a there is a cultural danger of making the Psalms a red-letter book of the Bible, that doesn't mean we should saturate all parts of our worship with God's word.
3.) Are any Psalms regarding which the singing would be at least imprudent for the Church today?
I would tend to think that the explanation required to understand certain imprecatory songs would limit their frequency in worship, but I could imagine them being very useful in response to sermon on one such text.
4.) If your church regularly uses the Psalter, do you make a point to include all the Psalms over time with roughly the same frequency?
No.
5.) If a member of your congregation had issues of conscience with the singing of hymns, and privately made known his scruples (i.e., he is not causing controversy or rift in the congregation or among the elders, nor trying to convince others of his position), is it acceptable for him, after consultation, to non-ostentatiously refrain from singing hymns? Or would this be considered inappropriate?
This is one that I really struggle with as Marrow Man pointed out there is not a single practice held within the RPCNA on how to participate in worship that is not EP. I think the question would come down to whether they might be consider the weaker brother or not. IN our NAPARC services we usually sing one or 2 Psalms without instruments (out of the maybe 4 songs we sing). My the way the name of the Preaching Professor for RPTS (My seminary) is Dr. Dennis Prutow.
6.) Finally, if for whatever reason a majority of the session or congregation was convinced of exclusive psalmody, or at least leaned in that direction, though you as the teaching elder did not maintain such a persuasion, would this alter the way in which worship was done?
I would probably have step down from such a church, just like I would have to, if a majority of the session or congregation because convinced of credo-baptism, or paedo-communion, and wanted a shift in the practice of our church.
But I wonder if there were deeper problems in a such a church were a pastor was preaching and teaching one thing while a majority of the leadership and congregation began to disregard the pastors teaching of God's word.
 

reformedminister

Puritan Board Sophomore
I preach at our early worship every Lord's Day (8:15 a. m.). I am also in charge of the organization and format of that particular service. We sing four songs each week, two are hymns and two are psalms from the Trinity Psalter. I do believe they are commanded, that is why we sing them. However, I do not believe in exclusive psalmody and our psalms are accompanied by the piano. Our session would never vote to make that particular service a psalms only service. However, we used to sing only one psalm a week and it was suggested to me by our senior pastor that we sing more psalms, so now we sing two hymns and two psalms.
 
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