Women leading psalm singing?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by tantely, Jan 30, 2016.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. revnbev

    revnbev Puritan Board Freshman

    Seems to me there is some "letter vs spirit" of the law practice going on. But again, that's my own scruples.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Could u elaborate?
  3. revnbev

    revnbev Puritan Board Freshman

    If I'm understanding it correctly, there is someone standing at the time when the congregation is to sing the songs and is humming the tune rather than saying the words. The effect in the mind of the listener as they read along will be the same as if they are being read. But technically, they are not being read. Hence the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  4. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    This is missing the point. Most all reformed organizations, excluding those that are on the path to liberalism, i.e. woman deacons etc. hold to the idea that the word of God is to be proclaimed by an ordained man; in the reading of the word, teaching happens secondarily to the reading; even if the elder is just reading. Teaching is by default inherent. So, a woman reading the words of scripture in front of the congregation would be, in essence, teaching. Her humming a tune is not. But I get your point. God's word is pretty clear on the matter. Speculation doesn't help. Presuming all the church will be hearing the words in their minds is completely different as no one is actually preaching. My weak 2 cents worth.
  5. revnbev

    revnbev Puritan Board Freshman

    I've no argument to make. Just conversation for clarity on issues.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  6. Rev. Todd Ruddell

    Rev. Todd Ruddell Puritan Board Junior

    Oh my, brother! This post of yours has warmed my heart--thank you for the encouragement. I will let our congregation know, so as they might share in it as well.
  7. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior


    At the FCC in Greenville, the Pastor reads the first few lines of the Psalm, and then the precentor hums the first few notes. If I am not mistaken, he does this from his seat in the congregation. The same practice is followed in my own congregation, except that the precentor goes up front to precent. The only one reading any scripture aloud by himself is the pastor.
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    In the one congregation I've visited in the past that from time to time had a female precentor that swapped on and off with some male precentors, no, I did not find it any more difficult or easy.

    This is correct. This is also how it is done in the North Carolina preaching station.

    I agree with Tyler Ray's comments. I would additionally note that "precenting" is not the same as "leading the singing," except in the strictest sense of the terms. To my mind, ideally, the congregation knows the tune well enough that the "precentor" merely gets them started (possibly each stanza too, as all need to know when to start the next stanza after a pause), and they all can more or less stay on tune or in rhythm after that. Also, in regards to a male or female precentor, circumstances are to be ordered by the general rules of the Word, so there may be some reason to prefer a male precentor to a female one merely for the sake of order, decency, and avoiding scandal. But I too have no universal, principled objection to a female precentor, since to my mind, the precentor is just the one who starts the singing ("sings before").
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
  9. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Judges 4:9, "notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman."

    The problem is not in a woman doing it, but in the men not doing it.

    For the congregation with a person playing a flute, that person cannot sing; and the person playing a piano can sing, but not with all their concentration. So the commanded worship is left undone for the sake of meeting an aesthetic preference.
  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Hey Tyler,
    Yes, thats the way I understood it though you couldn't tell from the incoherent post from me earlier...I've never been good at typing on my phone; especially while driving. Doh! ;)
  11. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Exactly. I made mention of that earlier-the men have to step up.
  12. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

  13. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    No worries, sir! Thanks for clarifying.
  14. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I've never worshiped in a a cappella EP congregation. But theological issues aside, I find it nearly impossible to follow a female song leader, especially if it is one with a soprano type voice.

    The best congregational singing I've participated in has had no leader at all. Some of the worst has been in small or medium sized congregations with an amplified female singer. Amplified singers are no more conducive to good congregational singing than loud "praise bands" or loud organs. Just my experience. your mileage may vary. :2cents:
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2016
  15. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I agree. I think a strong male voice is most conducive to good congregational singing. I've visited an a capella EP congregation that had a female precentor, and the singing was unfortunately not great. Also, she did not give the first note or notes before starting--she just started singing and everyone joined in, so everyone else missed singing the first word of each Psalm, and had to quickly adjust to her tempo. I'm not being hard on her--she's brave for having done it, but it did make the singing a little bit awkward and difficult.

    That being said, there may not have been anyone there with a stronger voice who was musically inclined.
  16. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    :popcorn: Wow. This thread blew up while I was at work.
  17. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Precenting is this , no more no less, one person beginning singing worship a second before others. It is not leading, it is not authoritative, it is a help to get us going at the same time, on the same note.

    If they go to the front,it isa merely so that people can all clearly hear the note being projected. All they are doing is worshipping but they happen to have usually a more than normal ability to start a tune on note, and and a strong voice to do so.

    In my opinion this is all straining at gnats. And I say that as someone who holds the highest possible view of the RPW .
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  18. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Straining at gnats is good. It means we don't swallow flies with our food. The problem is with straining at gnats and swallowing a camel. If any allowed a woman preacher and scrupled a woman precentor the Master's proverb would apply, but none have done that. It has been consistently maintained that men should do the leading they were equipped to do so that the ladies might not have to act out of character by assuming a position of leadership they were not equipped to do. As it is an act of worship to sing God's praises it seems especially appropriate at that time to exhibit the kind of female character which is of great worth in God's sight.
  19. Rev. Todd Ruddell

    Rev. Todd Ruddell Puritan Board Junior

    My understanding as well is that it is a function of leadership, and therefore ought to be performed by men. This is not to slight the great advantage congregations have that are blessed with decent vocalists of all types. I would also like to point out that an acceptable precentor need not have an exceptional voice. Like all other things worth doing, training and practice are necessary to success. If a man has a medium-quality voice naturally, he might, in order to be of greater service, take vocal lessons. One would be surprised how profitable it could be to learn some simple mechanics that would greatly "enhance the instrument". This is a service to Christ--would that more men would see this need, get the training they need, work with their session to see if they might be able to serve, and then make themselves available to aid in the lifting up of the voice (singular) of the congregation.

    Vocal lessons, in this context, may do the whole congregation good. Seeing we are commanded to sing to the Lord, it seems only appropriate that we learn to do it well.
  20. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I seriously don't understand why you guys who go to church which don't use pianos to start you off on the right key just don't have your pastor to lead the singing. Todd Ruddell stated the precentor wouldn't have to have an exceptional voice to be one that way no one would be bent out of shape if the first voice they hear is a woman's. There! Problem solved!
  21. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    To tell you the truth I think this is the answer. BTW I attend a church which uses more than pianos. :)

    Question for the historians here....When did the use of nonordained persons leading worship start in strict RPW churches start? I cannot imagine Pastor John Knox using a precentor, or did he?
  22. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I like the idea of an ordained man precenting the singing of Psalms, as well. I like the idea of the singing having an overall male quality, rather than the soprano dominance I so often hear in recordings of psalm-singing, and in the churches. This just seems most fitting and seemly to me. It's nothing against soprano/female voices, at all, or the ability of women. The biblical pattern should be what outsiders "get" when they visit; the overall sense that women are quiet in the church and men have audible duties. Something like that.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  23. ProtestantBankie

    ProtestantBankie Puritan Board Freshman

    I have attended many psalmody classes and put a lot of time into trying to learn to sing. I cannot.

    I do sing, when led, and I am frequently out of tune and at a wrong pace. (I once attempted to sing to the tune Effingham and had 2 members guess what I was singing. 1 said "St George's Edinburgh" and the other said "Gainsborough")

    However, it would be wrong of me not to make a noise in the congregational singing.

    Firstly, we cultivate singing with melody in our hearts. And then we need worry about the voice, which ideally is well tuned and suitably able. The preference for modern versions of the Psalms has included more complicated tunes, which I find very difficult.

    My preference would be for men to precent, while at the same time confessing I could not be permitted to do this.

    On the Sabbath at KW with no precentor, we have frequently had our Pastor leading all 4 singings, preachings, praying and reading scriptures. It is a great strain on his voice, but we would rather that because at least he CAN precent.

    If we were without a male who could precent... we would rather ask a woman than not have congregational singing.

    With that said, I continue to try and learn!
  24. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    You don't have to be an elder, deacon or minister to precent. You have to be able to sing and read sol-fah or staff, unless you've got a few good tunes in your head already.

    If you had an ordained office of precentor you'd be adding something to the biblical pattern.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  25. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    From Forbes' Digest:

    I understand there has been a revival of psalmody outside of the traditional churches, and it is something to be very thankful for; but the precentor has a place in traditional Psalm singing churches which points to it being a leadership role of sorts, and to be carefully overseen by the ministry of the church.
  26. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I suppose I'll throw in my thoughts, too.

    I frankly was surprised to hear about female psalm leaders in some reformed a cappella churches--for the reasons stated by Todd and Matthew. I'm the leader of a cappella in our church. I was appointed by our pastor and essentially ratified by our body because I can sight sing and hold a tune. I do use a pitch pipe to get the opening note, and all of us jump right in.

    If the congregation starts to waiver, I just sing louder and it seems to set things straight.

    Learning sight-singing ought not be too much of a chore, especially with familiar tunes. Many claim to have tin ears but I've actually taught lots of people how to pick out intervals and repeat them with their voice. It's just another skill that can be developed with practice.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  27. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    I agree that it seems most appropriate for the men to assume the responsibility.
    Where I'm not yet convinced is that it would be a sin for a woman to.

    I want to be careful not to create the "office" of "precentor" where Scripture does not give one. It seems more a circumstance of worship, which is why I would shy away from words like "appointed", "position", "leadership", or "ratified" except in a minimal sense. Perhaps as a circumstance it would be appropriate to have a giant metronome up front that is neither male nor female. Perhaps in some congregations it is better to have no precentor at all. Or perhaps multiple precentors for a large congregation in an ill-fitted building. Or precentors who take turns every other song. Isn't there flexibility as a circumstance in what is fitted to serve the congregation best in the element of singing?

    We have had a 14-year old (male by the way) that has helped me out by precenting when I'm on travel or sick. If it is a role of leadership or an office then would this be inappropriate because he is too young to "lead"?
  28. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Now that there is so much available on the Internet, in the way of video and audio, of psalms sung (or at least midi of the tunes) I'd think even sight-reading is a non-necessity in order to sing. In other words, there should be no barrier to a congregation singing due to that lack. And what if ministers more seriously consider plain song- it gives a congregation the ability to obey the apostle's command even when there is no talented singer or sight-reader to help. It seems like it would be good, for as many as are interested in the singing of the church, to familiarize themselves with it... It's universally doable by every congregation and it turns out it's not weird, but is lovely and accessible.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  29. repeater75

    repeater75 Puritan Board Freshman

    There are some differences that may be a little hard to appreciate between the Psalm-singing congregations and the American Presbyterian churches like the OPC and PCA.

    The largest Psalms-only denomination in the U.S. is the RPCNA and their position on the RPW is such that there is no use of instruments in the sung worship of God because that was a Levitical institution and Not temple, no sacrifice; no sacrifice, no instruments. There is a premium placed on simplicity of worship and emphasizing the congregational aspect of sung worship over and against the more common practices today of having a band and or chorale group / worship lead singer leading them. This is largely motivated by RPW concerns (what is not commanded or required by good and necessary consequence is prohibited) but it also has the very real benefit of encouraging greater congregational participation (from my personal experience, the more elaborate the church music, the more passive the congregation becomes and they are just attending a performance).

    In keeping with their desire for maintaining fidelity to the confessional position on the RPW, there is no reciting of creeds, confessions or responsorial readings. Instead, the Directory for Public Worship (RPCNA) specifies that Elders do the leading of prayers, read the Scriptures and introduce the Psalms prior to handing off to the Precentor to start the singing. That means no women will do anything in the order of worship and keeps us from having to concern ourselves with such issues with respect to elements of worship.

    That said, the RPCNA does allow women Precentors because they are not worship leaders. Although I'm told they are not common as I've not been to other RPCNA churches than my own (the first particularized in Texas).

    The Precentor in our congregation (for whom I've stood in a couple of times), uses the "Sol-fa" method of singing the first stanza using the "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do" tones so that visitors have a chance to hear the tune and the congregation is reminded (helpful when you go back to a Psalm you haven't sung in a while and it is a less familiar tune). It happens to be that our Precentor is also our Deacon.

    If you're curious about the RPW position, I have compiled the content of the original forms of the Westminster Standards on the subject into an article on my blog:
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page