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Resources for Worship

I must confess out the outset that my own inclination for worship tends to be alternative. (Some where to the Hard Rock side of "contemporary".) Yet with a background in music composition (in both classical and jazz) and a love of good music ranging from Gregorian Chant through Baroque, Classical, and Romantic and culminating in modern Rock, Country and Jazz I hope that I can give you informed opinion while admitting my biases. - Wayne

Faith Alive Music Resources Those of us serving in the RCA will recognize this RCA/CRC cooperative publishing effort.

Contemporary Songs for Worship

CRC Psalter Hymnal

Sing! a new creation (sic)

Singing the New Testament (sic)

Contemporary Songs for Worship
Faith Alive/Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2008 - 37 songs, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

I don't know how it happened. Someone dragged the Calvin Institute into the 20th Century just in time for the 21st. Still, this little supplement of contemporary worship songs is a welcome relief from the usual high-brow condescension to (if not sneering at) those of us on the more modern end of worship. This book does contain a few "moldy oldies" (defined as anything 10 year old or older). Even they are well chosen. Surprisingly, most of the book consists of well crafted and well presented worship songs from this Millennium. Those who are serious about Contemporary worship will not use this since we project all the worship music. However, those who wish to mix in some contemporary music in their mixed or traditional worship, or who have youth yearning for something other than their "fathers' music" this will be just right.

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CRC Psalter Hymnal
CRC Publications (distributed by Faith Alive), 1988 - 641 songs with confessional and worship aids, Hardback
Rating: 4 stars

Presently the RCA and CRC are working on a new combined hymnal. ( see this webpage at crcna.org). Until this work is complete the CRC Psalter Hymnal represents the best Reformed (as opposed to Presbyterian) hymnal available.

Now confession time: I was originally ordained in the CRC in 1988 and this was the new hymnal. Yet, even then, I was not uncritical of it. The criticism remain valid today as I will note.

The book has three music sections:

  • Psalms
  • Bible Songs
  • Hymns
In addition there are the CRC translations of the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt), CRC forms for worship and many helpful indexes.

The Psalms were an effort to revive the Dutch tradition of being able to sing every biblical Psalm, each with a different tune. It was an admirable idea and failed only because they let music professors in on the act. More than half of the tunes in this section are unsingable without extensive practice by choir and congregation. (The music literati think this acceptable. Obviously they live in a parallel universe from mine. In my universe we try to help people worship, not make them work to try to.) Still, the singable songs are at least serviceable and many delight the heart and mind.

The Bible Songs and Hymns suffer from this failing to a much smaller extent and have an added joy: the language of the hymns has been carefully updated into the 20th Century. Ridding us of the "thee"s and "thou"s of the past can be irksome to traditionalist. To those of us wanting to make worship less alien to the unchurched this blows fresh air into the sanctuary.

Furthermore, those of us from the Reformed camp may appreciate that some of the hymns have been de-Arminian-ized. Words such as "Spirit of God, descend upon my heart" have morphed into the theologically more palatable "Spirit of God, Who dwells within my heart". In other places verses have been either added or restored to songs, giving greater theological depth and Reformed significance. Silent Night includes a verse"

    Silent Night! Holy Night!
    Son of God, source of light,
    now lies crying in Bethlehem's stall
    tiny child, Creator of all,
    infant Savior and King!
    Infant Savior and King!

This is a welcome and needed remedy to the Docetism of Away in the Manger (which lies, unfortunately, only a few pages away). Other such additions and corrections make it hard for me not to recommend this to any church seeking a solely traditional Reformed worship... at least until the current hymnal effort is completed.

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Sing! a new creation (sic)
Reformed Church Press/Faith Alive/Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2001 - 294 songs and readings, paperback
Rating: 3 stars

I really didn't see much to excite me in this small supplement to traditional hymnals. It suffers from a lack of focus. There are a variety of new hymns (i.e. songs written in an old style), ethnic songs (few of which anglo-rural North Americans will find very culturally appealing) and many songs of the Taize style. If you like this sort of hodge-podge then pick this book. If not, you might still find something here to use. (There is literally something for everyone... excepting contemporary worship.) For myself I find the effort too politically correct (including putting the foreign languages above the English texts) and very "mainline Chrsitianity". (And, no, I don't say that as a complement.)

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Singing the New Testament
Faith Alive/Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2008 - 259 songs, spiral bound paperback
Rating: 3 stars

Being able to help people sing the texts of Scripture carries the great advantage that they will remember the texts longer. And so I purchased this volume with great hopes. They were mostly dashed.

This volume continues the faults of Sing! a new creation (See above.) While many of the songs do a decent job lyrically in reproducing Scripture, I don't find the total package appealing. On the other hand, someone who is more traditional or yearning for "anything" to get beyond traditional hymns may find this useful.

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