Singing God’s Psalms: Metrical psalms and reflections for each Sunday in the church year
Fred R. Anderson
Church Times Bookshop £18
WHILE a seminarian, Fred Anderson was counselled by a wise tutor
to return to the Psalms and put
them at the heart of meditation and study when ministry burnout threatened or prayer dried up. In time, Anderson followed this sage advice, but, being a musician, he turned to creating interpretations of each text in a metrical form to be sung to well-known hymn tunes.
The result is this collection of 104 versified psalms, each accompanied by suggestions for suitable hymn tunes and a short meditation on the text. Included is one metrical psalm for each Sunday in the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary.
The finessing of the RCL to create Common Worship’s lectionary means that a handful of psalms are missing for Anglican usage; but otherwise this could become a helpful resource for congregations used to singing traditional hymns.
The discipline of holding to metre and rhyme sometimes stifles the liquid beauty of the psalms, especially when compared with translations such as Coverdale’s or Common Worship, and occasionally it feels as if Anderson attempts to pin down meanings too firmly. Sometimes the dilemmas encountered in attempting to interpret such richly textured poetry result in two alternative versions, as for Psalm 91, each markedly different in their choice of imagery while still conveying a positive theme of assurance.
Giving these metrical versions a trial in our parish, we found that they certainly rose from the page when sung; but suggested hymn tunes for our selection were largely unfamiliar, possibly because they had been initially chosen for North American congregations. But it took negligible research to find better-known melodies, allowing us to furnish these ancient texts with extra versatility. Similarly, with a little imagination and flexibility, many worship leaders will find here inspiration to revitalise usage of the Psalms in contemporary worship.
The Revd Richard Greatrex is Associate Priest of Barrow Gurney, in North Somerset.