The Psalm of the Day

The Psalm of the Day

Our traditional liturgy has a chanted responsive singing of a Psalm each Sunday.  To me, this is a powerful and enjoyable part of our traditional worship services that I did not want to dispense of in our blended worship services but the format just did not fit.  We tried several different approaches of including a musical Psalm reading and eventually landed on a format that has been working for us for over a year now.  Here’s how we do it:

Our approach is to read the Psalm responsively and pair it with a contemporary song that’s based on the Psalm text. The musicians start by playing through the song softly and in the background.  The Pastor starts the responsive readings shortly thereafter as the musicians continue to play music in the background.  The Pastor and the congregation continue to alternate passage readings along with the musical backdrop.  At a pre-determined point (as defined in the bulletin), the readings stop and the congregation joins in singing the song while the musician’s  increase the volume of the musical accompaniment levels.  After the congregation has sung through a verse and chorus, the alternating responsive readings continue.  This process proceeds until the Psalm reading is completed.  A sample of this technique follows:

Psalm of the Day Responsive Reading (from Psalm 100)

Song:  “A Shield About Me” (BOB#2)

Note: soft accompaniment starts

M:       I love you, O LORD, my strength.
C:        The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
M:       My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
C:        He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
M:       I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
C:        and I am saved from my enemies.

Note: Musical volume picks up as the band joins in

Congregation Sings: Verse, Verse, Chorus

Note: Keyboard plays softly in the background.

M:       In my distress I called to the LORD, I cried to my God for help.
C:        From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
M:       He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
C:        he drew me out of deep waters.
M:       He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
C:        from my foes, who were too strong for me.
M:       They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support
C:        He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Note: Musical volume picks up as the band joins in

Congregation Sings: Verse, Verse & Chorus

– – –

Personally, I find God’s word read over a musical backdrop to be very powerful and effective.

Here’s some advice for the musicians to play in this type of format:

1. Keep the volume soft during the reading portions.
2. Choose songs that have a nice simple flow and that are not too complicated.  Songs with verses and choruses work well but avoid more  complicated pieces that also include bridges or other parts.
3. The Psalms are emotional and the mood of the music should be chosen to match the mood of the readings (heartfelt, anger, joy, sadness,  remorse, introspective, uplifting, confessional, etc.)
4. We limit our band to just the keyboard player to back up the readings and the full band joins in during the singing.  This helps to identify the exact point where the congregation is expected to join in with the singing.
5.  While you are playing during the reading; try to listen to the readings and let the tone of the readings shape the mood of the music (loud, soft, fast, slow, etc.).  Don’t be afraid to put a musical space (Selah) in your music to highlight some real powerful portions of the reading.

It’s interesting that music in scripture is sometimes associated with affecting people’s hearts.  We see this in 1 Chron. 25:1, 1 Sam. 10:5-6, 2 Kings 3:14-16, and Eph. 5:18-19.  Maybe the Spirit can use this form of musical accompaniment described above to cause your people to hear His words more intently.

We do need to be just a little careful here because we don’t want the music to be manipulative or to take center stage; after all, scripture does not need to be flavored by music.  But if done properly; with quiet, simple and beautiful music, you will find that this technique  can slow the pace of the readings and allow our busy minds to settle down a little – at least it does for me and others in my church as I’ve been told.

Lastly, as a musician, it is an honor to accompany the Word with song!


One thought on “The Psalm of the Day”

  1. Excellent advice my friend! Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom with us all. You are a blessing to the Church. I’m really excited to meet you and your wife in person tomorrow!


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