One of our directives for order of service in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is that a psalm should be sung in every worship service. The ARP Church has been diligent in keeping this directive for many years through use of The Bible Songs, a publication of the ARP Church. While The Bible Songs is no longer in print, it is still used in many of our churches, including our own, either for worship services or for other church functions.
Psalm singing is serious business! We have been commanded to sing multiple times throughout scripture, and to aid us, we have our own “song book” right in the middle of our Bibles! Since none of the original tunes exist, and few of us know Hebrew, their original language, serious attempts have been made throughout church history to do diligent translations and transliterations of these psalms, preserving as closely as possible their original meanings.
In the year 2011, the ARP Church, in cooperation with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, published a new psalter which you now know as the ARP Psalter. This carefully researched publication not only gives us metrical versions of all 150 psalms plus 55 pages of Bible Songs, but also is a great tool for education in how to make this a great tool for worship.
Included in this little blue book is a history of Psalm Singing in the ARP church, as well as all the other tools you would find in any good volume of hymnody and psalmody. The organization of this book can be a bit confusing to newcomers as well as to long-time psalm singers. Here are just a few of the things that might be helpful to you in getting to know your ARP Psalter:
- Pages 1-150 are directly correspondent to the Psalms 1-150. If you will look in your Table of Contents, you will see how they are organized.
- Longer psalms may actually be divided into sections, called A,B,C, etc. Psalm 119 uses A-W, corresponding to the use of the Hebrew alphabet in the actual psalm.
- Within the psalms, you will see little superscript numbers corresponding to the actual scripture verse of the psalm.
- Pages 151-206 are all Bible Songs
- Rather than titles such as are found in a hymnal, both psalms and Bible Songs are given a subject and a corresponding NT reference. (Ex. Psalm 95A has a subject “Come to the Lord and Sing for Joy.” Underneath the subject is the scripture reference Colossians 1:17. You can also see that this section covers Psalm 95:1-7. At the bottom of the page, you will see the source for the setting (left) and the tune that is used with its meter (right).
- Let me give you a word about meter. You will also find meter listed in every good hymnal. (ex. CM, LM). This allows us to find a familiar tune to use for a particular psalm when the given tune is unfamiliar. (I frequently use this!) On page 474, there is an index of familiar hymn tunes, one which even non-musicians can recognize.
This is just a brief introduction to the ARP Psalter. It has been carefully researched and referenced so that no copyright law infringement occurs. I encourage you to get to know it. The excellent Table of Contents will help you find all the things I have talked about and so much more.