Not a review – more a Psalmsingthing

The latest piece for BBC Radio Cornwall was to suggest a contemporary song that congregations could try to introduce into their worship. I went for the Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend version of Psalm 62: My Soul finds Rest in God Alone.

Psalm singing is a different experience for different people. It’s obviously been some people’s way of worship since the Old Testament Psalms began to appear thousands of years ago and, for the Anglican Church as an example, it was a standard practice by the 1800s.

However, for many Christians, the idea of chanting a Psalm just wouldn’t fit with their style.
But we are all familiar with settings of The Lord’s my Shepherd which is still probably the most popular funeral hymn, so versions of Psalms have been with us as hymns and songs for ages. In recent years, great new versions of Psalms have continued to come out as contemporary worship hymns and we’re going to look at one today.

My soul finds rest in God alone is a collaboration between writers Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend – and perhaps we ought to suggest King David from the Old Testament as well because the lyrics stick faithfully to Psalm 62, on which it’s based.

One of the reasons Psalm singing worked in church was that it was relatively easy to do, once you new the tricks. The song stays true to that as well. It’s written in the key of C with easy guitar chords so musically it is not too challenging; has the lilt of a Celtic folk song about it and uses repeating musical phrases to set up a familiar pattern for congregations.

So you see that if you have just one musician – keyboard or guitar – this is a perfectly singable hymn for a church. It’s a good hymn to use as you move into hearing the Bible passages read – even in place of a Psalm maybe – because it begins by reminding us that when we are in God’s presence we can be confident because he is trustworthy in all things.

In the original Hebrew the Psalm uses phrases like “truly” and “only” regularly with an emphasis on God’s uniqueness, stressing that our hope is only in him, even in the most difficult circumstances but also that if we put our hope in him he will be dependable, even when people and circumstances seem out to get us.

We and our enemies may only be “a fleeting breath”, says the Psalmist, but God has spoken a Covenant promise to be with his people.

The song reflects both the shape and substance of the Psalm and, if you have a full band, then the same song can have an added dimension to it.

Many contemporary songs have an added trick of slipping in a section of a familiar hymn and, in this one played live, Keyes and Townend lift part of All Creatures of our God and King to use as a bridge, so congregations who may still be wondering about this new version will suddenly find themselves singing “O Praise him, O praise him, hallelujah, hallelujah” to a tune they know before being brought back into the song.

If the test of singability is how long it takes you to be humming or whistling the melody line of a new song – I suggest this one will take root pretty quickly.
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