23 Jul 2021

Liturgy and archaic language

In light of the recent Motu Proprio of Pope Francis limiting the use of the extraordinary form of the Latin mass, I thought I would repost something I wrote for First Things a dozen years ago: Liturgy and archaic language. An excerpt:

I myself am of two minds about updating liturgical language. As an heir of the Reformation, I believe it is generally best for Christians to worship in a language they can easily understand. Even the most conservative protestant congregations have largely abandoned the King James Version of the Bible, substituting instead the New King James Version or possibly the English Standard Version. Most other churches now use the NIV or the NRSV. There is good reason for this, since we all should wish to see God’s word proclaimed in comprehensible form.

At the same time, it would be a pity if English-speakers were to lose their grasp of the Elizabethan forms altogether. Who would the Copts be if they were to lose their ancestral Coptic language? Or the Maronites without Aramaic? Without Church Slavonic would Russians be forced to change, say, the cities of Volgograd and Kaliningrad to Volgogorod and Kaliningorod, just so people could continue to understand their meaning?
Read the entire piece here.

Henry Ainsworth's Psalter

The Ainsworth Psalter is not well known today, even among aficionados of metrical psalmody. It was brought to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620 by the Pilgrims, separatists fleeing persecution in England who had previously fled to the Netherlands. It was published in 1612 and used a limited number of Genevan melodies to which all 150 Psalms were sung. It did not endure over the long term, and their descendants eventually adopted the Bay Psalm Book (1640) of the Puritans. Here is a brief lecture on the Ainsworth Psalter by Prof. R. Allen Lott of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

21 Jul 2021

Genevan Psalter project: interim report and what makes a strong melody

As I've written elsewhere, the Standford Reid Trust awarded me a grant to continue my decades-old Genevan Psalter project, with three principal aims:

  1. to order recording equipment;
  2. to record at least 15 of the Genevan Psalms to post on my YouTube channel; and
  3. to versify at least 30 Psalm texts so they can be sung to their proper Genevan tunes.

With the COVID-induced lockdowns ending only recently, I have not yet had the opportunity to shop for the needed equipment. However, I am making rapid progress on fitting the Psalms to their Genevan tunes, and I actually expect to complete all 150 Psalms within the year, which I had not anticipated when I wrote my proposal. This is why I have not posted here in a few weeks. I have come up with a rather effective method for doing this, and at present I now have only 31 Psalms remaining to be versified. Psalms 1-56 now stand completed, although I will continue to edit the collection once it is finished before seeking publication.