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  • Julie Canlis

Psalm Singing During May

For the month of May, we will be singing one Psalm per week to kick off our services (in four-part harmony, I might add). And we want you to join us! Why are we doing this? Because the Psalms have a deep power (and history) in the role of spiritual formation. Jesus was formed by the Psalms. All our spiritual ancestors were formed by the Psalms - and many early expressions of church had the Psalms at the center of prayer and worship. We cannot, we must not lose this.

It is said of Augustine (of whom only "five million words have survived") that it is hard to know when he is quoting Scripture or just writing theology - because his theological imagination was so shaped by the words of Scripture (and especially the Psalms) that perhaps he himself did not know when he was thinking Scripturally or just quoting Scripture. Either way, I wish that I had the Psalms so deeply in my bones that I could not tell when I was quoting Scripture or thinking my own thoughts!

We see this priority of being shaped by the Psalms in the monastic structure for daily life. Monks left the pressure of all that they had to do (caring for the sick, living sustainably off the land, teaching and forming, offering hospitality to travelers, managing giant tracts of land, being spiritual directors for kings and princes) when they heard the bell, and gathered to pray the Psalms 6 times a day. (Wouldn't this rhythm alone help keep our work in its proper place?) And they did this because they were influenced by the earliest Christians who also gathered multiple times a day for daily prayer ... who themselves were influenced by synagogue Jews who also had times of daily immersion in the Psalms. (Remember Daniel, who was caught by his enemies precisely because he never deviated from his Jewish practice of set prayers three times daily?)

All this is to say that our spiritual ancestors believed that being immersed in the Psalms and their words was of profound importance. Not just a favorite Psalm here and there, but a regular bath in all the Psalms and their particular rhythms and cadence of prayer. Monks who gathered during the day (and often once in the night) to chant the Psalms made their way through all 150 Psalms every week, or 50+ times per year. The Psalms we are singing at the beginning of each service were arranged during the Reformation, when they carried forward this important practice - but instead of chanting the Psalms in Latin, they broke them up into four-part harmonies and sang them in the vernacular language. This was how early Protestant education spread - through the singing of the Psalms for those who might be illiterate. And this was core to the spirituality of the Reformers, particularly John Calvin who felt - when he read the Psalms - that he knew his own soul better than if he were to simply peer inside and be introspective. For this reason, he called the Psalms an anatomical handbook for understanding the soul.

Trinity Church has a long history of singing these Psalms, and even as we add new hymns (and worship choruses) to our repertoire, we want to stay rooted in this tradition of being bathed in the language of the Psalms. If you can read music, please print off Psalm 119 as we will be singing it this Sunday. Otherwise, just join the melody and have fun!


Upcoming Dates

Last Sunday, Pastor Matt walked us through the Path to Belonging during the service. Here's a few, specific next steps you could take today:

Catch a fresh vision of rest

New people at Trinity Church are invited to enter a 6-month season of Sabbath rest. Your only 'responsibility' is to ask questions, experience sacramental worship, and to begin knowing and being known. "Yes, but what does this look like?" Here's a short piece from Henri Nouwen that gives a unique picture of what it means to rest and receive. ... Pro tip: This is relevant for everyone, even if you're not new to Trinity!

Walk the Neighborhood with Pastor Matt(Mondays at noon)

Join Pastor Matt on a guided tour of our church's neighborhood, and ask questions about WHO you are in Christ, and WHERE you live…3 Mondays in May from 12:00-12:45pm. RSVP here.

Join an 8-week Godspeed Group (Tuesday nights at 7pm)

During this 8-week introductory small group, explore "The Pace of Being Known." Each time you'll watch a short video, reflect in community, and pray with Scripture. Starts May 11, goes till June 29. Only a few spots left! Sign up today.

Upcoming Dates

May 23: PENTECOST Stay tuned for plans for a mini-pilgrimage to Methow Park after church! May 30: CONFIRMATION Sunday with Bishop Ken Confirmation Service 6-8pm on Sunday Summer Plans: Backyard Church + Brunch Club Last Sunday of each month (June 27, July 25, August 29) More details to be announced.


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