03 Feb 2009

What’s the most popular post in the illustrious history of Jack’s Pipe?

“Who cares?” you say. Now you be nice!

The most popular post in the history of Jack’s Pipe is this one. Two years after it was originally posted, it received 280 hits last month. Who woulda thunk it?

The credit for the post goes to the man whose writing I simply rearranged. Bill Mouser, take a bow. Your scribblings have undoubtedly blessed many, including me.

It’s kind of exciting because I like Anglicans very much. I love the music and the 1928 prayer book. I prefer the Thirty Nine Articles, J.C. Ryle and Church Society variety of Anglican to the Rowan Williams variety. I think Anglicans should’ve adopted the Westminster standards, but it’s probably time to let that go. I have a good friend who is Anglican. He sometimes laughs at me instead of with me, but I won’t hold that against the rest of you.

Psalm chanting (and no, this isn’t New Age chanting) is something all of God’s church could learn from our Anglican brethren. I don’t know of a better way to memorize the Psalms. I much prefer chants to the metrical Psalter because you read them right out of Scripture.

20 Jan 2009

We’ve seen the delight of blacks at Obama’s ascension, and it’s hard to not feel a tinge of happiness for them. They see this as something they could’ve hardly imagined at one time. Many perhaps now feel that they belong in this country, and that is a good thing. They’ve always belonged in my opinion. They’ve never been any better or worse than the rest of us knuckleheads (Gal. 3:28).

However, in their excitement blacks do not see that Barack Obama is an evil man. His views on abortion alone are sickening. Whether you think Iraq a just war (I do not), the total American soldiers dead over there are a day’s work at Planned Parenthood offices and other abortion mills. Add in civilian deaths and it’s maybe a month’s work.

Obama, if he proceeds on his current course, will fail miserably in “turning around the economy.” You can’t create prosperity through borrowing and spending at a national level any more than you create prosperity by borrowing and spending on a personal level. Savings and production are the very things Obama will continue to attack just as Bush did, only Obama will do it with more fervency. Although he and his supporters will complain that he received a bad deck from Bush if things should end up collapsing, Obama shares the same Keynesian roots as the rest of the Democratic establishment. He supports the same massive government that they and Bush do. He’s been part of the problem since he arrived in the Senate. He’ll just be the crook left holding the bag.

So, the question isn’t “Will Obama fail?” That’s pretty much a given. The question is “What will his failure look like?” I’m guessing (and of course that’s all it is) it could go in one of two ways:

1. The bloom will be off the rose within a year or two and an alienated people will wonder what on earth they were thinking. The Republicans, whose one big idea of economic merit — tax cuts — has been been successfully (if not properly) co-opted by Obama, may benefit. Or, at long last, perhaps a coalition will come to the front that will finally make drastic cuts in spending and destroy the Fed to allow for a sustainable economy.

2. Worsening conditions will lead to more crisis measures, with Obama’s popularity staying high (similar to FDR’s fascist regime of the 1930s) with the help of a complaisant news and pop culture media. If this happens, expect a dramatic lessening of economic freedoms. Expect this to extend into social spheres: we already know what liberals think about the church’s views on sodomy. Free speech will be attacked in many ways. Collapse or war may be the end of this big game of Don’t Break the Ice that the government is playing. The greater the house built on sand, the greater its fall. Nock put it well:

A dozen empires have already finished the course that ours began three centuries ago. The lion and the lizard keep the vestiges that attest their passage upon earth, vestiges of cities which in their day were as proud and powerful as ours – Tadmor, Persepolis, Luxor, Baalbek … The sites which now bear Narbonne and Marseilles have borne the habitat of four successive civilizations, each of them, as St. James says, even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. The course of all these civilizations was the same. Conquest, confiscation, the erection of the State; then the sequences which we have traced in the course of our own civilization; then the shock of some irruption [internal collapse] which the social structure was too far weakened to resist, and from which it was left too disorganized to recover; and then the end. -Our Enemy, the State, ch. 6, p.144

10 Apr 2008

[I]f we were to examine a worship service to see if the Holy Spirit were active in it, what would we be looking for? In the current rage for expressive and spontaneous worship, most people look for the Spirit’s presence in the style of song, the emotions and posture of worshipers, and whether people feel blessed upon leaving the service. But this reflects a radical misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit, as if the Spirit is involved with only the experiential or emotional aspects of the Christian life. In fact, the bible teaches that the principal work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the truth of God. … [T]he purpose of the revelatory work of the Spirit is to yield proper understanding, not warm feelings. This means that a Spirit-filled worship service will be one that conforms to the revelation of the Bible.

Looking at the work of the Holy Spirit this way means that so-called traditional worship, as opposed to contemporary forms, has the greatest claim to being Spirit-filled. This statement will likely startle many readers because worship in the Calvinist tradition has not been known for its zeal and intimacy. Instead, the words cold, formal, and stodgy come to mind most often. … Yet this impression reveals how much contemporary Protestant thinking equates the work of the Spirit with emotions, not with understanding and believing the Bible. It also shows how much contemporary Protestant thought has separated the work of the Spirit from the teaching of God’s Word. -D.G. Hart, from Recovering Mother Kirk, “Spirit-Filled Worship”

01 Sep 2007

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, -Eph 6:17

In his latest post, Pastor Ron Gleason has a (sadly) witty anecdote:

More often than not a number of pragmatic reasons are put forward when it comes to choosing a local congregation for the family or individual. … Topping the list is almost invariably the statement that the music is great. … The music is loud, contemporary, upbeat, and cutting edge. Hands are raised and people sway back and forth with their eyes closed. I made a startling discovery at the Chattanooga, TN PCA General Assembly. You might not know this, so it is worth passing along for your spiritual edification. Here’s what I discovered: the Holy Spirit doesn’t move or work when you sing psalms. It is patently true. I was once a skeptic myself, but the GA that year removed all shadow of a doubt. I know empirically. Prior to our worship service one evening we sang a number of praise songs. Actually, the others sang, because I simply didn’t know them and I couldn’t keep up with when we were going to sing the same verse again — for the eighth time– and when we were going to sing the bridge, and…well, you get the point. As some of the people sang, eyes were closed, hands were raised, and there was a lot of swaying back and forth in near ecstasy. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not put off or out if people do that. But here’s where my discovery came —ich ben aufgeklärt!— when we finally got around to singing a psalm all the eyes opened, the hands when down, and the swaying ceased. I suppose that people thought that the Holy Spirit was watching and didn’t like what looked like dancing. After all, this was a gathering of Presbos.

So much for the Spirit working through the Word. This is a mystical age. We have all heard endlessly that faith isn’t mere assent. Right on. But if the three components of faith — knowledge, assent/agreement, and trust — form a three-legged stool, and you throw out the leg of knowledge… You’ll still end up on the floor.

29 Mar 2007

Liturgy is the greatest single barrier to ecumenism. Church members look upon another tradition’s liturgy and shudder. “If I wanted to be a [Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, etc.], I’d have joined a [Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, etc.] Church!” On the one hand, the presence of a familiar liturgy keeps men from departing, even in the face of a major shift in theology in the pulpit. The liberals in Presbyterianism and the other mainline churches could be confident that if they were careful to avoid the rhetoric of confrontation, their parishioners would rarely defect. Liturgy would keep them in their pews until death did them part. This proved to be the case. On the other hand, this very liturgical commitment has kept ecumenists from being able to consummate Church union except with other denominations with the same liturgical tradition. For example, the Presbyterians never succeeded in joining with the Episcopalians, although this was attempted. The Episcopalians would not “move down” liturgically. -Gary North, Crossed Fingers, Ch.14

06 Jan 2007

And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. -Judges 2:10

Matt Timmons is the fine pastor of Covenant Reformed Fellowship, a PCA church in Ashland, OH. This short article on family worship, from his just-launched personal blog, is well worth a read.

03 Jan 2007

And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). -Deut 31:21a

Consider this: How many prose readings can you quote by heart? Now, how many songs can you sing by heart? Probably far more. The marriage of words to music lends itself to memorization.

The Psalms were originally intended to be sung, and are still primarily sung in some traditions. So why not memorize them through music?

We tried the Presbyterian Trinity Psalter during our devotions, but our, uh, devotion to a metrical Psalter cooled quickly. It just isn’t the real thing. Also, it is set to other songs. It was difficult to memorize a Psalm set to “Amazing Grace” since we have already attached words to that melody. Searching for a solution to this predicament, I found an article about chanting, but failed to click with its instructions.

Enter one of my favorite Anglicans, Fr. Bill Mouser. He wrote a brief comment elsewhere about Anglican chant. A personal query prompted a kind response, edited and reprinted below with his permission.

Before getting to that, note that me and my wife, as guinea pigs who knew nothing about chanting prior to this, learned the basic gist of it in a few hours. We have since memorized Psalm 1. You can “roll your own” melodies, or find available ones for each Psalm from Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. sources. We are going through the Psalms in order, using melodies from Psalms from St. Paul’s, Vol. 1: Psalms 1-17 (a Hyperion 12-CD box set of all 150 Psalms is available as “The Psalms of David: the Complete St. Paul’s Cathedral Psalter.” I’ve seen it new on Ebay and in the Amazon Marketplace for under $110). We like chanting because it truly is portable between Bible versions–we prefer the ESV– and we haven’t heard these melodies before, so they lack lyrical association. The chants are novice-friendly, too. As Fr. Mouser puts it:

A choirmaster with oodles of musical talent at his disposal might scoff. I couldn’t care less, for what I’ve sent you is for the denizens of the pews, to enable them to know the joys of singing God’s word. As with anything, there are embellishments, refinements, and intricacies that are worth the time for those with time to invest in them. But, ordinary folks usually don’t have the talent or time for that. This may be one reason the skill has vanished; it got co-opted by the experts, making the ordinary folks think it’s beyond them… [T]his primer is for the simple folk.

Without further ado, his instructions. Enjoy.


One thing that has fascinated me since I picked up the practice of chanting the Psalms is the knowledge that this is how they were composed to be sung. Hebrew poetry is not metrical. The Psalms are not metrical. But, the psalms are musical. In other words, they were sung. And, they were often, maybe usually, sung to stringed instruments eg. harps. That means there ought to be a style of guitar performance that recaptures — at least in outline — the original performance dynamics of the Hebrew Psalter. I’ll pick this up again, when I get to one of the distinctives of Anglican chant: it’s chordal characteristics.

Here are the topics I’ll explain in order:

1. Music and words in conventional singing
2. Music and words in chanting
3. What is the structure of a chant?
4. What is pointing?
5. How do they go together? (with examples)
6. Modes and Harmonies in Anglican chant
7. The Gloria Patri
8. The Genius of Anglican Chant


Singing is the union of words and melody. I can speak the words “row, row, row your boat; gently down the stream.” Or I can sing them to the tune you know so well. All you do by singing is to unite the words to a melody.

Melody in the west is more than a series of notes. It is a series of notes with attached durations for each of them and a rhythm.

Some tones in “Row, row, row, your boat” have durations different from other notes in the melody.

“Row, row, row, your boat” has a duple [two-part] rhythm. You could march to it, but you could not waltz to it. On the other hand, the hymn “Amazing Grace” has a triple rhythm. You could waltz to it, but not march to it.

Ninety-nine percent of all folk singing (popular songs, hymns, rounds, etc.) have either duple or triple rhythms in their melodies.

Finally, melodies have determinate numbers of notes in the same sequence. After they are sung, the song is over, or the next verse of the song is sung, which verse is melodically repeated.

People ordinarily do not sing mere notes; they unite them to words. A song is a union of words and melody. But, in conventional singing in the west, you cannot just any old words may be united with a melody. This is because of two things:

* A melody can be, and usually is, conceived apart from any words that attach to the melody in a song. We hum the melodies of the songs we sing. The melodies rattle around in our heads without the words — just the melody.
* A simple melody, including the melodies of songs, is often a feature of western musical art that stands on its own wholly apart from any words attached to it to make a song. So, Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky, or Dvorak, or Copeland wrote entire symphonies around the melodies of folk songs, never needing once to incorporate the words into their compositions.

For these and other reasons (though these reasons are sufficient), whenever melody and words are united in conventional singing, it is the melody that determines which words are united to it. The melody imposes limits on what words may be used.

To see how this is so, sing these words to the conventional melody:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Now, sing the following to the same melody:

Row, row, row your flat-bottomed boat,
Gently down the trout-filled stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a fisherman’s dream.

Doesn’t work, right? Why not? Because the words don’t fit. There’s too many syllables to fit comfortably into the melody. And, if we alter the melody to accommodate the words, the melody is not the same melody– the notes may be the same, and in the same order, but their durations and rhythm are disturbed.

This is the origin of the so-called “metric Psalter.” You cannot sing any English translation of the 23rd Psalm to any melody. Instead, you must rewrite the Psalm text in a metrical form and put that to music. For an example, see here where you can see one rewrite of Psalm 23 and links which will generate two different melodies (midi files).

Again, the reason one cannot sing the English Psalter in any conventional way is this: the translation is made with no thought of meter in mind. But, conventional singing melodies are metrical. Consequently, the English Psalter, if it is to be sung conventionally, must be rewritten, to produce words that will scan correctly with the various melodies to which they might be united. Here is a comprehensive example of this project.

So far, nothing has been said about Anglican chant. But what I have said above is helpful to keep in mind, so that you can understand what Anglican chant is not, how it differs from conventional singing, and how you must think differently about singing when singing Anglican chant.


Anglican chant is a form of singing, a union of melody and words. It differs from the singing described above in this way: the words control the music.

Notes: An Anglican chant melody is a series of notes– a very few notes, in fact. Almost all Anglican chants have ten notes. A few have eleven notes (but they are used as if they were only ten notes, as will be explained later).

Note duration: the reason we say that the words control the melody is this: the duration of any note is determined by the words. Words are assigned to notes by a marks in the text called “pointing marks,” explained below. For now, know this: notes take their duration from the text. And, so, every repetition of the chant melody will have different durations to every note in the melody. The only constant in the melody will be the sequence of notes. The sequence will be the same every time the melody is sung.

Rhythm: As you might suppose from the above, there is no rhythm in Anglican chant. There may be the perception of rhythm in any line of a psalm that is sung to Anglican chant, but this sense of rhythm is coming from the cadence of the text, not some sort of meter in the ordinary sense of that word.

The best pace and cadence for an Anglican chant is the pace and cadence of audible reading. In fact, when choirs are learning a new chant, one of the first things they will do is speak the words together repeatedly, until everyone feels and reproduces the same cadence at an ordinary reading/speaking pace. Next, they will sing the same text on a monotone, again striving to develop a unity of pace/diction/cadence for the lines of the text. Finally, they will add the actual notes of the chant, striving to keep the pace and cadence that was present when they were simply reading it in unison.


A chant is a series of ten notes. They are divided into two phrases. Phrase one of a chant is four notes long; phrase two of a chant is six notes long. Once these notes have been sung, the chant is repeated– the same notes, in the same order.

The texts for chants are, of course, the verses of the English Psalter. In general (there are exceptions), a verse of a Psalm is assigned to one iteration of the chant. Since a chant has two parts, so also the text of a verse is divided into two parts.

The first half of a verse in a psalm is assigned to the notes of the first half of the chant (i.e. the phrase that has four notes). The second half of a verse in a psalm is assigned to the notes of the second phrase of the psalm, the phrase that has six notes.

In some texts of Psalms, you will see an asterisk in the middle of the verse. This is one way that a psalm is “pointed” (see below). All you can tell from this is that the first half of a chant (the four note phrase) goes with everything before the asterisk; and everything after the asterisk goes with the six notes.

Here are the key ideas about chant structure:

All chants and all pointed texts sung to chants have the same structure:
Two phrases, musical and textual
Four notes sung with the first half of the text verse
Six notes sung with the second half of the text verse
Repeat the chant as many times as necessary to get through the Psalm text.


The chunks of a chant are easy to recognize: they are the individual tones of the melody, grouped into two phrases, four notes to the first phrase, six notes to the second phase.

But, how do we know how to recognize the corresponding chunks of a verse from a Psalm which is sung to the chant? We know this by marks placed in the text, marks which are called points.

In its simplest form, pointing involves placing marks in the text of a verse, marks which do two things: (1) they mark the place where the Psalm verse is divided into two parts, each of them corresponding to the two phrases of the chant; and (2) they mark the point at which the text is sung to the next note in the melody of the chant.

Here is Psalm 1:1-2, as it is sung by those on that CD you mentioned, pointed for singing to the Anglican chant that they are using on that CD, an Anglican chant evidently composed by Edward Elgar, composer of one of my symphonic favorites The Enigma Variations:

1Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly
Nor stood in the | way | of | sinners *
And hath not | sat | in the | seat | of the | scornful

2But his delight is in the | law | of the | Lord *
And in his law will he | exercise | him- | self | day and | night.

If you are able to play the recording of this Psalm (do you have the CD? Can you rip off just the singing of these two verses and play them over and over in a loop?), you can follow along, noting where the singers change notes, and you will see that they change notes at the places where there is a vertical [ | ] bar inserted into the text.

A couple of additional notes:

It is fairly common that in each half-verse and its corresponding musical phrase, most of the text will be assigned to the first note of the musical phrase, no matter whether it is the first four-note phrase, or the subsequent six-note phrase. For this reason, the first note of each phrase is often referred to as the “reciting note,” and the remaining notes of the phrase are referred to collectively as the “inflecting notes.”

Sometimes, notes in the inflection parts of the phrase have a syllable per note, or a multi-syllable word per note, or more than one word per note.

In principle there is no “right way” to point a text, but for purposes of congregational singing and collecting pointed texts into collections for use by a congregation, it is common (or, it used to be common) to find collections of pointings for Psalms. Of course, with the multiplication of English translations, there is an accompanying need to produce a pointed Psalter for each of the translations. For example, below are the same verses in several versions, each of them pointed to be sung to the same chant you have on this CD for Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the | way | of | sinners, *
nor | sitteth | in the | seat | of the | scornful.

2 But his delight is in the | law | of the | LORD; *
and in his law doth he | medi- | tate | day | and | night.

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor standeth in the | way | of | sinners, *
Nor | sitteth | in the | seat | of | scoffers:

2 But his delight is in the | law | of Je- | hovah; *
And on his law doth he | medi- | tate | day | and | night.

If, after repeated listening and singing along with the CD you are able to memorize the chant, you can then give a try at singing the various translations of Psalm 1:1-2 to the same chant. They are all pointed to that they have the right number of chunks, in the right order, to guide you in assigning the notes to the relevant portions of the text.

Though I gave a few examples of pointing a psalm text before singing it, I did not actually discuss how to make the various decisions one makes when pointing a text. And, unless the New King James is simply unsatisfactory for you, I have already pointed almost the entirety of that version of the Psalms (we use the NKJV in our parish worship). So, you would not need to point much of anything; I’d be happy to send you all the psalms I have pointed.

Also, I have not addressed your question as to the chants on the CD you mentioned. I have only listened to a couple of them (the snippets available at Amazon). The chant for Psalm 1 is most certainly an Anglican chant. In fact, it’s a single chant. One other I listened to is a double-chant. There is likely a triple chant lurking in the CD somewhere, and perhaps something that isn’t even Anglican chant. At any rate, I haven’t even raised those ideas yet (they’re simple to understand, once you’ve well digested what I did send your way).


That is, how do the chants and the pointed texts go together?

The examples just above give the first illustration of how they fit. Since the chant has ten pieces (i.e. notes) divided into two groups (four and six), and the text has been marked so that it has the same number of pieces and groups, then putting them together is simply making a one-to-one correspondence between the pieces of the chant and the pointed text.

It’s best to try this by learning the chant first, until it is memorized. This should not take long, say a minute or so. Really. If you can pick out the notes on a piano, or a toy xylophone, and sing along, the memorization will come quickly.

One man taught his fellows a chant quickly by having them sing a nonsense line to it, thusly:

Strawberry | one | two | three *
Strawberry | one | two | three | four | five

If this were all there was to it, Anglican chant would be simple enough for chimps. But, it’s got a couple of variations which are dandy for variety, interest, and beauty.

Let’s first consider double chants. These are two different chants stuck together. Each chant has exactly the structure of any chant, but when they are grouped together and sung, you sing the first verse of the Psalm to chant A, the second verse to chant B, the third verse to chant A, the fourth to chant B, and so on through the Psalm.

Why do this? Well, some chants are sooo simple that to repreat them over and over and over becomes monotonous. If we add a second chant, especially when they sound good one after the other, then there is much less chance for a sense of monotony. In fact, most double chants are composed so that the first chant seems to “call” (in a musical sense) for an answer, and the second chant supplies it, providing a satisfying sense of closure and completion.

But, this can lead to a problem. Double chants work just fine when the verses chanted are even in number (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.). But what happens when you have a Psalm with an odd number of verses, as in Psalm 8? If you begin with chant A and simply alternate, you’ll end with chant A, and this will usually be unsatisfactory in a musical sense.

So, what you do is select a place in the Psalm where two successive verses are both chanted to the second chant. The verse which gets this sort of treatment is preceded by the notation 2nd. Here is the NKJV text of Psalm 11, with the half-measure marks and other points already supplied:

1 In the LORD I | put | my | trust; *
How can you say to my soul, | “Flee as | a | bird to | your | mountain?”

2 For look! The wicked | bend | their | bow, *
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly | at | the | upright | in | heart.

3 If the foun- | dations are | des- | troyed, *
What | can | the | right- | eous | do?

4 The LORD is in His | ho- | ly | temple, *
The LORD’s throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids | test | the | sons | of | men.

5 The LORD | tests | the | righteous, *
But the wicked and the | one who | loves | violence His | soul | hates.

6 Upon the wicked | He will | rain | coals; *
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
| Shall be | the | portion of | their | cup.

7 For the | LORD | is | righteous, *
He loves righteousness;
His | countenance | be- | holds | the | upright.

The best place to repeat the second chant is at a place in the psalm where the verse that gets the repeat is closely tied in sense to the verse preceding it. What constitutes “closely tied” is a close call, sometimes. Many different things can tie the sense of a verse to the one preceding it.

There are two places where one might repeat the second chant. One of them is at verse 3. where the despairing question in this verse is a natural consequence of the alarming lament in verse 2. A second place would be verse 7, because it begins with “For” which signals that verse 7 is expressing a ground or basis for the statement of verse 6.

If we were to take the first possibility, the pointing would look like this:

1 In the LORD I | put | my | trust; *
How can you say to my soul, | “Flee as | a | bird to | your | mountain?”

2 For look! The wicked | bend | their | bow, *
They make ready their arrow on the string,
That they may shoot secretly | at | the | upright | in | heart.
3 If the foun- | dations are | des- | troyed, *
What | can | the | right- | eous | do?

That notation “2nd” just before verse 3 tells us to sing verse 3 to the second chant, just as we have just done with verse 2.

If we take the second possibility, the last verses of the Psalm are pointed as follows:

5 The LORD | tests | the | righteous, *
But the wicked and the | one who | loves | violence His | soul | hates.

6 Upon the wicked | He will | rain | coals; *
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
| Shall be | the | portion of | their | cup.
7 For the | LORD | is | righteous, *
He loves righteousness;
His | countenance | be- | holds | the | upright.

A word, now, about an embellishment which is only an embellishment. Some Anglican chants have eleven notes, rather than ten. Doesn’t that screw everything up?

No. The extra note is always sung with the tenth note and both of them are assigned to the last chunk of text in the second line of the verse. In other words, the text which is sung to the tenth note in a ten-note chant is sung to both tenth and eleventh notes in an eleven-note chant. In other words, one does not need a differently pointed text to use an eleven-note chant.


“Modes” refer to any of certain fixed arrangements of the diatonic tones of an octave, such as the major and minor scales of Western music. The major and minor scales of Western music are only two of many possible modes. Gregorian chant might use any of these additional modes, as would Byzantine chant, or Mozarabic chant. Anglican chant (in my experience, anyway) uses only the Western major and minor scales, though they might be used in any of the keys possible with these scales.

So what?

Well, in the tradition of Western music (including church music), a variety of moods have become attached to the major and minor scales. Major keys are generally happy, or bright, or triumphant, or romantic, or jolly. Minor keys are used to signal a host of “dark moods” — danger, sorrow, longing, fear, or anger. Consequently, when committing a number of chants to memory, for use in singing the Psalms, it is good to have several minor key chants as well as major key chants in one’s repertoire.

If you begin chanting through the Psalter, you will be amazed at the number of laments. These Psalms, if they are sung to major key chants, will sound ridiculous. It will be like singing “A Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down” at a funeral. Minor key chants are also very stirring when used with imprecatory Psalms, or Psalms of confession of sin.

If you have a nimble ear for major and minor modes, it is often a simple matter to sing a major key chant in minor key. Once in a while, this produces something really weird sounding, but usually not. I have found that going the opposite direction (singing a chant composed in minor key to a major key) more often produces something inane or hysterically comic. So, if you want to build your repertoire of minor key chants, either learn them straight, or transpose them from chants originally written in major key.

As far as harmonies go, Anglican chant is distinguished by being written as four-part harmonies. They do not need to be sung as harmonies; an individual may sing them a capella during the daily office, or while digging in the garden. Or, a group may sing them a capella in unison. This unison singing of an Anglican chant may also be accompanied by an organ, guitar, or other instrument which has a sustaining tone that can mimic the duration of a sung tone. But, if enough persons are available to sing in parts, the effect is hauntingly beautiful. It should also be noted here that the voices in Anglican chant all move together: everyone changes note at the same time, as in barber-shop quartet music.


On the CDs and any other time you hear a Psalm sung to Anglican chant, you will notice that every Psalm concludes with these chanted lines:

Glory be to the Father, and | to | the | Son *
And | to | the | Ho- | ly | Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and e- | ver | shall be*
World without end. | A- | a- | a- | a- | men.

The attachment of this couplet to the singing of any Psalm from the Psalter is very ancient, well before the Fourth Century. It originates during the time when the early Church was fighting against Jewish polemicists against the Christian faith.

One of the most common challenges from the Jews is that the Christians had stolen and perverted the revelation of God to the Jews in the Old Testament. They charged the Christians with hypocrisy to use the Old Testament as Scripture but to repudiate the Second Temple Judaism which claimed exclusive ownership of the Scriptures and any religion based on it.

Christian apologists had plenty to say in return, of course. But, one thing they began to do was to add the lines we know as the Gloria Patri at the conclusion of every singing of every Psalm in the Psalter. It was their very in-your-face way of expressing in their worship that the Psalms were the revelation of God the Father, in the person of His Son, by the power of His Spirit.

You might, I suppose, decline to follow your ancient brothers in the faith on this point. I follow them gladly, and I hope you will too. It is a simple, emphatic, and reasonable expression of solidarity with the Body of Christ in its earliest struggles to affirm and embrace the trinitarian faith embedded in the Psalter.


I know you have been impressed, and rightly so, with the beauty of the Psalter sung to Anglican chants. I trust you will also learn that the technique is so simple and straightforward that you’ll be asking yourself “Why doesn’t everyone sing the Psalms like this?” That’s a very good question, and I don’t have an answer.

Anglican chant is so simple and accessible that anyone can do it. And once you get the knack, you discover that any Psalm pointed for Anglican chant can be sung to any Anglican chant that is ever written, so long as it is truly an Anglican chant.

Fr. Mouser has used this in a ministry he tentatively calls “Men at Worship.” He teaches men to compose their prayers in collect form, then to follow a simplified liturgy of Scripture reading, Psalm singing, and prayer. “The very Protestant, utterly non-liturgical men I have taught this to have taken to it like ducks to water, confirming my suspicions that this form of communal prayer is peculiarly compatible with and edifying to the masculine soul.”

12 Aug 2006

The task of the preacher is to show Christ to his audience. For precisely this reason, some churches have a plaque fastened to the pulpit just below the open Bible and visible only to the preacher. The plaque has the words, “Sir, we want to see Jesus” (John 12:21). The average member of a congregation listens to the preacher only on Sunday, during the worship service. He comes not to hear views on a number of topics that may or may not relate to his life; he has come to meet Jesus. And he meets Jesus through the faithful exposition of the Scriptures. The preacher must be a workman ‘who correctly handles the word of truth’ (II Timothy 2:15, NIV) and opens the Word for his audience. The old adage is worth repeating: Expound the Scriptures, Exhort the sinner, Exalt the Savior” -Simon Kistemaker, Commentary on Acts, verses 8:30-33

25 Jun 2006

One thing you hear, usually from supporters of contemporary worship, is that Luther adapted tavern songs for use in the church. Not so (and the same apparently goes for the Wesleys). According to Dr. Peter Masters of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle:

Promoters of new worship love to quote Luther as saying, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?” What they do not tell their hearers is that Luther was talking about Catholic church music, not tavern songs. He was not interested in stealing from the world around him. If, rarely, a secular melody was used, it was very greatly changed, and what else would we expect from the Reformer who wrote:

“Take special care to shun perverted minds who prostitute this lovely gift of nature and of art with their erotic rantings. And be quite assured that none but the devil goads them on to defy their very nature. . . . They purloin the gift of God and use it to worship the foe of God.”

Luther clearly believed that music was to be identified with its source and users. It was the world of those days that stole from the church to obtain a melody line for a bawdy bar song, but not the other way round. …

Does evangelical worship reinvent itself every few decades by adopting new hymn and musical forms, controversial at first, but soon becoming the status quo? Yes, answer the glib advocates of new worship. But let any reader just visit the second-hand bookshop in town, and pick out old hymnbooks. There may be eighteenth-century books there. As you take them up and examine them, you may be surprised to see how many of the hymns are familiar to you. These form the backbone of conservative hymnbooks to this day. … This is because the church of Christ has long had its very own culture of hymns and hymn tunes, formed to suit reverent, intelligent, heartfelt praise, and kept well apart from the world of profanity.

25 May 2006

Some funny satire. “Day by Day…”

Isn’t leaving your church over pews kind of old school, though?

18 Apr 2006

With which of the following statements do you most agree?

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”

“Away from [the church] one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.”

For the average evangelical Christian, the first statement may lack some balance, but the second sounds downright Romish. If this describes your reaction, then your ecclesiology is closer to the author of the first, Lenny Bruce, than to the author of the second, John Calvin (Institutes, 4.1.4).

Here we have a very helpful article on the forgotten Reformation doctrine of sola ecclesia. It is a balm in an individualistic culture that increasingly despises “organized religion.” It shows the link between the kingdom of God and the church.

Gospel means “good news”… Popularly, people believe the good news is different things: Jesus dying for sin, grace, justification, adoption, reconciliation, and peace with God… But biblically, the good news is the good news of the kingdom of God/heaven. The things mentioned above are implications of the coming of the kingdom. Biblically, the response is to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom has come in Christ… Once we understand that the gospel is about the kingdom, we must ask ourselves, What is the kingdom of God? … At its most basic level, the kingdom is the reign and rule of God, administered through Jesus Christ. The good news is that this kingdom has been brought to bear through Christ. Seeing the unbreakable connection between gospel and kingdom, we also see how Christ’s roles as Savior and Lord are inseparable. To repent and believe the gospel is to acknowledge Christ as King, to submit one’s will to his, and to be ruled over by him in his dispensation of mercy, justice, and love. But how does Christ rule over his kingdom? How does he administer his kingship? He does so through the church, to which he has given the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19), the gifts of office (Eph. 4:8-13), his own Shepherd’s voice in the preaching of the Word (Rom. 10:14, 17), his faithful Shepherd’s care (1 Pet. 5:1-5), and the means of grace (Acts 2:42). To be outside the church is to be at odds with Christ’s rule, his protection, provision, and tender discipline.

01 Apr 2006

“I would say his acceptance of the Mohicans of the time is similar to my inclusion of gay- lesbian -bisexual- transgendered people now,” Janet Edwards said.

That non sequitur is from this descendant of Jonathan Edwards… Perhaps it won’t be too surprising that she is a priestess in the Presbyterian Church USA.

Ms. Edwards receives support from another seminarian, an Edwards “scholar,” no less.

…Jonathan Edwards scholar Amy Plantiga Pauw, a doctrinal theology professor at Louisville (Ky.) Presbyterian Seminary, calls Janet Edwards’ argument persuasive. “There is a kind of parallel — Jonathan Edwards was not afraid to challenge so-called respectable Christians of his time,” Pauw said.

Banal political-speak aside, this quote reminds me of an interview with a Duke graduate with a degree in religion. Asked what he learned in his four years, he replied that it boiled down to one thing: all religions are the same.

Learned, but never learning.

26 Mar 2006

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a church that shields George Tiller. And then there’s this ludicrous blasphemy (hat tip: Rev. Paul McCain).

17 Mar 2006

In “Guarding the Holy Fire,” Roger Steer relates this tale of Parson William Grimshaw (1708-63):

Grimshaw’s dress was plain, even shabby at times. Often he only had one coat and one pair of shoes. He ate plain food and hated any form of waste. Picture the scene in one of his services. He is short but well built, robustly healthy and with sharp eyes. Before the prayers he casts a searching eye over every man, woman and child in church. If he sees anyone lounging forward rather than kneeling, he rebukes the offender by name. If he sees a stray dog in the church, he chases it out himself…

After the Third Collect, he may engage in extempore prayer, addressing the almighty with a fervor which suggest to his congregation that he has been walking closely with God. Then he ensures that the Psalm before the sermon is a long one, for at this point he has important business to perform.

He takes his tout riding stick from the vestry well and marches out of the church. He looks around to see if any lazy parishioners are idling their time in the churchyard, the street, or one of the four alehouses within a stone’s throw of the church. If he finds any, he rounds them up and drives them into church.

A friend of John Newton’s, passing one of the alehouses on a Sunday, saw several people jumping out of the windiows and leaping over a low wall just beyond, and thought the building must be on fire.

“What’s the cause of the commotion?” he asked.

“Parson Grimshaw’s coming!” they shouted.

John Newton himself, who sometimes visited Haworth, noted that the villagers were more afraid of Grimshaw than the Justice of the Peace, but added that “his reproof was so authoritative and yet so mild and friendly, that the stoutest sinner could not stand before him.”

14 Mar 2006

Tim Ware notes a detail of 17th century Russian court life.

[Worship] Services lasting seven hours or more were attended by the Tsar and the whole Court… The children were not excluded from these rigorous observances. ‘What surprised us most was to see the boys and little children…standing bareheaded and motionless, without betraying the smallest gesture of impatience.’


27 Dec 2005

This profound writing on worship by Pastor Jeffrey Meyers is one of the most thought-provoking I’ve read in some time. Among other things, it:

Recommends a specific order of worship following the OT steps of cleansing (confession of sin), consecration (hearing of the Word), and communion. The last half of the article recommends a specific liturgy similar to this one (note, btw, a similar pattern in the Lutheran service).

Even though this dimension of biblical worship has been almost totally neglected in our own tradition (the emphasis instead being on the ‘elements’ of worship), I believe that discovering the biblical order or sequence of man’s approach to God in the service may be the key to resurrecting a powerful Bible-based liturgy in our churches. [And speaking of liturgy…] It is no compliment to say that a church is a non-liturgical church. It is the same thing as saying it is a church that gives little thought to how it worships God.

Discusses worship as call and response. As with salvation, God acts and we respond.

We cannot approach God as disinterested, self-sufficient beings. We are created beings. Dependent creatures… Our receptive posture is as ineradicable as our nature as dependent creatures. We must be served by Him. Recognizing this is true spirituality… We come as those who receive first and then, second, only in reciprocal exchange do we give back what is appropriate as grateful praise and adoration…Much of what goes by contemporary worship has evacuated the Sunday service of God’s service to man! It’s all about what we do. The reduction of Christian worship to “praise” and “giving worth to God” by well-intentioned pastors desirous of purging the church of superficial worship forms will only continue to feed the very thing that they oppose…

Notes the importance of congregational participation.

The reformers to a man, especially Luther and Calvin, sought to correct the late medieval distortions of worship by restoring congregational participation… The principle manifestation… takes place…as the congregation prays, praises, and communes with God.The pastor does not worship for them as a proxy; the people worship as the pastor leads them…

Recommends weekly communion (it is, after all, a means of grace!).

The Reformers…all sought to reintroduce weekly Communion at every Lord’s Day service.

Defends composed prayers, noting also that hymns are “pre-composed prayers.”

When the Apostle John was privileged to observe heavenly worship…he saw an orderly, formal service performed by angels, living beings, and the twenty-four elders…They repeated various rituals and ritual responses (Rev 4:9-11). They alternated responses antiphonally. They sang hymns in unison. The fell down together… and they jointly receited prayers…that must have been pre-composed and memorized. How else would they have all prayed (or sun) simultaneously?… I believe, practically speaking, that it is easier to prayer sincerely when one actually takes up a written prayer on one’s lips, than when one merely listens to another person pray. Surely it is easier to daydream when one is listening- eyes closed- to another pray than when one concentrates on praying a printed prayer.

Defends practices like kneeling.

I always chuckle a little inside whenever I call the congregation to worship on Sunday morning using Psalm 95:6, “Oh, come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” And then, what do we do after I read those words? We stand up!

After initially reading this article, my wife and I attended a Christmas concert at a Greek Orthodox church. As we listened I paged through their liturgy book, noting with interest the similarities between its liturgy and those in “high” Reformational churches. There are serious differences between the Orthodox and Protestants (e.g. iconoclasm, sola Scriptura), but would one find more Biblical elements residing in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy than in the service at your average evangelical church? How many evangelical churches even have a weekly, corporate confession of sin? Or a regular Bible reading?

27 Nov 2005

As Christmas season approaches, can I recommend a favorite hymn? It is How Lovely Shines the Morning Star an adaptation of the German “Wie Schon Leuchtet Der Morgenstern.” Alas, it is hard to find but ITunes does have a fine German version by James Schaffran available. The shorter version provides the basic melody, but get both of them. Here are a few verses from this sublime hymn. O, that modern music had this depth of Biblical imagery!

How lovely shines the Morning Star!
The nations see and hail afar
The light in Judah shining.
Thou David’s Son of Jacob’s race,
My Bridegroom and my King of Grace,
For Thee my heart is pining.
Lowly, Holy,
Great and glorious,
Thou victorious
Prince of graces,
Filling all the heavenly places.


Now richly to my waiting heart,
O Thou, my God, deign to impart
The grace of love undying.
In Thy blest body let me be,
E’en as the branch is in the tree,
Thy life my life supplying.
Sighing, Crying.
For the savor
Of Thy favor;
Resting never,
Till I rest in Thee forever.


Thou, mighty Father, in Thy Son
Didst love me ere Thou hadst begun
This ancient world’s foundation.
Thy Son hath made a friend of me,
And when in spirit Him I see,
I joy in tribulation.
What bliss, Is this!
He that liveth
To me giveth
Life forever;
Nothing me from Him can sever.

19 Nov 2005

As a recent Internetmonk posting noted, there is a basic issue of musical competence in our churches. You once had one music professional on the organ, and that instrument covered the bases. Now, unless perhaps you attend a megachurch, you often have one professional and congregational amateurs, some of whom can barely play at all. Not only do the amateurs have to play their parts right, they have to play in time (not easy). And you need the amateur in the sound booth to mix the sound properly (pros make good money doing this for a reason). The result of all this is wildly inconsistent quality and distractions during worship.

Moreover, it’s mostly bad music that is being played badly. Centuries of wonderful music have been largely discarded. Lewis once spoke of “fifth rate hymns set to sixth rate music.” What would he think of today’s musical vulgarity?

Those of us who prefer content-rich, traditional hymns are like hippos in the dry season, watching watering holes dry up slowly around us. Presbyterians have mostly given in, and the Lutherans and Anglicans are striding in that direction. And with this move usually comes a dumbed-down service, dispensing with Biblical elements of worship in favor of long stretches of singsong choruses, progress videos, and other fluff. Contemporary worship inclines to levity, not the weight of glory. To the casual, not the reverent. How many elements of worship can be dispensed with before a service can no longer be called worship at all?

And why are so few bothered by this sea change?

17 Nov 2005

Oldtruth mentions that some have changed Amazing Grace’s lyrics from “saved a wretch like me” to “saved and strengthened me.” If you don’t believe it, check this out. In the words of one hymnal editor, the old lyrics are a blow to self-esteem (indeed!). Fighting on the right side for the wrong reasons, some of the liberals wanted to keep the original wording because it implies disapproval of slavery. That is, its author John Newton was a slave trafficker and the verse is about John Newton, not us. (Perhaps they will next change Romans 7:24 to “O wounded man that I am…”)

R.C. Sproul has observed that what amazes us is justice, not grace. We don’t understand how bad we are and how good God is. In The Holiness of God, Sproul talks about Luther’s debut as a cleric. All was going well until Luther suddenly froze at the altar. Unable to speak or go on, he returned to the table where his embarassed family sat. Luther was supposed to say the words “We offer unto thee, the living, the true, the eternal God.” But, he said:

At these words I was utterly stupified and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, “…Who am I, that I should lift up my eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty? The angels surround him. At his nod the earth trembles. And shall I, a miserable little pygmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that?’ For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God.


06 Nov 2005

I do not suppose that I am the only evangelical who finds that the actual exercise of worship, the deliberate lifting of one’s eyes from man and his mistakes to contemplate God and his glory, grows increasingly precious as the years go by, and brings solace and refreshment to the spirit in a way that nothing else can do. Certainly, this was the experience of the great Puritans; and what I want to do is to allow them to share it with us, and lead us deeper into the enjoyment of it for ourselves.

So says J.I. Packer in his richly rewarding Puritan Approach to Worship . Print it, read it, and savor it.

23 Oct 2005

One of the popular trends that continues to build steam is the dominance of “contemporary” worship services. Pop music and a casual atmosphere have replaced the pipe organs and reverence as the church has sought cultural relevance. Many contemporary services eliminate Bible reading, prayer, preaching on sin and salvation, and hymns in favor of videos, simplistic praise songs, dramas, and sermons focused on “practical advice” and “relevance” (as if the Gospel itself is irrelevant). Go to a Brethren church, a Vineyard, a Church of Christ, a non-denominational megachurch, or even a PCA church, and you are likely to hear the same worship songs and the same books recommended.

Has this not impoverished worship? Compare the average contemporary worship service with this Presbyterian liturgy. Do you see a difference? Note the prayers, note the Bible reading, the confession of sin, the communion, the prominence of prayer. Traditional worship tends to be more formal and reverent than contemporary worship. But as Michael Horton said, it’s more of a question of substance vs. shallowness than traditional vs. contemporary. Much of contemporary worship is based on a flawed purpose and the discarding of tradition.

13 Aug 2005

As always in life, the best moments are unplanned. On the way to see the lovely Russian church shown in a previous post, we stopped with our guide in Vladimir. We stepped into the medieval Assumption Cathedral, perhaps around noon, by happenstance toward the end of Liturgy. Long candles were the only illumination inside the stone edifice, which was plain white on the outside, but ornate with gilding, paintings and icons in the cool, mostly dark interior. We walked amid the standing congregation but stayed respectfully toward the rear. The female-heavy choir filled the air with sweet and exalted chants. Congregants lit the votive candles. Amid the flickering paintings and gilding, in the candlelit darkness, the effect was overpowering, so ancient but eternally alive. At the end of the Eucharist, the Father proclaimed something, perhaps forgiveness. And how forcefully so!

Scripture says: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Indeed. What a promise.

10 Jan 2005

It’s easy to lament today’s throwaway culture. In 100 years, people will still be singing “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” In 100 years, who will be singing anything written recently? Well, there’s one recent hymn that belongs in the pantheon of great hymns. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” was published in 1995 by a Brit named Stuart Townend. Don’t let the awful contemporary covers dissuade you any more than the awful covers of Christmas hymns we are subjected to every year. Hear it played with a cello, piano, etc. It’s a potent, lyrical mix of words and music.

How deep the Father’s love for us
how vast beyond all measure,
that He should give His only Son
to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss
the Father turns his face away
as wounds which mar the Chosen One
bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross
my sin upon His shoulders;
ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
no gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom;
but I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer,
but this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.