A helpful way of conveying the importance of local church membership is a church covenant. At my current church, Auburndale Baptist in Louisville, Kentucky, prospective members agree to the church covenant as part of the process of joining our church. We regularly remind ourselves of our commitment to each other at our monthly members’ meeting by reciting the covenant together.
Now, we have the covenant in a sing-able format. During the month of January, as our offertory music, we will sing a verse of the covenant each Sunday. To hear a demo version of the covenant, use the SoundCloud widget below. The sheet music is available here.
In the fall, I worked on setting this covenant to music. This work was challenging because the covenant is lengthy and in prose. The first step was to organize the covenant into metrical lines, (i.e., a consistent pattern of syllables per line). This resulted in four stanzas, each consisting of eight eight-syllable lines.
I had several difficult decisions to make in arranging the text. I wanted to preserve the original text as much as possible, but some editing and trimming was necessary. I also decided against forcing rhyme upon the text.
Next, I searched for a tune. Using the online resource Hymnary, I found several interesting tunes. St. Petersburg, composed by Dmitri Bortnianski in the nineteenth century, struck me as the best option. Those familiar with the Trinity Hymnal may know this tune. It is a fairly easy melody, but also stately enough for such a meaningful text. I had to duplicate the last four measures of the melody to fit the text.
I hope that during this season, when so many are considering new commitments and resolutions, that we will remember the commitments and resolutions we have already made to each other as believers and members of Auburndale.
On Sunday, October 21st, Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, will participate in a unique Psalm-singing service. Pastor Brian Croft is continuing though his 2 Samuel series, and on that morning, he will preach David’s song of deliverance from 2 Samuel 22, a song that reappears in Psalm 18.
Auburndale Baptist will use The Trinity Psalter’s metrical version of Psalm 18 to sing portions of the Psalm set to familiar tunes. We will sing through most of the Psalm in the service and read through a portion, as well.
We have planned this service in this way in order to communicate the importance of God’s word and to focus us on the truth of God’s word that is to be preached that morning. For other thoughts, including rationale and resources for Psalm-singing, check out “The Psalms: Truly Persistent Songs.”
Here are a few resources for preparing for this service. To see the sheet music for each section of our Psalm adaptation, click the links below.
Psalm 18:1-6 (set to the tune of “Jesus Shall Reign,” #587 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
Psalm 18:7-16 (set to the tune of “O Come, O Come, Emanuel,” #76 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
Psalm 18:16-26 (set to the tune of “Take Up Your Cross,” #494 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991). Note: we will read this portion during the service, instead of singing it.
Psalm 18:27-35 (set to the tune of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” #144 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
Psalm 18:36-45 (set to the tune of “Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Array’d,” #574 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
Psalm 18:46-50 (set to the tune of “All People that on Earth Do Dwell,” #5 in the Baptist Hymnal, 1991)
To hear demo versions (warning: I’m no professional) of the songs, use the SoundCloud widget below.
I’m looking forward to singing Psalm 18 corporately. I hope the Lord will bless these efforts and greatly affect our hearts with his word.
The debate begins with Lennon, the artistic visionary without whom The Beatles never exist, but I cannot pick him over the Beatle with the greatest individual musical gift. Harrison’s guitar playing, and particularly his lead guitar playing, is the best talent possessed by any of the fab four (other than McCartney’s handclapping). Yet, I’m drawn to McCartney’s lead vocals. He significantly outperformed Lennon on Revolver, which I argue is the band’s creative peak. But in his post-Beatles interviews, Lennon’s descriptions of McCartney are scathing. I can’t make him my favorite Beatle, especially since he committed the crimes of “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” against my ears.
I promised myself I wasn’t doing this, but Ringo Starr is my favorite Beatle. That Starr was the Beatles’ favorite Beatle—he’s the only band member to have all the other band members appear on his post-Beatles solo records—is reason enough for me. Another factor in this decision is his banter with Harrison on “Boys” from Please Please Me (“Alright, George”) and “Honey Don’t” from Beatles for Sale (“Rock on, George, one time for me”).
The Favorite Album Debate
Four legitimate candidates qualify for this discussion: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and “The White Album.” Only on the basis of my thirty listening hours, I would place, perhaps controversially, Sgt. Pepper’s at the bottom of that list. Its irreverent silliness, which, I know, is intentional and is some sort of cultural meta-criticism, wears on me. I knew that I was listening to something great, but sometimes, I reminded myself of the album’s reputed greatness to tolerate it.
I’m amenable to Rubber Soul because it began a quality artistic phase for the band. I could also accede to an argument for the “White Album,” based upon sheer quantity. Revolver, however, is The Beatles’ album I enjoy and respect most. I’m casual toward “Love You To,” but I’m affectionate toward every other song. It was the best 105 minutes of my Beatles music immersion commute.
The Favorite Song Debate
I’m prepared to be hated for this decision. None of the early songs (i.e., before Rubber Soul) thrill me, but I respect them and the many classics I’m neglecting from their later albums. I found “In My Life” from Rubber Soul enchanting, especially that muffled bass note at the end of the verses’ lines. “And Your Bird Can Sing” from Revolver makes me want to join a Beatles tribute band, but, alas, is really too brief for consideration. I love the integration of the brass instruments and electric guitar in “Got to Get You into My Life” from Revolver, and I’m surprised that the single didn’t receive much attention until it was included on a compilation album in the mid-70s. Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the White Album came seriously close to winning this debate.
Abbey Road’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” however, is the best song I heard in my thirty hours of commuting last month. The track could fit on an album by Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Radiohead, or any contemporary rock band. If a song recorded forty years ago sounds current, it’s because the song has shaped its genre decisively.
The last time all four Beatles worked together in the studio, they were finishing “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The abrupt ending of “I Want You” leaves the listener exacerbated—“it’s over?” Yes, The Beatles were over, and, probably, should have gone on much longer. “I Want You” was the end of The Beatles, but has reverberated, as so many of their songs, through rock history.
I like to describe myself as a recovering logomachist and aspiring logophile. During my elementary and secondary years, I discovered an interest, admittedly nerdy, in language, grammar, and vocabulary. Unfortunately, the interest manifested itself in wicked ways; I loved to critique and, even, ridicule the language of others.
I’m grateful to God that he softened my heart and has gradually sanctified me from this sin toward others. Now, I try to interpret others charitably and politely ignore shortcomings (of which I possess a substantial share).
Yet, my love for language has not subsided. That love now manifests itself in less abrasive, perhaps dorkier, ways. I’m not ashamed to admit that I keep a running log of words that I learn and daily tweet entries from that log.
Recently, I’ve appeased my logophilia with Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language. The work is chockablock with intriguing tidbits. A passage I recently encountered touched upon not only my linguistic interests, but theological ones, as well.
Bragg describes the migration of the English language to the American continent and then its evolution under the unique cultural development in the westward expanding United States. In the course of this discussion, the Pilgrims, and their posture toward existing Native American languages, surprised me.
Citing Scott Attwood, Bragg notes that the Pilgrims promoted the learning of English among Native Americans, but few attempted to “learn native tongues.” Then Bragg offers an explanation for this trend:
They were of course men and women with a mission. Those who see the skull beneath the flesh will conclude that to ignore or virtually to ignore the language of so many peoples, with whom you would eventually fight, over whom you will finally rule, is the first step in plotting their subjugation. Others would say that the zeal of the Christian was such that the word of God and spreading the word of God so that souls could be saved and salvation brought to those hitherto outside the Christian fold was a paramount imperative. The Native Americans had to learn English to understand about God and be saved.
From Bragg’s account, it seems the Pilgrims—Protestant Christians who dissented from the state controlled Church of England—set up English proficiency as a sort of prerequisite for entrance into God’s kingdom. The Protestants who proceeded the Pilgrims in the 18th century utilized a different method. From David Brainerd, serving the Housatonic Indians in New England, to William Carey, evangelizing Hindu adherents in India, and Adoniram Judson, declaring the gospel in Burma, Protestant missionaries toiled to learn native languages and translate the Bible into those languages.
This latter method seems biblically, historically, and practically superior to the Pilgrim missionary endeavor. Two scenes form the New Testament argue for the propagation of the gospel in native languages. The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the extraordinary gifting of Christ’s disciples to minister in a significant number of languages, is an indication that Spirit of God intends to conduct his mission multilingually. In addition, Christ receives praises in the book of Revelation for his cross-linguistic redemption of people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). Diversity of languages is credit, not a barrier, to Christ’s redemptive work.
The Pilgrim interaction with Native Americans seems historically short-sighted, as well. In John’s vision of the multilingual heavenly throng, the English language is one of the “every … language” engaged in God’s praises, and to the apostle, English would have sounded as intelligible as the Native American tongues that Pilgrims ignored. Certainly, God has accomplished much through English-speaking Christendom, but we must remember that English speaking believers have been engrafted into the olive tree of God’s people (Rom 11:17-18), and our engrafting is a relatively recent occurrence in the history of God’s people. We must avoid a proud evaluation and exaltation of our language.
Practically, the Pilgrim methodology seems inefficient. Teaching thousands of unbelievers a new language is a daunting, time-consuming task. Perhaps, many would refuse to learn the language or suspect it as the language of conquerors. The learning of a native language is certainly difficult, but once missionaries gain some proficiency in the new language, they can promote the gospel to a large number of unbelievers.
If Bragg’s depiction is accurate, then the difference between the Pilgrims and later Protestant missionaries lies in their divergent purposes. The Pilgrims were not singly concerned with the evangelization of Native Americans. They came to the New World to escape persecution and establish surviving, then thriving, communities. We enjoy a different historical situation, one more similar to later Protestant missionaries’ context than the Pilgrims. I hope modern Christians are less susceptible to the Pilgrims’ arrogant appraisal of English. We can support those who desire to learn English for the personal benefit. However, the “English-only” cause championed among some social conservatives is a value extrinsic to our identity as Christians.
From June 1965 to October 1968, The Beatles recorded four albums (in addition to the Magical Mystery Tour originally released only in the US), which collectively have attained sales of over 40 million copies: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The Beatles (“The White Album”). Rolling Stone Magazine ranked all four albums in the top ten of its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Rubber Soul’s brilliance is known from songs like “Norwegian Wood,” which unveiled Harrison’s sitar skills, and “In My Life,” clearly one of The Beatles’ greatest songs. Every track on Revolver impresses, and the album’s experimentation includes progressive rock in “Taxman,” a chamber string composition in “Eleanor Rigby,” Harrison’s sitar in “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” reversed recordings of guitar solos in “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and brass instrumentation in “Got to Get You into My Life.”
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has more than its fair share of classic tracks, including “With a Little Help from My Friends” (Ringo’s best Beatles vocal), “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (interesting time signature change), and “A Day in the Life” (lovely chaos). My favorite track, though, sound-wise is “She’s Leaving Home” because it embodies the best of the McCartney and Lennon vocal partnership. The Beatles, better known as the White Album because of its minimalist album design, is massive, over an hour and a half of material. Very few tracks fail to entertain, and many of songs are ingrained in our collective rock and pop history: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird,” “Yer Blues,” “Helter Skelter,” and “Revolution 1.”
Abbey Road and Let It Be mark the end of The Beatles. Much of Let It Be was recorded before Abbey Road, but the project was scrapped, until after the release of Abbey Road. Because of this history and because some prefer the sound of Abbey Road, some fans like to think of Abbey Road as the last album, but that’s probably fanatical revisionist history. Neither Abbey Road (“Come Together,” “I Want You,” and “Here Comes the Sun”) nor Let It Be (“Let It Be” and “Get Back”) rival the four great albums of ’65-’68 in quality. But if failing to match Revolver is the recipe for a disappointing album, then most of rock history disappoints. Both Abbey Road and Let It Be are very good albums.
2,000 minutes (roughly thirty hours) with The Beatles is insufficient time to comprehend their brilliance. I don’t have the obsessive background knowledge of all the band’s members, albums, songs, and events to speak conclusively to all things Beatles. After thirty hours of listening, I’ve tentatively formed opinions on some key issues. In the last installment of this series, I’ll chime in on three Beatles debates.