Frequently Asked Questions

The Text

The Music

The Revised Common Lectionary

The Website



Why Psalms for Praying? Author Nan Merrill gives us new psalm paraphrases, adapted from the traditional Biblical psalms.  In her text, God is less Almighty and more Beloved, less of a tribal warrior (my-god-is-better-than-your-god) and more of a healer and lover.  Nan's texts shine new light on familiar passages of scripture.

What version of the Bible is the text from? These psalms are not from any translation of the Bible; they are paraphrases, new poems structured like the traditional Psalms, but with new words and thoughts inspired by the Biblical text.




Why is there extra accompaniment at the end of the vocal line? A unique feature of these psalms is the musical "bridge" that joins the cantor's text with the congregational refrain.  On the last note of the psalm tone, the accompanist begins the bridge in rhythm (on the organ, change manuals) to move smoothly back to the top of the page and the congregational refrain.  The purpose of the "bridge" is to indicate the tempo and pitch of the refrain to the congregation so that they can sing their part with confidence.  In order for them to do that, it is important that the accompanist not slow down just before they begin singing; the whole point is to lead the congregation into their part, so a steady, reliable tempo is essential; nothing slippery.


What are C-instruments and B-flat instruments? C-instruments include flute, oboe, violin and recorder.  B-flat instruments include clarinet, trumpet and saxophone.  The parts for C-instruments tend to be higher, like counter-melodies above the refrain, while B-flat instruments tend to blend well with voices in their lower register.  In general the C-parts are conceived for the flute; oboe players may want to transpose portions of them down an octave, since the high notes which are beautiful on the flute tend to be squawky on the oboe.  Conversely, the beautiful mid-range notes of the oboe can be breathy on the flute.


How do the handbells and instruments fit into the psalm? The instrumental parts are meant to be played during the refrain, after each verse of text sung by the cantor.  The handbell part uses only eight bells, so it can be rung by four ringers using two bells each, or two four-in-hand ringers; either way, the handbell part does not need to be played from handbell tables because there are no bell changes - the ringers can stand wherever is best musically and liturgically.  Normally the instruments would not play during the very first time the refrain is sung by the congregation (repeating it after the cantor at the beginning), they would begin playing after the first verse of text.  NOTE:  The instrumental parts serve to embellish the keyboard accompaniment, they do not replace it.



What is the Revised Common Lectionary? A lectionary is an ordered list of Biblical readings to be read in church.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) was created by an ecumenical group and is widely used by several denominations around the world, meaning that Methodists in Minnesota hear the same readings as Anglicans in the Arctic.  Because so many people use the same lectionary, there are many useful shared resources.  The Wikipedia has an excellent article giving more detailed information about the Revised Common Lectionary.


How can I tell what "year" it is? The RCL is based on a cycle of three years, each of which is associated with one of the synoptic Gospels:  Year A - Matthew, Year B - Mark, Year C - Luke.  (The Gospel of John is read during Eastertide and at other times during the year.)

>         Year A begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, etc. 
>         Year B begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011, 2014, 2017, 2020, etc. 
>         Year C begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, etc.


What's so ordinary about Ordinary Time? Outside of the seasons of Advent, Lent, Christmas and Easter, the Sundays of the church year are said to be in Ordinary Time.  This doesn't mean the season is ordinary in the sense of being just plain, uneventful ordinary Sundays.  It means that the days are ordinal, they are numbered:  e.g., the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, etc.  They are not Sundays within a season (e.g. the Third Sunday of Advent), rather they are numbered after Epiphany (until Lent) and after Pentecost (until the end of the church year).

There are two systems for numbering the Sundays in Ordinary Time.  One begins on the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany and gives fixed monthly dates; this system is indicated as Proper #.  The other numbers all the Sundays in Ordinary Time sequentially from 1 to 34; this system is indicated as OT-#.  The sequential system is used by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.


What are "semicontinuous" and "complementary" readings? The RCL provides for two sets of Old Testament readings during the season of Ordinary Time after Pentecost.  The semicontinuous readings follow week to week telling the stories of the Hebrew bible, with one week picking up where the previous week left off.  The complementary readings are chosen to complement the themes of the Gospel reading.  Since the psalm is intended as a reflection on the OT reading, there are two sets of psalms for use in Ordinary Time after Pentecost.


The Feast of St Swithin-in-the-Swamp (name your favorite holy day) is missing. The RCL provides readings for four Holy Days:  The Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (February 2), The Annunciation of the Lord (March 25), The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (May 31) and Holy Cross Day (September 14).  The other festivals included in this website are from the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada.



How can I find the psalm for a particular date? If you know what liturgical day you are looking for, simply follow the links.  Remember that feast days which are the same every liturgical year (e.g., Christmas, Easter, etc) are found under Feasts and Festivals.  If you are looking for a particular psalm, click on "Search by Psalm Number" in the main menu and follow the links.  The resulting page will show all occasions when that psalm is used in the RCL, whether it be the whole psalm or selected verses.


What's up with the audio files -- I click, but no response. Some pages do not yet contain audio files.  As soon as new audio files are prepared, they will be added.  Thanks for your patience -- we're recording as fast as we can.


How come the music on the web page looks so crappy? It's hard to make music look good on a web page; usually it means that people have to download and install a plugin to read some kind of proprietary file, which is too clumsy and inaccessible.  In order to give a taste of what the refrain is like, I have used low-resolution GIFs on the web page.  These are not meant to be used in print publications like church bulletins! For a print-worthy high-resolution graphic of the refrain, click on "Refrain (JPG)".


What do the codes in the file names mean? Here's a sample file name:  A-047-i Proper 11, OT-16s.  The first letter is the year (D = Feasts and Festivals).  The following three numbers are the file number.  The next lower-case letter indicates what file it is:  a=accompaniment, c=cantor, i=instruments, r=refrain, t=text.  The rest of the file name is the name of the day -- in this case, Proper 11 (which is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time according to the sequential numbering system).  The "s" indicates the semicontinuous stream of readings; a "c" would indicate the complementary stream.