Book Review: Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship
Joyce Borger, Martin Tel, John D. Witvliet
Faith Alive Christian Resources
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49560
ISBN: 978-1-59255-444-7; $29.99; 2012.
Reviewed by Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur (3/13)
Multifarious Psalter (2 stars out of 5)
I am always delighted when the Psalms are returned to the Church’s active consciousness. The recent spate of breviaries, Psalters, and books of metered Psalms is a delightful change. And a good attempt at bringing the Psalter into usable form has been done with the "Psalms for All Seasons." This hardback edition is a joint venture of Brazos Press, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and Faith Alive Christian Resources, and fills 1132 pages.
“Psalms for All Seasons” uses all 150 Psalms, and then lumbers its way through various and multiple forms, from responsive readings, to metered Psalms for singing, to newer songs that dwell on themes from a particular Psalm. Each Psalm begins with the New Revised Standard Version’s (NRSV) translation, to which is attached a prayer, and a brief explanation of the particular Psalm. Next will come anywhere from one to fifteen renditions of each Psalm or Psalm portion. Musically, the tunes range from familiar to unfamiliar, with styles that cover Hebraic to Latino.
It will become quickly obvious that this Psalter is too busy for most parishioners, and too uneven for most congregations. The abundance of Psalm options is almost overwhelming. Nevertheless, it lends itself as a decent resource to the Church Music Minister for occasional use.
On the negative side, the use of the inclusive language NRSV and the Evangelical Lutheran Worship's Psalter is a shame. In both the clear Messianic nature of many Psalms is stripped away, by dropping the "he" and "him" and replacing it with the "they" and "them." The easiest example is Psalm 8, which the writer of Hebrews chapter 2 shows is clearly referring to Jesus. But the revisers have dropped the "ben-adam" (Son of Man) language with its singular pronoun "him", and replaced it with "mortals" and "them".
On the positive side, each Psalm in “Psalms for All Seasons” ends with a prayer, many of which are bland, but some that are delightful. And accompanying each Psalm is a short, concise explanation of the type of Psalm it is, the structure it follows, and its value. This was the most appreciated part of the whole work, in my estimation.
Overall, "Psalms for All Seasons" was a noble attempt at placing the Psalter in worshipers' hands, and making it more usable. It would be enhanced by using a better translation, like the English Standard Version, which has been pointed for chanting by other publishers. I hesitantly recommend the book for congregational use, though I commend it to the discerning eye of church music ministers.
(A copy of "Psalms for All Seasons" was generously provided by the publisher for review)