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Changing of the Guard

Now that General Synod Dunnville, 2016 has completed its work, the time has come to bid farewell to our chairman of 15 years, Rev. George van Popta.  George, we are grateful to you for your tireless dedication to the work of the committee.  The LORD has blessed your labours (together with those of the many other committee members over the course of those years) with a beautiful Book of Praise that will, by God’s grace, serve the churches for many years to come.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Rev. Dick Wynia now takes over as convenor/chairman of the committee.  We also welcome to the committee our newest member, Martin Jongsma.  May God continue to bless the committee as we serve the churches with a renewed mandate.


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Presentation of Book of Praise 2014 to the Churches

Tonight, our chairman Rev. George van Popta had the privilege of addressing Synod and of presenting the third edition of the Book of Praise to the churches on behalf of the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise.  Here is a video recording of the speech:


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New site

Hello, and a very happy and blessed year to you all.

Recently, I put all my canticles and hymns on this site.  My prayer is that our Lord Jesus may be glorified through it.

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God’s Songbook, Prayer Book, and Daily Devotional

The Heavy Laden Bookshelf

I began a project at the beginning of this year that I hope I never complete.  I am wanting to read more and more from the Book of Psalms.  While all of the Bible is God’s Word and is profitable for teaching, instruction, correction, and training in righteousness, there is an accessibility to the Psalms that is unsurpassed.

Whether a person is reading one psalm a day or more, that book of the Bible provides lots of direction, consolation, and encouragement.  On the one hand, there is the range of emotions and reactions of the psalmists, David and others.  These verses range from exuberant joy in serving God to severe depression, fear, and questioning.  Unlike the tendency toward the sentimental and syrupy in all too many modern songs and sentiments, the psalms are fresh, bold, manly, confrontational.  They have more the feel of Aslan than a kitty cat; they are…

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Dennis Teitsma harmonizations

A new valuable resource for accompanists by Mr. Dennis Teitsma:

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New Genevan Psalter

Just released, New Genevan Psalter



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Interview with Christian Renewal

A new edition of the Book of Praise was recently released and is available to the Canadian Reformed Churches.

What makes this one different from the 1984 edition?

The Psalms have been improved. About fifty Psalms needed only a small amount of work; another fifty needed significant work; the remaining fifty were completely redone. As well, all the archaic pronouns and verb endings were replaced with contemporary language.

The new edition contains twenty more hymns than did the 1984 edition for a total of eighty-five.

How long has this process been in place?

Since General Synod 2001 gave the committee the mandate to make some adjustments, expansions, and improvements to the Book of Praise.

What are some early reviews?

The early reviews from within the churches are positive. In addition to the quality of the work, the near universal positive reception is also due to how involved the churches were in the process. Essentially, the whole federation became one huge super committee. Every church had repeated opportunities to comment on the drafts as they came available and on a provisional version which came out in 2010 and was used by all the churches. The standing committee also appointed two ad hoc committees, one for the psalms and one for the hymns, to give advice to the standing committee. In this way all the churches were able to take ownership of the project. At the outset there was some disappointment that we were giving up the 1984 edition, and some complaints about aspects of the 2010 provisional version, but, at the end of the day, there is broad satisfaction with the final outcome.

What has your involvement been in the process?

I have been the chairman since 2001 and am retiring in 2016. As chairman I have been directing traffic all these years and have enjoyed the task immensely. All the brothers and sisters on the standing committee, the ad hoc committees, or advisers, had servant hearts. I really felt like we were all pulling in the same direction all the time. As well, the involvement, love, and interest of the churches and the good guidance of the several synods (meeting every three years) made the work a pleasure. Although he does not much like being singled out, it is impossible for me not to mention the work and devotion of Dr. William Helder of Hamilton. He has been involved in the work of the Book of Praise for many decades. As a versifier and poet, his work on this final edition was extensive, invaluable, and of outstanding quality.

How is distribution going thus far? Are all the churches expected to purchase the new book? What is the cost involved both in printing and in purchasing the book?

The distribution is going well—or perhaps I should say, has gone well—in that all of the Canadian Reformed Churches are using it in their worship services. The Canadian Reformed schools are also making use of it. The children learn at school the songs they sing at church.

The book can be purchased for $24 from publisher, Premier Printing ( There is also a tablet/smartphone version available for $9.75 ( and a file useful for projection will soon be available.

Are there other denominations that sing from the Book of Praise?

The Free Reformed Churches of Australia sing from the Book of Praise. I do not know of any other denominations that do but there have long been some churches here and there that use it.

How did the on again off again connection with the United Reformed Churches joint Songbook Committee affect the work on the revision of the Book of Praise, or were those two completely separate entities?

Speaking candidly, I must say that we were disappointed that the Psalter Hymnal committee was instructed to discontinue working with us as we had, by way of our semi-annual joint two-day meetings over four or five years, begun  to advance well towards a recommended hymnal. We had provisionally settled on about 200 hymns that needed yet a final cut. We were surprised that the work suddenly ended, and then that the Psalter Hymnal committee so quickly began to work with the OPC songbook committee! Although the mandate to revise the Book of Praise was a separate one from the directive to create a common songbook together with the Psalter Hymnal committee, it was put on hold while we focused on the productions of a common songbook. Once the common songbook idea died we gave full attention again to the revision of the Book of Praise.

If you were a salesman looking to sell the Book of Praise to other Reformed denominations, what would your selling points be?

I am not much of a salesman…. Let me say that I would try to sell it on the beauty of the versification of the Psalms which are faithful to scripture and set to wonderful and pleasing poetry. They are matched to Genevan tunes, not appreciated by many and yet loved by as many and used for almost 500 years by churches throughout the world. As well, there is a good collection of hymns and canticles which are faithful to scripture, Reformed doctrine and confession, and are catholic in that they represent the hymnody of the church of all ages through space and time. The Book of Praise also contains the three ecumenical creeds, faithful translations of the Three Forms of Unity, and the continental Reformed liturgical forms and prayers.

Feel free to add any additional comments that you think important to round out the information significant to this story.

I am thankful that the Book of Praise may continue to be a blessing to the church of Christ. Above all, it is my prayer that our Triune God may be “enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3) also through the use of this songbook. To him alone be all glory, now and forever!

Brief bio.

George van Popta is 56 years of age and has served in the ministry for twenty-seven years. He was ordained at Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church in Ottawa from where he went to Taber, Alberta, and then to Ancaster, Ontario. In 2008 he was called back to Jubilee Church and so lives in Ottawa with his wife Dora with whom he has five children and an ever increasing number of grandchildren. Psalm 128!

He has written several books among which are: The Glorious Victory, a devotional exposition of Revelation; Mostly Canticles, a music book of versifications of passages of scriptures set to four part harmony of public domain or newly commissioned tunes; and Pure Love, the Song of Solomon in twenty-four sonnets.

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The New Book of Praise

(As published in the recent issue of Clarion)

The New Book of Praise

George van Popta

At long last, the new Book of Praise is printed and ready for shipment to the churches. Orders are being sent in to the publisher, and soon we will all be singing from the 2014 version. This is the third complete edition, after the 1984 and the 1972 editions, and the hope is that it will serve the churches for many years.

The committee is thankful for the tremendous amount of feedback, encouragement, and cooperation it has received from the churches throughout the past thirteen years, as well as the good guidance and leadership given by the General Synods convened during this time. Above all, praise and gratitude is due to our heavenly Father for providing the churches with a songbook that will be used weekly and daily, in church, school, and home, to praise his most holy Name.


The Book of Praise is rooted in our Reformed past. The first complete Genevan Psalter was published in French in 1562, and since then versions have appeared in many languages used by churches throughout the world.  When our parents and grandparents landed on these shores with the waves of immigration from the Netherlands after the Second World War, and felt obliged by the Lord to establish the Canadian Reformed Churches, they also felt strongly led to produce an English version of the Genevan Psalms. They had been singing them in Dutch all their lives and were not inclined to give them up. Acting in faith, some may say, audaciously, the far-flung federation of a handful of churches set out in the 1950s to produce an English Calvinistic songbook where the Psalms were to be set to the beloved Genevan tunes and which would also include hymns faithful to scripture. We are the heirs of our fathers’ vision.

2001 to 2013

The Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches (yes, that is its real name; “SCBP” for short) received from recent synods the mandate to add some more hymns to the 65 of the 1984 Book of Praise, to revise and improve the Psalms, and, recently, to amend all the Biblical text references to the ESV (from the NIV). From the perspective of the SCBP it was an interesting task. It could be said that the whole federation was turned into a huge super-committee as the work progressed over the years from Synod 2001 to Synod 2013.

The most significant part of the work was the revision of the 150 Psalms. About fifty of them required little revision, about fifty needed some revision, and about fifty were completely redone. The SCBP was able to engage Dr. William Helder for this work. Many will know that Dr. Helder has been involved with the Book of Praise for many years. In his work, Dr. Helder did not especially use any one English translation of the Psalms; rather, he used a large number of English, Dutch, German, French, Latin, and other translations. At times ministers on the committee would give him a literal translation of the Hebrew from which he would then work, and the Hebrew scholars at CRTS were always ready and willing to help.

In 2010 Synod Burlington instructed the SCBP to publish an Authorized Provisional Version (APV) which the churches were then to use for three years and submit comments on to the committee. The result of this three year “test-drive,” comments to the committee, the report of the SCBP to Synod 2013, and the decisions of the Synod, is the new edition of our songbook.

APV to 2014 edition

To become more particular, the differences between the APV, 2010, and the new, 2014, edition can be summarized thus:

1.) Changes to the Psalms:

  1. In about 20 stanzas in the Psalm section some words, or a couple of lines, have been changed as

compared with the APV.

  1. In Psalm 17 significant changes were made to the text of stanza 5.
  2. Psalm 25:6 was replaced with entirely new text.
  3. Psalm 81:6 was also replaced with entirely new text.
  4. In Psalm 90 the first stanza has been changed back to the 1984 version and the second stanza has been deleted. Consequently this Psalm is significantly different from that found in the APV.

2.) Changes to the text of the hymns:

  1. In about five stanzas some words, or a couple of lines, have been changed as compared with the APV.
  2. The lyrics of Hymns 58 and 77 have received significant and substantial changes.

3.) Changes to the melodies of the hymns:

When the SCBP, in the APV, returned many of the melodies to their original composition, some churches objected to the changes. The Committee, being sensitive to these objections and not wanting the music of the Book of Praise to be a divisive issue, recommended to Synod 2013 that some of the corrections be undone. Synod adopted these recommendations and added others as well. Undoubtedly, the local organists will point these out to their respective congregations.


Once a church has decided to adopt the new edition for use in the worship services it will not be possible for members to continue using the APV. The significant changes to the text of the Psalms and hymns as well as to the melodies of the hymns make it impossible to use the two versions together without creating confusion in the worship service. Using both songbooks at the same time to sing would be unedifying for the worship service because of the difference in some lyrics. Similarly, the changes to music, rests, and fermatas in some of the hymns would also be a cause for unnecessary confusion. Further, due to content and formatting changes in the 2014 Book of Praise, the page numbering in the two editions is no longer the same. The APV and the new edition are not compatible.


Premier Publishing has also produced a digital version (a tagged PDF) which can be bought and downloaded from This version is suitable for tablets and smartphones.

A few churches project the text of the Psalms and hymns in the worship service. While the SCBP had originally expected that the tagged PDF would be suitable for this use, some have indicated that this may not be the case. The SCBP will be discussing this at its Fall meeting and is committed to accommodating the needs of the churches that make use of projectors.


The SCBP is thankful that the Book of Praise continues to be a blessing to the church of Christ. Above all, may our God be “enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3) also through the use of our songbook. To him alone be all glory, now and forever!

Rev. George van Popta has served as chairman of the SCBP since 2001 and is due to retire from the committee in 2016.

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History of the Book of Praise

This was written for the Joint Songbook Committee some years ago when the SCBP was working together with the URC Psalter Hymnal committee on a common songbook. Sadly, that committee no longer functions.

A brief history of the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of the Canadian Reformed Churches, up to 1984

When our forefathers arrived in Canada in the early 1950s, they noticed the absence of an English Psalter on the familiar Genevan melodies. There was discussion as to what to do. Should they use the Psalter Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC)? Or should they make their own Genevan Psalter? Although the worship services were first held in the Dutch language in which they could use the Dutch Psalter, they felt it important to develop an English one.

At their first Synod (1954) the churches agreed that the 34 Psalms in the CRC Psalter Hymnal that were set to Genevan tunes could be used. Further the Synod decided to appoint a committee with the instruction to study the whole matter of the rhymed version of the Psalms in the English language and to report to the churches and the next Synod (1958).

The committee got to work. They published a little booklet with the 34 Psalms. The idea, at first, was not necessarily to produce a Psalter set exclusively to Genevan tunes; rather, it was to produce a Calvinistic Psalter. Synod 1958 instructed the committee “… to compose a Psalter in the English language including, if possible, other hymns of the Scripture … and to make use of material available in the Psalter of the CRC and other Psalters in as much as the versification is faithful and tunes answer the Church musical norms.” Synod 1962 said that the committee did not need to confine themselves to the Genevan tunes; however, it needed to ensure that the Psalms and Hymns were faithful to Scripture and that they could be understood and sung in the churches. The rhyming had to be intelligible and the music of high quality.

In 1961, a songbook was published containing 82 Psalms and 14 Hymns. To this was added, in 1967, a Supplement, 34 more Psalms and 19 hymns. Most, though not all, of the Psalms were on Genevan tunes.

Synod 1965 made some significant decisions. It instructed the committee to include in the Psalter, (at this point and thereafter called the Book of Praise), hymns of other parts of scripture and of the confessions. As to the melodies of the Psalms, the Synod did not restrict the committee to the Genevan tunes but said that other appropriate melodies could also be used. The committee was also authorized to publish, by way of exception, two different versions of the same Psalm (one, on a Genevan tune, one on a different tune) if not doing this would possibly result in the Psalm never being sung because of the melody.

Even though Synods had said that the committee did not need to restrict itself to the Genevan melodies for the Psalms, the committee did. In its report to Synod 1968, the committee said:

The ultimate aim of Deputies (i.e., “the committee”) is to present to the Churches a complete Psalter comprising all 150 Psalms on the Genevan tunes.  They would like to emphasize the phrase “on the Genevan tunes”.  Deputies do not anticipate any objections to the first part of this suggestion; all of us are convinced that the Churches are in need of a complete Psalter.  The second part of the suggestion, however, implies that Deputies, will no longer avail themselves of the opportunity offered by the Edmonton Synod (1965), namely that they did not have to limit themselves to the Genevan tunes, but were at liberty to use different tunes so long as these served the purpose of the congregational singing, (namely) the praise of the Lord.  Deputies are now of the opinion that they should not make use of this possibility.  They have come to the unanimous conclusion, after many lengthy discussions, not to recommend to the Churches to add another one to the many existing Psalters, which are composed of a number of tunes well-known in the Anglo-Saxon world together with beloved Genevan tunes.  If this were the result of their work, Deputies would consider the work previously done a waste of time and money since there are many of this type of Psalter available in our country.  Instead, Deputies would like to suggest that the Churches once and for all forsake this concept of an eclectic Psalter and proceed to the completion of a Genevan Psalter.  If our Churches achieved this—and Deputies are con­vinced that this is certainly possible within a reasonable period of time—then our Churches would not only possess a well-balanced Psalter, but would also have contributed in a unique manner to the culture of our nation, which is for the most part unfamiliar with the magnificent Genevan tunes.  Deputies flatter themselves that thus they may contribute to the Psalmody of our nation.  That they certainly do not aim too high may be inferred from the enthusiasm with which musicologists from many quarters have received our still incomplete Psalter.  This change of policy entails of course that the non-Genevan tunes of some Psalms in the existing Book of Praise will be replaced by Genevan tunes.

This has been the track upon which the Canadian Reformed Churches have been ever since: The Psalter exclusively Genevan and the Hymn section a mix of Genevan and non-Genevan.

The first complete Book of Praise was presented to GS 1974. It contained all 150 Psalms on Genevan tunes, and 62 Hymns.

The committee became a standing committee to protect the copyright interests of the Book of Praise and to continue its improvement.

The second complete edition of the Book of Praise was released in 1984. In this edition the Hymns were arranged according to the order of the Apostles’ Creed. Several changes were made to the Hymn section to give a total of 65.

Written by George van Popta on behalf of the SCBP

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Introducing the new (2014) Book of Praise

<p><a href=”″>Introducing Book of Praise 2014!</a> from <a href=”″>Book of Praise PPL</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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