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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Japanese Genevan Psalms

From Wikipedia:

Masaaki Suzuki (鈴木 雅明 Suzuki Masaaki?, born 29 April 1954) is a Japanese organist, harpsichordist and conductor, and the founder and musical director of the Bach Collegium Japan. He also teaches and conducts at Yale University and has conducted orchestras and choruses around the world.

Masaaki Suzuki is a promoter of Japanese Genevan Psalmody. In this Dropbox folder you will find a sampling of his work (these are public domain).


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Psalm 138

Here’s a lovely version of Psalm 138 by Michael Kearney.


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Deluxe edition

The deluxe edition will have 

o faux-leather heat-burnished, round-cornered soft cover
o thin lightweight paper
o silver foil stamping and gilded edging
o two bookmark ribbons
deluxe cover

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Comments working now

I had a setting set to disallow comments. That should be good now, thanks to someone who knows more about this stuff than I do. I’m not only math-callenged but also WordPress-challenged. ~gvp

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