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Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin
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The Bishop’s Note – BCP Morning Prayer – The Psalter

As we continue our examination of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer’s service of Morning Prayer, we move from the Invitatory to the Psalter.
The daily praying of the psalms dates to centuries before the Incarnation of our Lord. Jesus regularly quotes the psalms, think of the Pharisees who confront Jesus in the synoptic gospels. In Matthew 22:41-46, Jesus turns the tables and asks the Pharisees about the Christ. When they are unable to answer Jesus quotes King David and Psalm 110.
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.”
Jesus’ reliance on the psalms demonstrates their importance in his life. That same importance is reflected in the use of the Psalter in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. The 2019 BCP gives two options for praying the psalms in Morning and Evening Prayer. Option 1, which is the more traditional manner dating back to the earliest prayer books, has the participants reading the entire Psalter through on a 30-day cycle. I personally enjoy this manner because the psalms, over the years have become very familiar to me, so that I can draw upon them more easily in ministry. Of course, this also adds 5-7 minutes more to the Office. The second option, which is equally valid, prays the entire Psalter over a 60-day period. Some people report that they feel less overwhelmed with this cycle and that they can concentrate more on the psalms that they do pray. In either case, the regular reading and praying of the psalms in the Daily Office feed the souls and inspire ministry – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 110:105) Or this morning’s psalm, “O Lord, you have searched me out and known me, you know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thoughts from afar.” (Ps. 139:1)
Lastly, the psalms printed in the 2019 BCP are a renewed version of the Coverdale Psalter. The following description of that translation comes from the ACNA Website: (

A (Very) Brief History of the Anglican Coverdale Psalter

In 1539, under the direction of King Henry VIII, Miles Coverdale produced the Great Bible, within which was what became known as the Coverdale Psalter, the liturgical translation in every Anglican prayer book until the 1960s.

In 1963, the Church of England attempted to update the Coverdale Psalms to more modern language – with a committee including notable members T.S. Elliot and C.S. Lewis – but the Cathedral musicians opposed the revision [musical psalters would have to be rewritten] and their update was not adopted.

The older Coverdale Psalter continued to be used until the 1979 Prayer Book when a new liturgical translation was produced. Unfortunately, this translation was a break from the turn-of-phrase of every previous Prayer Book and from the global Anglican language for prayer.  Sometimes even the new translation, while technically correct, was not as comprehensible to contemporary understanding. (See an example below).

Which brings us to the historic moment we as the Anglican Church in North America are currently in. The Lord has blessed us with gifted scholars who are willing to take on the challenge to renew the Coverdale Psalter translation with modern language, clarity, and musicality.

Toward A Renewed Anglican Coverdale Psalter

The Liturgy Task Force Psalter subcommittee, chaired by the Ven. Darrell Critch, a musically trained Anglican Church in North America rector, along with seminary professors and Old Testament scholars Erika Moore (Trinity School for Ministry), Travis Bott (Nashotah House), and John Crutchfield (Columbia International University), is building on the work of Lewis and Eliot to renew the Coverdale Psalter.

Archbishop Duncan detailed that “when we renew a Psalm, the scholars look at the Coverdale and ask ‘is this an accurate or reasonable translation?’ Then, they determine if it is understandable in modern English.” Then they compare it to the 1963 version. They renew the translation accordingly.

Rather than creating a new translation, like the 1979 prayer book, the Task Force is seeking to update the Coverdale. Unlike the Church of England committee work in 1963, this edition replaces the “thees” and “thys” and 16th century verb forms with contemporary language.

The Renewed Coverdale Psalter is historic. And like the recent release of the Catechism, the Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops believe it will be “a gift to the whole Anglican world,” said Archbishop Duncan.
I pray you all a very blessed day!
Bishop Menees
San Joaquin Anglican
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