Stephen J. Tracey
This year the OPC General Assembly and the United Reformed Churches in North America Synod met in two separate locations, chronologically back to back. The OPC finished its business on Monday, June 13, while the URCNA began its business on that same day, with four delegates from the OPC present: Stephen Tracey, Alan Strange, David Winslow, Jr., and Danny Olinger. Lord willing, the next time the URCNA Synod meets, it will do so concurrently with the OPC General Assembly at Wheaton College in June 2018.
Each body will have its own business to conduct. However, the commissioners will have the privilege, in a small way, of fulfilling the apostolic prayer that we may “live in such harmony with one another … that together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5–6).
It is no small act of ecumenicity to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice, together. The steps taken toward the publication of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal are not merely an ecumenical gesture, but an important ecumenical action.
Ten years ago the Orthodox Presbyterian Church began working on a psalter hymnal. It crossed a significant threshold when this year’s General Assembly, meeting in Sandy Cove, Maryland, voted to approve the hymn selections (having already approved the Psalm selections at a previous Assembly).
This year, the URCNA Synod, meeting in Wyoming, Michigan, voted without dissent to approve the same hymn selections. The URCNA has been working on a psalter hymnal since 1999. The two churches combined efforts in 2011, and now both have agreed to move to publication.
The publication of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal is deeply significant. Not all agree we should sing all the Psalms, but we are delighted to be allowed to choose for ourselves. The Trinity Psalter Hymnal is a statement about worship: that we continue to be committed to theologically rich, scriptural songs in the public worship of God.
The URCNA Synod Wyoming decided not only to accept the hymn recommendations, but also not to insist on including their liturgical forms in the back of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, as has been their custom. Thus, it will contain all 150 psalms, a selection of 428 hymns, the Westminster Standards as adopted by the OPC, the Three Forms of Unity, and three ecumenical creeds.
It was no small joy to be part of the General Assembly (as a commissioner) and the Synod (as a fraternal delegate) that took these steps. It will be no small joy to meet together in 2018, with our brothers in Christ, to sing the praises of Jesus together.
The author is the pastor of Lakeview OPC in Rockport, Maine. New Horizons, August 2016.