Church of the Servant is pleased to announce the co-winners of the 2014 New Psalm Contest: “Clean Heart” by Kimberly Williams and “Oh Rejoice in All Your Works” by Wendell Kimbrough.
This is the second year in a row that two songs have shared the prize. This isn’t indecision on the part of the judges, but instead reflects the huge diversity of Psalm songs we received. This fifth year of the contest, 65 entries ranged from metrical texts to simple choruses to indie folk songs. All had their merits, but Williams’ and Kimbrough’s rose to the top.
Kimberly Williams’ setting of Psalm 51, “Clean Heart,” is a simple, honest prayer for renewal. In a mere eight bars of music, she packs a perfectly balanced melody and heartfelt lyrics. The song is singable and memorable. Wendell Kimbrough, a co-winning co-writer from last year’s contest, recasts the message of Psalm 104 in hymn form in his song, “Oh Rejoice in All Your Works.” It quickly draws us in with poetry that is fresh, yet faithful to the Psalm: “Every mouth that cries for food/Every lung that yearns for breath/Every eye that searches through the dark for light,” and concludes with us joining creation in worship: “With the mountain, sky, and sea, we sing your praise.” The music is equally at home in both traditional and contemporary contexts, making it an especially valuable contribution to modern psalmody.
The judges spent many hours and wrote many emails as they poured over each submission. It was invigorating and enlightening to discuss (and sometimes spar about) the merits of each song. It was an apples to oranges comparison in many cases. The judging process ended with the six of us coming together to sing through our top choices. It was truly a time of worship.
We thank the songwriters for sharing their music with us, as I’m sure the songwriters thank the judges for taking so much care with their songs. We are grateful to those who continue to fund this contest in memory of Ben Fackler. We pray that Christ’s Church will be made stronger through all of our efforts, and that Psalm singing will continue to flourish in new generations.
The winning songs will premiered on Sunday, February 1, 2015 at the 8:30am and 11am services of Church of the Servant. We would be pleased if you would join us, especially if you’re visiting the Calvin Worship Symposium that weekend. Questions about this year’s contest or inquiries about future contests can be directed to Greg Scheer (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can stay up to date on COS New Psalm Contest news at https://www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/cos-new-psalm-contest-2/ or request to join our mailing list.