Every year for the past 14 years, in late January/early February, we at Church of the Servant have enjoyed and been blessed by premiering the winners of our New Psalm Contest. After months (or perhaps years) of work on the part of the composers and the judging committee, it is a joy to bring the winners of this contest to life within the midst of worship in our congregation. And each year we work to include a few past winners in that same service as we remember the scope of this contest. This year was no different.

On February 11, 2024, we premiered the two winning Psalms from the 2023 New Psalm Contest. We also sang winners from 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2022.

Psalm 51 – “Clean Heart” by Kimberly Williams was a winner in 2014, and we used her setting of this Psalm in our confession. We sang verse 1 as part of our confession. And we sang verse 2 after the assurance of pardon. In the recording you can hear the water being poured after verse 1, as we remember our baptism, a practice we include in our liturgy weekly.

Psalm 146 – “Praise the Lord Our Faithful God” by Joel Stamoolis was one the 2023 winners being premiered this Sunday. We sang this in place of the Lectionary Psalm. The judges chose this one in part because they thought it would fit well within the Church of the Servant repertoire. You can hear in this recording that the congregation picks this up quickly and they sing with gusto, especially on the refrains.

Psalm 23 – “You Are My Shepherd” by Gloria Fanchiang was the other 2023 winner premiered this Sunday. We sang this as the first hymn during our communion. One reason the judges chose this winner was its utility in worship. They could see it fitting in multiple ways. During communion is certainly one of the fitting ways to use this Psalm. Again you can hear the congregation picks this up quickly as they join on the final verses.

While not a Psalm Contest winner (or even contestant), we also sang “The King of Love, My Shepherd Is,” another setting of Psalm 23 during communion. These two settings of Psalm 23 bring out different aspects of the Psalm and are lovely paired together during communion.

Our communion music this Sunday featured all Psalms, appropriate for the week in which we premiered the contest winners. So after the two settings of Psalm 23, we moved into the Taize refrain from Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, My Soul.” (Also not a Psalm Contest winner, but certainly one of our favorite Psalms and Taize refrains!)

After “Bless the Lord,” we sang the 2012 Psalm Contest winner: Psalm 90 – “God of the Ages” by David Ward.

And we ended our communion time by singing the 2013 Psalm Contest winner: Psalm 113 – “Who Is Like the Lord Our God” by Wendell Kimbrough and Bruce Benedict.

The service concluded with the 2022 Psalm Contest winner: Psalm 20 – “Blessing” by Greg Scheer and Kate Bluett. One congregant told me later that they would like this sung at their funeral.

Each of the past winners has won a place in the list of heart songs for Church of the Servant. But every year it gets harder to include all our favorite past winners…because we keep accumulating more! So we try to include past winners in other services too. Here are two recent Sundays when we have sung a past winner of the Psalm Contest:

Sunday, January 21, 2024 we sang the other 2022 winner: Psalm 62 – “I Wait for You in Silence” by David Hill.

And on Sunday, February 25, 2024 we sang the other winner from 2013: Psalm 139 – “Search Me, O God” by Carol Browning and Kathy McGrath.

One final audio for you to enjoy, which is not even a Psalm. But on February 11, we were also remembering Jesus’ Transfiguration. So we sang, “Christ, We Climb with Your the Mountain.” And when you have a good group of strings, you use them for the introduction of a solid tune like IN BABILONE.

Read more about the Psalm Contest and find music and recordings to all our past winners here…