'Pisawl tree and harp'

Friday, March 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Call it nitpicking if you will, but some things that should be well known are not, and so deserve corrective attention.

The collection of Jewish songs called the Psalms in the Bible trips up folk in that when you are preaching from only one of them, or when public reading is from just one of them you say “Psalm, not Psalms”.

If it helps, think of the oddity of someone announcing that we are going to sit and sing hymns #242 from our song book. There is a plurality of hymns in the book, but when you are only going to sing one you say 'hymn #whatever'.

The last book of the English Bible is not Revelations (plural) but Revelation (singular), even though it contains revelations!

It would be useful too for someone in the know to help congregations with the proper pronunciation of the biblical books like Ecclesiastes (no ticks here). Though I encourage congregations to know and use the Hebrew names of Daniel's three friends most church folk are hooked in memory on their Babylonian names, but butcher the third boy's name: It is not Abendigo, but Abednego.

As crazy as it sounds. I actually heard a clergyman at a funeral service in Spanish Town say, “I thank God that the Bible says Jesus is the Alpha and the Minga.” I could not help myself, I cracked up and had to quickly cover my mouth and look polite again. I was on the platform, but in the back row, thankfully!

I believe that churches should train a team of folk to read Scripture properly and use only these in public worship. I heard a young lady, obviously unfairly called upon last minute to read Scripture one morning. While reading that Matthew 25 text where Jesus challenges about helping people who are hungry, naked and in prison when she reached the word naked she pronounced it to rhyme with 'baked'. I kid you not.

I often counsel bereaved family members when we are discussing the funeral programme to insist that the readers look over the chosen text before the funeral day. I have lost count of how many times I have heard from the 1 Corinthians 15 text, “when this mortal shall have put on immorality…”

Close friends and the congregations I have served as pastor or guest preacher know that I am not as serious as I look. In fact, I am a clown at heart and can find fun in almost anything anywhere. The incident with Balaam and the donkey in Numbers 22 is a corker! Check it out.

Well, this elderly brother and lay preacher was reading from the Psalms where the text exhorts to praise God with the “psaltery and the harp”. The brother, seemingly unfamiliar with the first instrument gave it an agricultural reading with an articulated (non-silent 'p') “Pisawl tree” and paused to provide made up information on the spot on the fruitful nature of this tree in ancient Israel! This is not bellyful chat.

Church leaders owe members who must share from the platform some training or guidance beforehand.

Rev Clinton Chisholm

Academic Dean

Caribbean Graduate School of Theology


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