Can’t Plant A Psalm-Singing Congregation In An Urban Metro?

Bill Godfrey Grace URC elders

Mark Lockyear, Roy Mukai, Bill Godfrey, Steve Perkins

Greg Bero

Greg Bero

Grace URC auditoriumDon’t tell that to the brothers and sisters at Grace URC in Torrance, California. They’ve been in existence for 12 years and are completing a significant expansion of their worship facility as needed by their growing congregation. Mrs Heidelblog and I spent the Lord’s Day with them yesterday and they patiently endured my preaching.

The Rev. Dr. Greg Bero, the organizing pastor, and the Rev. Mr. Bill Godfrey, and the elders have been quietly planting a confessional Reformed congregation in LA County, just a few miles inland from the South Bay. Greg Bero was the organizing pastor and he has been joined by the Bill Godfrey. They were supervised and aided in their early years by Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim (to the south in Orange County).

What is remarkable and so encouraging about this congregation is their faithfulness and their warmth. Grace URC is evidence that we do not have to choose between these complementary virtues. They sing out of the Book of Psalms for Singing. The core group emerged from a broader evangelical congregation when they discovered the Reformed theology, piety, and practice. They found the psalms and learned that is what Reformed people sing in public worship, so they did.  It is a joyful and reverent service. The law and the gospel are clearly articulated in the liturgy (the order of service). The Lord’s Supper is administered each Lord’s Day morning.

I’ve been visiting the congregation and preaching occasionally there since it’s organization and it has been a great joy to see them remain faithful, to avoid the temptation to adopt gimmicks or fads, to preach the whole counsel of God, to shepherd the flock, and to trust the Lord for his blessing. They number of covenant children running around after church is a good sign for the future. As they have become an established congregation they’ve also been looking outward. They are the supervising congregation for the church plant on Kauai, Hawaii.

Concentration was a challenge yesterday as they the BBQ smokers were working away in the parking lot during the service. After the second service we adjourned to the parking lot, to shade tents, good music, and excellent BBQ. They don’t do this every Lord’s Day and it’s always a blessing to be with them on the Sabbath but it was a special treat to share this lunch with them after services.

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  1. Considering there are RPCNA congregations in Los Angeles, New York City, Montreal, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Chicago (and an EP OPC congregation in San Francisco) I’d say there is a high likelihood of Yes.

    • Benjamin,

      Based on comments that people have made to me over the years I have the impression that there is a widely held assumption that church planting and Psalm singing are incongruous.

      That isn’t true but it is, I think, widely assumed.

    • The “Chicago” RPC is not urban metro; it’s 45 minutes from Chicago, in a little country building, and at present no one who attends lives within the Chicago city limits. I wonder how many of the others are similar?

  2. Though I don’t confess exclusive psalmody, I could comfortably park there for the rest of my life. If I were banished to California, that is,

  3. Considering that psalmody was:
    1. One of the four articles that Calvin proposed for the Organization of the Church and Worship in 1537 – though consistory oversight of communion to the exclusion of the civil magistrate was what led to his exile at the time. IOW Calvin promoted not only congregational singing, but also psalmody.
    2. The default position of the original Westminster Assembly and Standards.
    3. Largely the position of the Synod of Dordt, but – for a few, mind you – uninspired hymns.
    4. One of the three reasons (uninspired hymns, masonry and public schools) the CRC separated from the RCA in the 1857, although it abandoned that position in about 1935.

    Consequently it is encouraging to see a URC congregation return to the historic position and practice of the reformed churches, along with a choosing a more reformed psalter, than the UP Psalter 1912 which largely resembles a hymnal in layout and numbering.

      • Hi Riley,

        This is the text of art. 69 of the Dort Church Order (1619):

        69. In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the 12 Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon shall be sung. It is left to the option of the churches whether to use or omit the song, O God, who art our Father.

        The song in question is “O God Who Art Our Father.” Was that a hymn? Some argue that it was but I have begun to wonder whether/think that it was perhaps a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. The only other non-canonical song was the Creed.

        • Re: the approved hymns of the Synod of Dordt,

          Thanks, Dr. Clark! That’s fascinating. I would like to have the text of that hymn, but perhaps it’s lost to history.

  4. I think I accidently found out about this congregation while looking for an OPC congregation.

    In a location as populated and diverse as L.A. County, I would expect to find at least a few exclusive psalmists. Come on, we have Episcopalians, so there have to be exclusive psalmists. To have Episcopalians but not Reformed exclusive psalmists just wouldn’t be right. : )

    • I’ve heard the pastor of this church on “Sinners and Saints.” The whole crew is provocative, and a little too much to for me (maybe I’m too soft, but I doubt it). I heard him refer to himself (or denomination, not sure) as being a “covenanter;” I know little of this except that it has to do with Scottish history and certain Presbyterian interaction with the government. Mr. Sawtelle also seemed quite critical of two-kingdom teaching, and I could be wrong, but he sounded like he was aiming his criticism at WSCAL or some of it’s professors. A kind of “Escondido Theology” criticism. I am pretty sure it was toward one professor in particular.

      For anyone interested, I think podcasts are available, but I don’t remember the title of the program. may have a list of their programs with a link to one with the aforementioned content, but it may not be titled as having this.

    • Thanks for this information. All of what you said could also apply to this church in Los Angeles…. They claim to be covenanters as well.

      Dr. Clark has a posted about them a couple of months ago.

  5. Just to clarify for Alberto, I think you’re confusing us with another congregation and its minister. Rev. Sawtelle is a minister in the RPCNA in Brea, CA. Rev. Bero and I are the only pastors of Grace URC in Torrance, CA. And although we use the Psalter from the RPCNA, we are not in the covenanters tradition but are a member church of the URCNA. I hope this helps.

    Bill Godfrey

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