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Seventh Graders and the Psalms

March 17, 2021
From the book <em>At Psalms School/En la escuela de los Salmos</em>
From the book At Psalms School/En la escuela de los Salmos

As part of a new podcast series made available by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), Christian school teacher Carla Zastrow talks about using a bilingual book on the Psalms to teach students lessons about forgiveness, joy, and hope during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Titled At Psalms School/En la escuela de los Salmos and presented in Spanish and English, the book is especially geared to help young people better understand and pray the Psalms.

Speaking on the podcast with John Witvliet, director of CICW, Zastrow, a seventh-grade teacher at Zeeland Christian School in West Michigan, explained that she and her colleagues wanted to find a common curriculum they could teach as part of classes that had gone online because of the pandemic.

“We were part of a regular curriculum where we were rotating between three teachers, and we realized immediately that that was going to be too complicated with distance learning,” she said.

“So we had to find a new format. . . . I was reminded of the beautiful book I had received at the CEA [Christian Educators Association] convention, and [since] the Psalms were part of our curriculum . . . I looked at that book again, and just felt God saying, ‘Kids need this.’”

The podcast, Carla Zastrow on Seventh Graders and the Psalms during COVID-19, offers a look at how children responded to these important biblical songs, poems, and prayers, said Kristen Verhulst, coordinator of the new podcast series and associate director and program manager of CICW.

“I think learning about the psalms has helped students going through a tough time,” she said. “In the psalms, we are crying out to God. We are especially hurting and angry, and we get to express how we are feeling to God.”

The podcast series, “Public Worship and the Christian Life,” is made up of 15 episodes that were part of this year’s online Calvin Symposium on Worship.

Some of the podcasts had their origins in courses taught at Calvin Theological Seminary. Others came from CICW staff who interviewed authors on topics they wanted to know more about. The podcasts were packaged as a series after they aired during the symposium.

“We have been thinking of doing podcasts for a couple years,” said Verhulst. “This gave us our chance.”

Verhulst said the institute is working on its next series as well, and that should be out soon.

The current podcast series also includes an episode in which chaplain and youth advocate Khristi Lauren Adams talks about her new book Parable of the Brown Girl.

In another episode, Fuller Theological Seminary professor Vince Bantu talks about Celebrating Christianity’s Global Identity and his desire to bring together cultural identity and faith.

And in another, titled On Preaching the Cross of Christ, author and Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge talks about her 2015 book, The Crucifixion:  Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, a lifelong work in which she encourages preachers to proclaim the full gospel message.

Other topics range from preaching and singing the resurrection, exploring hope in Christian worship, and being a leader in this multicultural age.

“We are offering a diversity of voices on many topics,” said Verhulst. “As always, there is some connection to worship practices, of listening to others so that we can find a connection to our own worship life and practices.”

The CICW podcast is one of many offered by CRCNA agencies and offices.