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PC(USA) partnership gives away more than 4,800 copies of family-friendly book of psalms

‘Psalms of Wonder’ giveaway was ‘an immense joy’

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Megan Berry and Carrie Sanders of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin, are pictured. Copies of “Psalms of Wonder” were given away at an Advent event, breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Christmas Eve services and special events around the United States and Puerto Rico. (Photo by the Rev. Charlie Berthoud.)

Thanks to a partnership between the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 414 churches and communities of faith recently received free copies of the illustrated book “Psalms of Wonder,” by Carey Wallace.

Published in the fall of 2023, the book features accessible and inspiring translations and illustrations of a selection of the psalms by the author and by the book’s illustrator, Khoa Le. A grant overseen by the PMA’s Office of Christian Formation gifted bundles of 10 books in either English or Spanish to congregations so they could share them with families for faith formation in the home. Another 70 books were handed out as door prizes last month at the annual gathering of the Association of Partners in Christian Education.

Wallace and the Rev. Marissa Galván-Valle, who translated the work into Spanish, met with those who received the book through the grant during an online gathering in early January to celebrate how the book was being embraced by the communities and families who received it.

A partnership of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation distributed books to 46 states and Puerto Rico.

“Book bundles were sent to 46 of the 50 states and Puerto Rico,” said Miatta Wilson, associate for Christian Formation at the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Wilson said that 3,610 copies of the English version and 1,220 copies of the Spanish version were sent out through the grant initiative. Each copy of the book included an insert to assist families in how to use the book for faith formation in the home. A congregational guide with information and image files to use in worship has also been made available as a download. “We need to celebrate that we were able to get that many books into the hands of people,” said Wilson, “for that is an immense joy.”

Joy and wonder were the impetus for Wallace, the author of four other books — mostly longer works of fiction — to write her first illustrated book. Wallace remembered her mother teaching her the beauty of Scripture through the psalms. She and her brother each had to memorize a favorite psalm as a child. Wallace wanted to pass on the wonder she felt as a child first encountering Scripture to other children and to offer a way for caregivers to engage children with the Bible the way her mother had.

As Wallace greeted those gathered, she made it clear that she loved doing church events in person or virtually and would be happy to visit communities that were reading the book. Wallace was also eager to learn how the books were being shared. Grant recipients shared stories of their book giveaways in small groups and in the chat over Zoom and in advance via email.

“We gave our books out at our Advent event to the families there and set up times to do personal drop-offs with other families,” wrote the Rev. Megan Berry, associate pastor for Children, Youth and Families at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, Wisconsin.

Carla Alexander, ruling elder at Brook Presbyterian Church in Hillburn, New York, said they gave away both English and Spanish versions at their annual breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Khoa Le’s illustrations for Psalms 12 and 13 for Carey Wallace’s translations in “Psalms of Wonder.” (Photo courtesy of Presbyterian Publishing Corporation)

“The artwork is simply stunning. It invites us to think more openly and more deeply about the text,” wrote the Rev. Laura Barnes, pastor at Eldorado County Federated Church in Placerville, California, who described how they are using the psalm images and texts through the Epiphany season that started with Psalm 66 on Jan. 7. Barnes said that each child’s family present at the church’s Christmas Eve service got a wrapped copy of the book.

The Rev. Migdáleder Mazuera, who received books in both languages, also praised the artwork: “Son preciosos! El colorido, la diagramacion, las ilustraciones; todo sobrepasa la excelencia (They are beautiful! The coloring, the layout, the illustrations; everything surpasses excellence),” said Mazuera, who has been reading the books to all her grandchildren, some of whom speak Spanish and others who speak English. She also plans to share the book with other grandmothers she knows both in and outside the church and said that due to the potential for this book to create a special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, for the next edition, a larger font may be needed.

Union Presbyterian Church in Powell, Wyoming, is using the books in Sunday school. The children of Union Presbyterian were given the books and resource inserts after their Christmas program to follow along each week as the main teacher of their Sunday school class refers to their various lessons and themes each week.

“Psalms of Wonder: Poems from the Book of Songs,” a Flyaway Books title, was published Oct. 3, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Presbyterian Publishing Corporation)

Laura Burns, director of Children’s Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Grant Haven, Michigan, shared the book as part of the program for a monthly parenting circle. She described how everyone shared two words about how they were feeling. “It was so helpful to name our mixed feelings: excited/tired, overwhelmed/hopeful, stressed/grateful,” said Burns. “Then I brought out the books and talked about how the psalms have all these emotions and how we can bring all our authentic feelings to God.” Burns described an outcome that aligned with the intention of the Office of Christian Formation when it first conceived of this initiative, which is a precursor to a larger-scale initiative to support communities supporting faith formation at home. The initiative, called “Around the Table,” supports the ways faith is formed at all the tables in our life — at home, at church and in the community. Through future partnerships with the Presbyterian Publishing Corp. and through coaching and cohorts, the five-year initiative will deepen the connections we make between the relationships we have, the meaning we make together, and the language we use in each of these spaces to describe what it means to belong, to know oneself as beloved and to practice being love for others.

Burns described the experience of watching the group of parents gathered around their communal table to receive the books and then leave to bring them home. “This invitation deepened our community prayer. People brought them home gratefully,” Burns said.

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