Songs of joy and praise were the order of worship last Saturday and Sunday at the Church of the Pilgrims, the stately gothic structure near the corner of 22nd and P streets NW.
It was a Celebration of Psalms, the collection of the Judeo-Christian tradition of expressing emotion to and for God. There are 150 psalms in the Old Testament, which took about 700 years to develop.
This link between Jew and Christian was movingly dramatized Sunday evening by cantor Robert Toren's presentation of the 23rd Psalm in the traditional Hebrew form. Toren is cantor of Adas Israel Congregation.
Psalm 19 was done in sign language. It says, "There is no speech nor language where (praise of the Lord) is not heard."
The Saturday evening service was entirely in the hands of the Thursday Morning Liturgical Dance class of Georgetown University, led by instructor Kathryn Fredgren and singer Lori Brady.
Psalms are often bare and emotional. The simple lines of the dancer's clothing and the emotive movements of their bodies as they expressed praise, trusting relationship to and even alienation from God, evoked for some the age in which the psalms first were used.
In the years of their development, psalms often formed the liturgy of worship. The laments, songs of praise and those of thanksgiving were the structures that determined the early Jews' comprehension of God. It was through psalms that many created, maintained and expanded their relationship with God.
At the close of the liturgical dance presentation Saturday night, a happy congregation burst through the sanctuary doors. Members trooped to the basement where slides of the congregation's life, people and nature scenes were matched with phrases as six psalms were read.
Upstaris, the church awarded $100 to Linda Abrams of Potomac for her calligraphic interpretation of Psalm 150, in both Hebrew and English, Abrams' work was part of an exhibit of psalms put together by calligrapher Sheila Waters' students at the Washington Calligraph's Guild.