Saturday night, Hubby and I watched the pilot episode of country-church-based Britcom, The Victor of Dibley (1994). I remember that from the look of the hymnals and the announced numbers that it was Hymns Ancient and Modern. Not a bad hymnal to have as a reference work; I do.
That year was about the end of the last wave of American hymnal publishing. It began with an early entry by the Episcopalians (1982), crested I say with the United Methodists (1989) and Presbyterians (1990). The Unitarian Universalists had just published the gray hymnal the year before.Â Like cicadas, hymnals come in fairly predicable cycles with long periods of dormancy between generations. At present, in the fallow, we getÂ supplements and planning committees. The recent (2006) ELCA book of worship is something of an island: a rule-proving exception. I don’t expect the next generation to begin publishing for another decade, all talk of the death of hymnals notwithstanding.
I mention this tidal flow of hymnals because it was some time back then — I forget which year — that the Council of Christian Churches within the Unitarian Universalist Association, concerned that Singing the Living Tradition had too few Christian hymns to be useful and that the 1937 Hymns of the Spirit was too old, wanted to recommend a hymnal that the remaining Christian churches might use.
There was a report, but little came of it — I think because there was no option so wonderful. The British Unitarian Christian Hymns of Faith and Freedom was words-only. A local Congregationalist hymnal Hymns of Truth and Light (though adopted by First Unitarian, Weston) and the NACCC’s Hymns for a Pilgrim People (another “island”) were not yet out by report time. My own favorite, Rejoice and Sing, from the United Reformed Church (UK) is not available for sale in the United States.
Which begs a question — if not for Christian churches in the UUA, then at least for Christians in the UUA, perhaps in small groups — what hymnal would appeal? And for reference sake, what “near-UU” hymnal should one own?