A hymnal from Fellowship Movement prehistory

Reading Bright Galaxy is making me re-visit the scattered history of earlier Unitarian efforts to organize lay-led congregations, including the League of Lay Centers. This was active, I believe, c. 1907-08.

[Correction: These were “Centers” and spelling changed;  but I believe there was another attempt with “Lay Centres”.]

February 1908 issue of Unitarian Word & Work outlines the program.

I got in the mail yesterday a little find: Service and Hymn Book for the Unitarian League of Lay Centers. It’s undated, and judging by the condition, never used. I hope to share as much of it as I can.

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The forward follows:


The formation of a League of Lay Centers has grown out of a demand for a liberal interpretation of religion and for a simple form of worship in harmony with it, such as can be conducted without the expense and responsibility of the ordinary church organization. This Service and Hymn Book has been arranged to provide for services of worship under lay leadership. And while it is brief and free from liturgical complications, it is hoped that the responses, prayers, and hymns contain the strength, beauty, and dignity which will commend them to the uses of thoughtful and reverent worshippers. Familiarity is, however, the best avenue of attachment for such a book, and too much cannot be said in favor of making use of all the services and all the hymns.

The compiler take this opportunity to acknowledge his indebtedness to Reverend Thomas Van Ness for the service and psalm selections taken from his “Responsive Readings,” and for many of the prayers selected from the Collections of the Reverends George Dawson and R. Compton Jones.

L. G. W.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


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