I misremembered the name and some of the details of the Sunday school hymnal Derek and I like. The Beacon Song and Service Book, unlike the later (1935, not earlier) joint Unitarian-Universalist Hymns of the Spirit is a Unitarian only production. Judging by the dates of some of the now-classic hymns, this relatively small volume must have debuted some stunning new hymn texts, including Jacob Trapp’s “Wonders Still the World Shall Witness” and the little chorus — which I wonder if anyone uses any more — “As we leave this friendly place . . . .” Vincent Silliman wrote several, translated more and also added a few stanzas here and here, some of which I had thought were original. Others like Marion Frankin Ham’s “Ring, O ring, ye Christmas bells!” — not so much.
While I can do without patriotic hymns in this and every hymnal, I was stunned by another political-social movement that made its mark: trade unionism, as seen in hymns of human solidarity and the honoring of past heroes. There is a — well — heroic quality to some of the hymns that is plainly missing today and has been replaced with introspection verging on narcissism. I was singing though this little hymnal last night and realized I knew about half of 331 hymns, choruses and service music selections (and am sure I could have picked up a few quite easily.)Â With themes exhalting human community, religious pioneers, spiritual freedom and the love of nature, I think this work might hold up better today for “mainline” Unitarian Universalist congregations than first thought.
If I was in a small, long-established and theologically-mixed (but mostly theist)Â congregation, I would seriously consider using The Beacon Song and Service Book for the adult congregation if there was a mold-free box in the attic.
Does anyone else have experience of this book?