Another source of “red hymnal” liturgical resources

The Services of Religion associated with the red Hymns of the Spirit drew from many sources. One was Devotional Services for Public Worship (1903), an example of English Congregationalist liturgy; it represents a parallel strain to Free Christianity within English Dissent.

To note.

Different ways to “sing” the psalm

Each evening, for vespers, I “sing” the Bonum Est Confiteri, Prasm 92:1-4 as it read in the rubrics, and included in the Coverdale version:

¶ Then shall be sang the following Psalm:

Bonum Est Confiteri.

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most Highest;
To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season;
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.

Do I sing it? No. But there a different ways congregations can use this (and other psalms and canticles):

  1. Read in in unison.
  2. Read in by alternating verses or half verses; alternating between a worship leader and congregation, or between halves of the congregation.
  3. Read in unison, but book-ended with a sung antiphon. More often seen in newer hymnals.
  4. Chanted: plainsong or Anglican chant being two options.
  5. A metrical version sung to a psalm tune — “Old 100th” was the tune for an early metrical version of Psalm 100.
  6. A hymn based closely on the psalm.

The Sternhold and Hopkins metrical psalter is the likely choice for option 5, giving us, in common meter:

It is a thing both good and meet
to praise the highest Lord,
And to thy Name, O thou most High,
to sing with one accord:

To shew the kindness of the Lord,
before the day be light,
And to declare his truth abroad,
when it doth draw to night;

On a ten-string’ed instrument,
on lute and harp so sweet,
With all the mirth you can invent
of instruments most meet.

An assortment of hymns evoking Psalm 92 may be found here.

The point: a rubric and a text may be used in more than the literal way.

Hurrian Hymn No. 6

The oldest known melody…

A hymn to Nikkal, a Ugarit and Caananite goddess of fruit and wife of the moon god, Yarikh (and namesake of Jericho.)

All I know from memory about the Ugarit language is that it’s an ancient Semitic language that you could learn in the religion department at my alma mater, UGA (University of Georgia) and the co-incidence made me laugh.

But no youthful trifles here. This is a beautiful work, and fitting at high summer. If I only had grapes and figs and apricots. I am entranced by this music, nearly three and a half millenia on. (Thanks to hymnologist and Esperatist Leland “Haruo” Ross for posting this on Facebook.)

New hymnals in!

They’ve been in for a while, truth be told. Not ready to review them, but each is larger that I thought it might be. 2014-05-24 16.01.50 There is the words-only edition of the United Church of Canada’s Voices United and the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary 4 (purple) with the words-only Unitarian and Free Christian Hymns of Faith and Freedom, Church Hymnary 3 (melody edition) and Church Hymnary Revised (pocket words-only) for size comparison.

2014-05-24 16.02.30

Unitarian worship resource for Union soldiers

This small 1865 American Unitarian Association assortment of rousing songs and Bible readings (arranged for unison or responsive reading, and with headings like “Those who turn from Holiness are condemned”) isn’t explicitly for Union soldiers, but songs like “Arise, New-England’s Sons!” and “The Massachusetts Line” weren’t likely to appeal to Johnny Reb.

The Soldier’s Companion: Dedicated to the Defenders of Their Country in the Field by Their Friends at Home.

The found would-be Universalist hymnal

The discussions around these hymns and hymnal posts on that walled garden, Facebook, have been far more lively that the comments here might suggest. Thanks to commenters here and there.

A bit of alternative history. The Universalists didn’t have to be consolidated with the Unitarians. There was as an eleventh-hour attempt to stop it. (Which produced an interesting print artifact; I’ll talk about that later.) So the Universalists might have remained independent, or clubbed in with a Congregationalists — there were talks — and ended up with the United Church of Christ or the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Some Universalist churches that opted out of the UUA did end up joining the latter body — I recall the names in the 1990s — though I’m unsure if any are extant. (Universalist National Memorial Church is an honorary member.)

I’m not saying that such an outcome would be desirable, only possible. And they would have come up with their own ways and resources.

I had this in mind when I re-reviewed the 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book, a Brethren and Mennonite book. I couldn’t help but think that in might be good for Christian Universalists, or a Universalist-federated church. On the one hand, it’s got ecumenical standards, Unitarian classics from the like of Barbould, Hosmer and Longfellow, and cheery Gospel songs like “God be with you till we meet again” (which ended worship at a church I used to supply.)

It just feels Universalist. And since the Universalists in the Southern states started as Brethren, I suppose that’s right. Alas, like Singing the Living Tradition, it’s entry at is almost empty, so it’s hard to make a comparison with other hymnals.

It’s inexpensive ($15) and well-made, though I’ve heard that they warp if they stand up in a hymn rack. A nice selection of worship resources, too.

And that might be the end of it: a useful hymnal in certain restricted (unlikely, really) circumstances. But then there are the supplements.

Two more substantial works are Mennonite-specific, but the little ones have modern hymns and some Taize (it seems) plus “Gathered Here in the Mystery of This Hour,” “Siyahamba” and something called “Spirit of Life.”

A parallel development, in an alternate world, indeed…

This will be the last hymnal post until my ordered books show up; until then, I’ll turn to other matters, including worship theory.

Another hymnal found: for Unitarian mission

While looking for the source of an obscure responsive reading, I came across this little service book: Mission hymnal of the Unitarian Laymen’s League. Despite it being undated, and Internet Archive dating it to 1900, it is in fact later. Unless the Unitarian Laymen’s League had the powers of time travel, as it includes a hymn dated August 9, 1929. (It predates Hymns of the Spirit, 1937, for closer dating.)

Its tone is serene yet vital: a religion of rest of dyspeptic captains of industry, I wouldn’t half guess. Its purpose: to help establish Unitarian preaching stations, and more spiritually developed men. Yet, at first glance doesn’t seem to suffer the excesses of “muscular Christianity” from the generation before.

Two interesting points:

  1. It has a hymn by a Universalist. “We praise thee, God, for harvests earned” by John Coleman Adams. (A God-free version exists in Singing the Living Tradition as “Our praise we give for harvests earned,” #294.)
  2. The directions for prayer have a certain Unitarian resonance:

You say, however, “I do not believe in prayer.” Even so, this does not obviate the necessity of daily spiritual exercise. Retire every day into the silence of your own thoughts, there commune with the highest you can possibly conceive.

Historic hymn and worship resource: something for the Humanists

Hello, Humanists? I hope you don’t feel too slighted on this blog; it’s only that I feel a particular mission to the Christian part of liberal religion and Unitarian Universalism in particular. But many of the same hymnological themes I’ve been writing about recently (and many of the worship themes I’ll be turning to) have parallels in the “churchly” side of turn of the twentieth century radical dissent, the spirit of which is the inheritance of Religious Humanism and Ethical Culture.

See the following three resources editored or written by Stanton Coit. I’ve written about the second two before, but the first seems to be recently scanned and published.

I’m still hoping to get or copy his 1914 Social Worship, but it’s quite hard to find around here. Perhaps a trip to Brown University Library over General Assembly.

Review: other lists of Unitarian Universalist “canonical” hymns

Saturday’s blog post (“Fifty Shades of Unitarian“) wasn’t the first time I’ve worked up lists of what might be “canonical” hymns in the Unitarian and Universalist traditions. Because this looks back over several decades, it necessarily includes only old hymns, which is useful (to a point) for finding hymns that have entered the public domain. (This makes alterations easier, and obviates licensing issues.)

See these posts, too; some research, some opinion, a couple of resources:

Goodness! I’ve written a lot about this.

Fifty Shades of Unitarian

So, what are the “standards” of Unitarian hymnody? Lacking an objective standard, I’ve looked at the question one of two ways: hymns commonly found in Unitarian hymnals, by Unitarian authors; and those chosem by leading lights. This blog post assumes the later.

The Unitarian faith set forth in fifty Unitarian hymns” by American Unitarian Association (1914)

Each entry has a common structure: an entitling theme of what particularly Unitarian sentiment is expressed in the hymn (omitted here; will appear late as sermon meditation fodder), a relevant passage or two of scripture, the hymn, suggested tunes, and biographical stub of the hymn author. In the introduction, we learn that, “With three exceptions the hymns and poems in this collection are taken from the Unitarian Hymn Book [presumably the New Hymn and Tune Book; also 1914].…The selections on pages 9, 29, and 56 are verses which are adapted to reading or reciting rather than for singing.”

This is far from all good Unitarian hymns that existed then, much less encompassing what good non-Unitarian hymns the Unitarians sing. (Naturally, the Universalists had their own favorites, but there tended to be a lot overlap.) And not all of these hold up over the last century.

So, how did this list square with the succeeding Universalist, then the three suceeding Unitarian (and ) Universalist hymnals, to today? For what it’s worth, Singing the Living Tradition has more “survivors” than any other comtemporary hymnal, in the United States anyway.


  • HOTC1917: Hymns of the Church (Universalist, 1917)
  • HOTS1938: Hymns of the Spirit (joint Unitarian and Universalist, 1938)
  • HCL1964: Hymns for the Celebration of Life (Unitarian Universalist, 1964)
  • SLT1993: Singing the Living Tradition (Unitarian Universalist, 1993)

[table  width=”500″]

‘O Beautiful my Country!’,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,47,238,388,240,
Calm on the listening ear of night,Edmund Hamilton Sears,34,315,159,,
Christian rise and act thy creed,Francis Albert Rollo Russell,24,,282,,
“Eternal One, thou living God”,Samuel Longfellow,10,,367,246,345
Father in thy mysterious presence kneeling,Samuel Johnson,18,293,229,,
Father let thy kingdom come,John Page Hopps,42,,336,,
Father thy wonders do not singly stand,Jones Very,17,,41,,
From age to age how grandly rise,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,11,,423,231,105
Go not my soul in search of him Thou wilt find him there,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,20,,58,88,
God of the nations near and far,John Haynes Holmes,48,217,399,,
“Hear, hear, O ye nations, and hearing obey”,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,49,240,398,194,
I cannot think of them as dead,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,54,362,202,73,96
Immortal by their deed and word; Like light around them shed,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,27,,203,,
In the cross of Christ I glory,John Bowering,36,338,190,,
It came upon the midnight clear,Edmund Hamilton Sears,35,317,162,287,244
It singeth low in every heart,John White Chadwick,55,244,451,,
Life of ages richly poured,Samuel Johnson,23,,337,172,111
Light of ages and of nations,Samuel Longfellow,12,,75,248,189
Lord of all being throned afar,Oliver Wendell Holmes,7,,16,38,
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,Julia Ward Howe,46,241,567,,
My God I thank thee may no thought,Andrews Norton,52,,,,
Mysterious Presence source of all,Seth Curtis Beach,14,,63,130,92
Nearer my God to thee,Sarah Flowers Adams,19,171,245,126,87
O God whose presence glows in all,Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham,40,,60,,
O Life that maketh all things new,Samuel Longfellow,44,,416,54,12
O Light from age to age the same,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,31,,464,255,
O Lord of life thy kingdom is at hand,Marion Franklin Ham,39,,332,,
“O Love divine, that stooped to share”,Oliver Wendell Holmes,53,289,188,,
O prophet souls of all the years,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,22,,421,233,272
O Thou great friend to all the sons of men,Theodore Parker,25,93,209,,
O Thou in lonely vigil led,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,43,,171,,
O Thou whose Spirit witness bears; Within our spirits free,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,15,,52,74,
One holy Church of God appears,Samuel Longfellow,51,170,407,261,
Our Father while our hearts unlearn,Oliver Wendell Holmes,26,,235,,
“Our God, our God thou shinest here”,Thomas Hornblower Gill,38,,9,36,
The ages one great minster seem,James Russell Lowell,50,,417,,
“The clashing of creeds, and the strife”,Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,29,,,,
The Light along the ages Shines higher as it goes,William George Tarrant,37,,197,,
The Lord is in his Holy Place,William Channing Gannett,16,,73,,
“This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign”,Oliver Wendell Holmes,56,,,,
Thou Grace Divine encircling all,Eliza Scudder,21,87,224,,
Thou Life within my life than self more near,Eliza Scudder,8,,81,,
Thou Lord of Hosts whose guiding hand,Octavius Brooks Frothingham,28,,310,,
“Thy kingdom come,—on bended knee”,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,45,211,338,,
We come unto our fathers’ God ,Thomas Hornblower Gill,30,,363,15,
We love the venerable house Our fathers built to God,Ralph Waldo Emerson,32,,466,,
We pray no more made lowly wise,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,13,,274,188,
“When thy heart, with joy o’erflowing”,Theodore Chickering Williams,41,204,280,226,
Where ancient forests widely spread,Andrews Norton,33,,27,,
Whither midst falling dew,William Cullen Bryant,9,,,,