Anyone who has read my blog over the last few days can see I’ve been interested in hymnology, and particularly how it affects the lives of Unitarian Universalists. I keep looking for an ideal solution, particularly for those us who come from particularly small congregations of Christian Unitarian Universalists, and I will continue to look and comment on the subject.
To that end, I recently ordered two words-only hymnals. These are Voices United from the United Church of Canada, and Church Hymnary 4, from the Church of Scotland. Because both of these books are imports, I got the words-only editions because frankly they’re cheaper, new or used. They’re also smaller, which is also a consideration given how many hymnals I bought over the years. But there’s something more than that: these pocket words-only hymnals also serve as books of prayer and actualized theology.
Words-only hymnals are, essentially, collections of poetry, but unlike others in the genre they are intended primarily to be heard aloud and to be used in groups. Even so, I’ve found myself — from time to time — dipping into hymnals to better understand what I’m feeling and give some language to it, if not always a tune. I’ve found comfort and solace in hymnals, and disproportionately in the little ones, missing the music, where I might be intimidated by symbols I don’t comprehend well enough to learn from. And there have been times that a hymn has the power either structured or free prayer does not, and that leads to better understanding (not the same thing as a better explanation) than an idea of God confronted head-on.
It would be nice to offer — or at least locate — such a resource so it may kept in every home, in a day bag, and finally in the heart.