I’m glad Chutney and Philocrites brought up the WorshipWeb resource that Philo . . . Chris Walton led-up a few years ago. (These pseudonyms make me think we each have a sidekick, a nemesis, and a lair.)
It includes three of the sixteen services from the 1937 (in print until 1981) “red hymnal” Hymns of the Spirit. If you’ve been following this discussion and don’t have one, get one. Or at least make a copy of the front service part for your own study. A lot of older Unitarian Universalist churches have a box of them mouldering away; one gets kicked up on eBay every once in a while, too. (A fair price is no more an $7.)
Chutney might have had an easier time seeing a possible progression for his project in some of these services. Services one (my favorite) to five are liberal, broad Christian. Services six to ten are non-theistic, perhaps more Free Religion than Humanist. Here is number seven. Service eleven is a bit of a mystery: very lightly Christian, with a hint that it is used after some disaster or strife. Since there is internal evidence of Unitarian and Universalist “areas” in this hymnal, I wonder if it is of Universalist origin. Services twelve to sixteen are proper to holidays; twelve is for Christmas Day.
The services and supplemental material, including responsive readings, are not without problems. One minister friend says the responsive readings are so dry they dehumidify the church basement. (They are “responsive by whole verse” — which is just enough to leave me breathless by the end of each line. I have been impressed by a half-verse reading, as the local Swedenborgians do. Rather than breathlessness, the congregation seems to be breathing the psalm.)
PeaceBang (calling me in her secret, real-life identity) and I talked recently about whether services like these are used in toto, or are essentially showrooms for elements to be pulled into locally produced service sheets. Both, we thought. I think it’s a shame that the last two hymnals only do the later. Various frameworks would help. (If the Anglicans can do it, uncharacteristically, we might could.) I think the development here is the technology (spirit duplicators, later xerography in lieu of professional job printing) that allowed nearly all churches — or rather, their ministers — to print locally, and thus claim tighter week-to-week editorial control over the conduct of the service. For weal and woe alike. There’s a whole hidden history of five or six decades of American religious history resting on folded letter size paper. But that’s another post.