March 23 is the death anniversary of two Universalist hymn-writers. Given there weren’t all that many, this is a significant coincidence.
Thomas Lake Harris (1823-1906) was born in England but grew up in the United States, where he eventually became a Universalist minister. He was in his 30s when he wrote his hymns, or rather when “they were verball communicated by individual spirits.” OK. The best of the bunch, according to Henry Wilder Foote, is “O earth, thy past is crowned and consecrated” which was #354 in Hymns of the Spirit (the red hymnal). The second of three verses:
O Earth! thy present too is crowned with splendor
By its reformers, battling in the strife;
Friends of humanity, stern, strong and tender,
Making the world more hopeful with their life.
Byron G. Russell (c1850-1930) was also a Universalist minister, “serving the Standing Stone, Pennsylvania” church (Foote) and authored one hymn, of praise, also found in the red hymnal, #11: “Our Father, unto thee.” The last verse:
And may our hands reach out
To those who round about
Demand our love.
In every hour of need
May we their pleadings heed,
Till earth becomes indeed
Like heaven above.
These details were in Foote’s “Catalog of American Universalist Hymn Writers and Hymns” (1959), typewritten report “compiled for the Hymn Society of America.”