Universalist prayerbook PeaceBang mentioned

The Rev. Victoria Weinstein (PeaceBang) wrote today about a funeral she performed yesterday and the risks for not having your liturgical elements prepared. She did not have her copy of the 1894 Universalist prayerbook at hand and discovered the canonical text of Psalm 90 isn’t the same used in the funeral service. Both her anecdote and the way the Universalists edited the text were about pastoral preparation, including the way she recovered. But more about that another time.

In time, I’ll get the Book of Prayer (its proper title) in a proper PDF format, like Relly’s Union (download here, registration required). It really is a good resource, less for its originality — it is very close to the Episcopal Church’s 1892 Book of Common Prayer — than for how it was abbreviated and the humanizing touches the editors added.

As I’ve noted before, it is still in weekly use in at least one church: First Universalist, Providence, R.I. They even have a little liturgical guide for visitors.

Until the PDF, you can read the text here.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. As it is now in the public domain, have you thought of doing a reprint (e.g., via lulu.com)? A printed version would be very handy.

  2. Hi Scott, here is what I wrote to Victoria about her funeral scenario.

    Hi Victoria. What an important discussion your funeral has produced. I was in Washington/Fairfax recently and worshiped at Universalist National Memorial Church, a place that I really treasure. They used a hymnal from 1961. It was a tad awkward, I think. But the service was lovely–Lily preached on the Gospel of Judas. The important thing, though, is that I had a dream that Sunday night that the UUA had put red Xs all over the inside cover, to indicate that this was no longer acceptable for UU congregations. I have no particular grievance with the UUA. I like the new hymnal supplement! But it was something about being confronted by our past, and the complexity and nuance of the selections in that hymnal, and finding our current language inadequate to the task. Well, this post has little, I suspect, to do with your funeral scenario. I just thought it an interesting dream.
    Yours in Davenport,
    Roger Butts

  3. A note to other readers: I know for a fact the hymnal Roger references — since Universalist National Memorial Church was my last pastorate — is the Hymns of the Spirit, jointly published by the Universalists and Unitarians in 1937. He surely got a later copy, as it was kept in print until 1981.

    I wonder Roger, if the awkwardness comes from the unfamiliarity of the Morning Prayer format, which needs to be taught but has few helps in print anywhere. Yes, the language is a bit must, too, but I daresay it holds up better than the liberal liturgical works of the 1960s and 70s.

    Y’all out there: get a copy if you can. Ask around at older Unitarian Universalist churches; there may be a box lying about. Or check eBay, but I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for a copy in very good condition. Make sure it has the “Services of Religion” in the front, too.

  4. Hey Scott, yes, part of it is the unfamiliarity, but it also has to do with the gender-specificity for God and so on. It was awkward for me in the sense that the langauge of gender disabled me from being able to be at ease–now that, I realize, sounds new-agey and so on. But it is just how I felt! Hymns of the Spirit is right! I thought I saw 1961, but I guess it was 1937, because it definitely had the services of religion in it! Thanks Scott–hope you are well. Off to check in on E-Bay. I wonder if the UUCF could put it up as a PDF somewhere? Roger

  5. No, you might have seen 1961; it was reprinted oodles of times until 1981.

    Any re-publication would be in the hands of the UUA, since they hold copyright. That’s one of the reasons I’ve shown more interested in even older liturgies; they’re in the public domain.

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