Unitarian hymns of note

The eponymous Jess (Jess’s Journal) makes me happy because she knows how to make an S-ending name possessive correctly, a tiny matter that has long bristled me. Still flu-ish, I guess I bristle easily.

The same Jess has also pointed out the difference between simple and simplistic music in worship. The low estate of Unitarian Universalist hymnody has bother me dearly for many years, and, despite my great misgivings about Unitarianism, its faithful once produced some of the greatest hymns known in English. A Catholic organist I once knew noted the Unitarians wrote hymns that dealt seriously with time and place, especially the cycles of time and the quality of natural spaces. I’ve never studied the observation formally because that rings true. (And I’ve said before the Universalists were middling hymn writers at best. Usually too busy making a theological point to get the poetry out.)

Talk about, say, the Hosmer and “two Sams” hymns has dried up since the 1993 grey hymnal came out. I don’t recall if any of these are in it. What, if any, classic Unitarian hymns are still in wide use?

7 Replies to “Unitarian hymns of note”

  1. I may have been guilty of this crime.

    My excuse is I am currently studying on an intensive English Language teaching prof. development course which – through sleep deprivation – is ironically causing me to spell everything incorrectly, miss basic punctuation etc.

    Anyway, tonight I found time to change a Scott Wells’ to a Scott Wells’s on my blog entry – you’ll all be relieved to know that I’m sure…


  2. Hi

    UU music at its best is wonderful and inspiring – I really like it.

    (I am not cool enough to appreciate that new paper-back music book we are now starting to use.)


    ps your font is very small

  3. As long-term president of a small Unitarian Universalist congregation in Texas, and former accompanist for congregational singing, I will testify that the current UU hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, has both some of the best hymns I know (“Spirit of Life” for example) and some of the worst hymns ever written (I hesitate to name these, for fear I might get caught). It was produced by a committee of dozens of ministers and music directors, hence has all the virtues and faults of any committee production. As often happens when a group is faced with this sort of problem, we have pretty much limited ourselves to singing the same 30-40 hymns during the year, ignoring the remaining 350 or so as either (1) unsingable, (2) unbearable, or (3) unintelligible. The old hymnal, Hymns for the Celebration of Life, arguably was no better and included many pieces that felt way out of date even as we sang them.

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