Hymns about universal salvation

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Unitarian Universalist minister Eric Posa comments in the prior post about Singing the Journey

On another hymnody issue: Is there anything in Singing the Living Tradition that you especially like to complement preaching on Universalism? I don’t mean Humiliati/Ken Patton universal religion, but universal salvation. (I’m doing a sermon series at my new church on salvation, and why it’s not a useless concept for UUs.) Any advice you can offer on hymns would be appreciated.

That's going to be a tough one. Universalists, for all their strengths, did not have the best cadre of hymn writers and tended to (1) write rather badly didactic hymns and (2) use the best that others had to offer. Plus, Universalists generally had a higher Christology and weren't so squeemish to talk about Christ's divine nature and the purpose of his sacrifice. The whole "it isn't how he died but how he lived" approach is a Unitarian gloss on Universalism. A better Universalist reading would be closer to "because of God's loving character, Jesus Christ was able to fulfill his purpose in a way that benefits all humanity (or all sentient or living things)."

Hymns that address God's active care and identify the bonds of corporate humanity and (to a lesser degree) mutual reliance should work. Thus from Singing the Living Tradition, I'd go for

  • "Immortal Love, forever full"
  • "Unto thy temple, Lord, we come"
  • "Bring, O morn, thy music"
  • "Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life"
  • "God of grace and God of glory"

I wouldn't balk at "We'll build a land" either.

Had "What wondrous Love" been left as original -- it reads to me a bit neurotic now -- that would work so perhaps there's an opportunity there for an anthem or an instrumental work.

The problem with SLT isn't particularly its hymns about God, but its hymns about corporate humanity, which pale besides the triumph of the individual (one of several reasons I hate "Spirit of life" with a passion) or a particular congregation or community, and that's not Universalist.
I'd be prone to tip in some stronger stuff: "O God of earth and altar" comes to mind but I'd ask others. Thoughts gang?

6 Replies to “Hymns about universal salvation”

  1. Spirit of Life has always been one of my favorite UU songs.
    In olden times we sang it every week.
    Why don’t you like it?

  2. Back in January, I asked folks on the Universalist Convocations mailing list to tell me what traditional Universalist hymns are in the SINGING THE LIVING TRADITION. I quickly reviewed these – and found NO songs about Universal Restoration. Checking older hymn books, including the 1829 Streeter hymnal, a quick check shows no songs about Universal Restoration – which makes sense…. do the Baptist have many hymns about baptism? You just know God will eventually restore everyone to God, why not sing of something else? I

  3. Back in January, I asked folks on the Universalist Convocations mailing list to tell me what traditional Universalist hymns are in the SINGING THE LIVING TRADITION. I quickly reviewed these – and found NO songs about Universal Restoration. Checking older hymn books, including the 1829 Streeter hymnal, a quick check shows no songs about Universal Restoration – which makes sense…. do the Baptist have many hymns about baptism? You just know God will eventually restore everyone to God, why not sing of something else? I would suggest 29 Joyful Joyful We Adore thee
    by the way Scott, someone thought “Bring O’ Morn Thy Music” was one of the four most Universalist songs in the SLT (the others being 138, 299, and 318)

  4. #431R Hymns of the Spirit) – “All Souls, O God, are thine” is a marvelous hymn done by the Rev. Epes Sargent a American universalist minister.
    #87R (Hymns of the Spirit)- “My Shepherd’s Holy Reign is Love”
    #610R (Hymns of the Spirit)- “My Soul shall bless the soul of All”
    7R or 7S (Hymns of the Spirit) “Praise be to God, the Almighty”* also in Singing Living Tradition* or “Sing Songs to God the All Loving”

    Oh Freedom (Singing the Living Tradition #156)

    Didn’t my Lord Deliver Daniel I give a ringing endorsement to (it may or may not show up in hymnals) there’s a good chance you can get sheet music, or an insert.

    There is more love somewhere (Singing the Living Tradition #95)
    Nearer, My God, to Thee (Singing the Living Tradition #87)
    Wake now my senses (Singing the Living Tradition #298)
    Precious Lord, take my hand (Singing the Living Tradition #199)
    O come, You Longing Thirsty Souls (Singing the Living Tradition #209)
    Shall we gather at the River?
    River in Judea

    As for other universalist hymns in SLT I’m not exactly sure.

    Other suggestions are Soon Ah will be done , Every Night when the Sun Goes In (sheet music)
    a oldy but goody “Nuct Dimittis”
    Dank Sei Gott by William George Tarrant
    I Don’ Feel No Ways Tired (arr. Stacy Gibbs)
    Saints bound for Heaven (arr. Mack Wilberg)

  5. You know, your criticism of SLT as being too individualistic seems to ring true to my experience in a small fellowship for several years. On the other hand, since then I’ve selected songs for Labor Sunday services which are all about solidarity and community. There are great songs for universal justice and compassion. “Spirit of Life” is one of them, stirring both in the individuals who sing it.

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