Harvard's new hymnal facts

Chris Walton (Philocrites) brings to our attention the new hymnal Harvard University’s Memorial Church will dedicate tomorrow. This is that hymnal’s fourth edition; the third edition coming from 1964. Learning its lineage,  I made a quick Google search and uncovered the first and second editions dating to 1895 and 1907 respectively. These may be downloaded from Google Books if you so wish: first and second editions.

Of greater interest is the fact that at least two churches had authorized versions printed for their own use: First Congregational, New Bedford and First Parish in Weston. (The Weston hymnal, from Google Books.)

This latter church should be well known to my Unitarian Universalist Christian readers: it is the largest Christian church remaining within the Unitarian Universalist Association.


3 Replies to “Harvard's new hymnal facts”

  1. Scott — First Congregational Society of New Bedford is now First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, where I am currently the minister. I read this post two weeks ago, and finally found time to go through the archives here to see if we still have a copy of that hymnal. We do. The title page reads:

    “The/ University Hymn Book/ Altered by permission/ for use in/ The First Congregational Society/ New Bedford/ O come let us sing unto the Lord; let us heartily/ rejoice in the strngth of our salvation/ Cambridge/ John Wilson and Son/ University Press/ 1898”

    In 1898, this church was the church of the social elite in New Bedford — people in this church had made their money on whaling, many were now involved in the very lucrative textile manufacturing business, many were from the oldest and most socially prominent families in the city. The hymnal I have in front of me is thus somewhat luxurious: bound in leather with gilt edges, and with the name of its owner inscribed in gilt letters on the front cover. Neatly pasted inside the front cover, on the fly leaf, is an order of service. Since you and your readers might be curious to know how this hymnal was used in our church, here’s the order of service:

    First Congregational Society.
    Order of Morning Service.
    11 o’clock.
    Organ Voluntary.
    Doxology. Hymn 309.
    Congregation rise and sing without announcement.
    Scripture Reading.
    Choir Hymn.
    Minister and Choir.
    Choir Response.
    Scripture Reading.
    Congregational Hymn.
    Short Organ Piece.
    Congregational Hymn.
    Choir sings “Amen.”

  2. Hi Scott, I didn’t hear a slight, don’t worry! What is really interesting about the adoption of the University Hymnal here in 1898 is that the decades-long pastorate of William J. Potter had only recently ended. Potter was one of the minor founding members of the Free Religious Association, and so militantly non-Christian that he managed to get himself removed from the American Unitarian Association yearbook. The church used the early edition of Hymns of the Spirit under the Potter regime — but the University Hymnal seems to me to represent a return to more conventional Unitarian Christianity almost as soon as Potter had retired. Paul Revere Frothingham was the minister who followed Potter, and was much-beloved by the congregation. (Apparently attendance rose significantly once Potter was gone, too, though whether due to theology or Frothingham’s personality is unclear.)

    Sorry to go on at such length — I’ve been reading up on our history in preparation for the 300th anniversary of our founding, which will be next year, and I’m full of stupid little factoids about the church.

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