The found would-be Universalist hymnal

The discussions around these hymns and hymnal posts on that walled garden, Facebook, have been far more lively that the comments here might suggest. Thanks to commenters here and there.

A bit of alternative history. The Universalists didn’t have to be consolidated with the Unitarians. There was as an eleventh-hour attempt to stop it. (Which produced an interesting print artifact; I’ll talk about that later.) So the Universalists might have remained independent, or clubbed in with a Congregationalists — there were talks — and ended up with the United Church of Christ or the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Some Universalist churches that opted out of the UUA did end up joining the latter body — I recall the names in the 1990s — though I’m unsure if any are extant. (Universalist National Memorial Church is an honorary member.)

I’m not saying that such an outcome would be desirable, only possible. And they would have come up with their own ways and resources.

I had this in mind when I re-reviewed the 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book, a Brethren and Mennonite book. I couldn’t help but think that in might be good for Christian Universalists, or a Universalist-federated church. On the one hand, it’s got ecumenical standards, Unitarian classics from the like of Barbould, Hosmer and Longfellow, and cheery Gospel songs like “God be with you till we meet again” (which ended worship at a church I used to supply.)

It just feels Universalist. And since the Universalists in the Southern states started as Brethren, I suppose that’s right. Alas, like Singing the Living Tradition, it’s entry at is almost empty, so it’s hard to make a comparison with other hymnals.

It’s inexpensive ($15) and well-made, though I’ve heard that they warp if they stand up in a hymn rack. A nice selection of worship resources, too.

And that might be the end of it: a useful hymnal in certain restricted (unlikely, really) circumstances. But then there are the supplements.

Two more substantial works are Mennonite-specific, but the little ones have modern hymns and some Taize (it seems) plus “Gathered Here in the Mystery of This Hour,” “Siyahamba” and something called “Spirit of Life.”

A parallel development, in an alternate world, indeed…

This will be the last hymnal post until my ordered books show up; until then, I’ll turn to other matters, including worship theory.

2 Replies to “The found would-be Universalist hymnal”

  1. I came across Hymnal when I went to seminary and have no idea how I missed it before I got there.
    The good thing is that because I was in seminary with Brethren and Quakers (the Mennonites were at AMBS in upstate Indiana), I got to hear a lot of Universalist songs. But don’t tell those Brethren that; they try hard to sweep their universalist strain and theology under the rug.

    I think that when the next round of hymnals is produced, the Brethren-Mennonites aren’t going to do much except add the supplements to the hardbound edition and call it a day. But I might be wrong; with all the social issues affecting theology in both groups, they could end up producing a completely different (and “new”) hymnal.

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