Possible source for non-Biblical responsive readings

Yesterday’s century-old Unitarian resource reminded me of another.

The “non-biblical” reading has been a staple of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist worship for ages; in some societies, it’s the default. Of course, even in late antique Christian worship, hymns were adopted in worship as extra-biblical texts but I’m describing something that functions in one hand as a hymn or psalm, but may also be used as a preaching text.

Some time back, while looking for another book online, I found one that looks like an early source of these, edited from the work of “great authors”, led by Unitarian minister John Haynes Holmes.

The 1919 edition is in the public domain, and that’s the one I’ll be referring to. (While the the 1929 edition may be checked out by persons with an archive.org account, only one person may use it at a time.)

It’s a bit like the Golden Book of Liberal Religious Wisdom, with arranged readings from Tennyson, Whitman, Jesus, the Buddha and Marcus Aurelius. Some Whitman in his birth bicentennial. And Channing in the bicentennial year of his Baltimore Sermon. It even has Parker’s “arc of the [moral] universe.”

selection from Parker reading

The red 1937 Hymns of the Spirit has a few non-Biblical responsive readings, and so I’ve wondered if some of those readings were built from these. That Channing one above has the text for the responsive reading “I Call that Mind Free,” a staple of the blue hymnal and the gray (#592).

Sure, some are stuffy, but there’s a grandeur to them that deserves respect and perhaps emulation, even if only for private meditation.

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