Do we have a gospel?

So, dear Unitarian Universalists: today is Palm Sunday and Passover starts tomorrow. You’re probably busy, so I’ll keep this brief.

Do we have a gospel? Not a bunch of gospels, or pieces that can be grouped into a gospel, but a story that makes it possible for a group of disparate persons into a particular people? I don’t think we do. I think we have a context for ministry, where we bring gospels, but I don’t think that’ll be sufficient for long-term survival. And so the people will perish.

We may be too big to share a gospel (from this point) and too small to re-organize around multiple centers.

An unhappy thought, but not having the though won’t save us. The comments are open.

If you don't have millions to buy a Bay Psalm Book

This week one of the eleven surviving copies of the 1640 Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in English North America, sold at auction.

The owner was Old South Church, Boston, and the sale reminded me of all the old Unitarian communion plate that was sold to keep the staff paid, the furnace stoked or the roof on.

Though I respect our history, I respect the institutions more. And there’s something sad when a communion cup or psalter becomes so valuable as an artifact that it loses its intended use; it’s like the Velveteen Rabbit in reverse. As treasure, the silver and the printed pages become less real. They were real because they were instruments of praise and thanksgiving. Better then, I think that they can be sold, conserved and placed on display, as indeed the new Psalm Book’s owner, David Rubenstein, intends to do. (He owns two of the eleven.)

Better still to keep the Great Thanksgiving at table, and our praises in song. And if you want to pray from the Bay Psalm Book… well, then thank God: you can read it online, in this 1903 facsimile reprint.

Do you use Github?

A call out for Unitarian Universalists and kindred: do you use Github? Asking for noodling a proof of concept. And you can follow me (bitb) here. (There’s not much there. Yet.)

"Wholly symbolic" communion?

In the joint Unitarian and Universalist 1937 Hymns of the Spirit the shorter communion service has a provision where “there is to be no distribution of the elements” “the communion being wholly symbolic.” I’ve never seen this ever done myself; has anyone?

Revisiting Service 11 for future use


This is an outline of Service Eleven from Hymns of the Spirit, previously mentioned.  I’ve removed a couple of prayers, including the litany, written by Von Ogden Vogt, and which are probably copyrighted. More about what it means later.


The Service may begin with a Chorale, an Introit, a Processional Hymn, or with selected Sentences.

Prayer of Confession,

by the Minister and people:

[in full, deleted here]

The Lord be with you.

And with thy spirit.

Praise ye the Lord.

The Lord’s name be praised.

Hymn or Anthem

First Lesson


if desired.

Second Lesson

if desired.

Then the Minister may say:

Here endeth the reading of the lesson.


by the Minister, the responses to be said or sung by the people:

Let us pray. O Lord, show thy mercy upon us.

And grant us thy salvation.

O God, make clean our heart within us.

And take not thy holy Spirit from us.

[Bidding collect, then litany with sung response.]


Organ Devotional Interlude

ending with the music of the following chant.

Now unto God, the unseen fount of all our life,

And source of all wisdom and strength,

Be glory and majesty, dominion and pow’r, forever and ever. Amen.

Act of Affirmation

to be said by the Minister and people, standing.

[In full, here deleted. Not familiar to me.]







Organ postlude