Studying Unitarian and Universalist liturgy: fixing a point of departure

One of the highlights of my childhood was the discovery of fossil known as Lucy. An example of Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy pushed forward our understanding of human origins by pushing back the clock. And from that day to now (when I think about the new version of Cosmos) I’ve come to expect the figure of a forked family tree, and a journey back to some critical node that separates our own path from the ones not taken.

And so it is with this exercise in Unitarian and Universalist liturgies, except that we’re only going back a couple of centuries, not millions of years, and the branches have a habit of lapping back on to themselves at a later point. And the Unitarians and Universalists grow along side of each other, one not eradicating the other. Think song birds, not hominids.

And we don’t have to go to the Rift Valley in eastern Africa, but to Boston. The place is King’s Chapel; the year, 1785.

I choose the first edition of the King’s Chapel prayer book not because King’s Chapel still uses a prayer book (in a later, 1986, edition) or even because it is the best known of the Unitarian or Universalist prayerbook churches, but

  1. because it is the earliest American Unitarian or Universalist prayerbook
  2. because it has a direct inheritance from the 1662 Church of England Book of Common Prayer,
  3. this inheritance is acknowledged, and
  4. because it influenced the production of the first United States Episcopal Church prayer book, in 1789.

We’ll see the parallels between Morning Prayer in the 1662 and 1785 books next, and after that comes the divergence.

The worship at the church down the street…

It’s 1920, and you’re in a large market town east of the Alleghenies. You’re looking for a church and your options include an Episcopal church and a Unitarian church. (Make it a small city or larger, and you might add the Universalists to this formula.) Ask the rector of St. Alban’s or the minister at First Unitarian if each has much in common with the other, and you would probably be told “no.” Different polity, different theology, different piety. The two have nothing in common.

But if you ask parishioners to describe how worship was worded, you might pick up on more similarities then you would have expected. Yes, Unitarian worship has changed, but so did Episcopalian worship, and in 1920 they were closer in style. These were the days before the Liturgical Movement, so an every-Sunday, main Eucharistic (Communion) service would be unlikely; Morning Prayer (with Sermon) would be more likely, and if it was old-fashioned, it may be followed in an odd rhythm by the Litany and then Ante-Communion; that is, the first half of the Communion service. And the Unitarians would have Morning Prayer and Sermon, by that or another name. A big litany would be an option, and if you’d shown up a generation or two before, even Ante-Communion.

Small-town Universalists, Western “fiddle and lecture” Unitarians and Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians would have fallen outside this spectrum, but Theist and even early Humanist Unitarians appreciated the rhythms and internal logic of Morning Prayer. You ask: so what?

In the next couple of weeks or more, I will blog on:

  • what the contemporary changes Unitarians and Universalists made to common worship styles say about their assumptions then
  • how traces of those forms persist, even in unlikely settings
  • how these forms are based on centuries of developments
  • how these forms can be the basis of lay theological education and mission
  • how movement, habits and artifacts shape worship
  • what adaptations and alterations by those who used those forms (Epiccopalians mainly) say about how these forms might be re-reformed and re-adopted

Should be fun! Thought? Please add them in the comments.

OK, Unitarian preachers: a year of sermon themes (for the retro set)

Following up on the “Fifty Shades of Unitarian” post, here are the “The Unitarian faith set forth in fifty Unitarian hymns” affirmations or platforms: the faith each hymn supposedly upholds. And matching biblical passage, Conveniently, it plots out almost a year’s worth of sermons, too. (Or at least I can be forgiven what some preachers surely must have thought in 1914.) But if you do preach these, I offer no guarantee that your congregation will like them all. A few are worthy of salvage, but then again I’m a Universalist without a preaching ministry, so take that as you will.

Unitarians Worship The God Who Is Revealed In The Heavens Above And On The Earth Beneath,Lord of all being throned afar,Psalm 19: 1,,Oliver Wendell Holmes
Unitarians Affirm The Immediate And Constant Presence Of God,Thou Life within my life than self more near,Deuteronomy 33: 27,Psalm 90: 1,Eliza Scudder
Unitarians Affirm The Encompassing And Sustaining Guidance Of God,Whither midst falling dew,Isaiah 26: 3,,William Cullen Bryant
Unitarians Affirm The Unfailing Goodness And Mercy Of God,”Eternal One, thou living God”,Psalm 103: 17,,Samuel Longfellow
Unitarians Affirm The Continuous And Inexhaustible Revelation Of God To Men,From age to age how grandly rise,Revelation 21: 3,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Affirm The Timeless And Boundless Revelation Of God To Men,Light of ages and of nations,Wisdom of Solomon 7: 27,,Samuel Longfellow
Unitarians Affirm The Revelation Of God In The Divine Order Of The World And In The Daily Faithfulness Of Men,We pray no more made lowly wise,Luke 27: 21,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Find A Revelation Of God In Nature,Mysterious Presence source of all,Psalm 104: 24,,Seth Curtis Beach
Unitarians Find A Revelation Of God In The Consciences And Hearts Of Men,O Thou whose Spirit witness bears; Within our spirits free,Romans 8: 16,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Affirm The Revelation Of God In The Human Soul,The Lord is in his Holy Place,1 Corinthians 3: 16,,William Channing Gannett
Unitarians Affirm The Validity Of The Things That Are Not Seen,Father thy wonders do not singly stand,2 Corinthians 4: 18,,Jones Very
Unitarian Affirm That The Purpose Of Worship Is The Communion Of The Souls Of Men With God,Father in thy mysterious presence kneeling,Romans 8: 15,,Samuel Johnson
Unitarians Affirm That Prayer Is The Aspiration Uttered Or Unexpressed Of The Human Soul Toward God,Nearer my God to thee,Psalm 25: 1,,Sarah Flowers Adams
Unitarians Affirm The Reality Of The Inner Light That Lighteth Every Man That Cometh Into The World,Go not my soul in search of him Thou wilt find him there,John 1: 9,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians In Spite Of The Inscrutable Tragedies Of Life Dare To Believe And To Trust In The Perfect Wisdom And Love Of God,Thou Grace Divine encircling all,Psalm 23: 6,,Eliza Scudder
Unitarians Affirm The Limitless And Ceaseless Incarnation Of God In Men,O prophet souls of all the years,Acts 14: 17,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Affirm That Inspiration Is The Unbroken Communication Of The Life Of God To The Open Mind And Reverent Heart Of Man,Life of ages richly poured,Matthew 10: 20,,Samuel Johnson
Unitarians Affirm That Salvation Is Not A Matter Of Belief But A Way Of Life,Christian rise and act thy creed,Matthew 7: 21,,Francis Albert Rollo Russell
Unitarians Affirm The Leadership Of Jesus Christ,O Thou great friend to all the sons of men,John 14: 6,,Theodore Parker
Unitarians Affirm The Humanity Of Jesus Christ,Our Father while our hearts unlearn,John 8: 40,,Oliver Wendell Holmes
Unitarians Affirm That The Permanent Influence Of Jesus Christ Is In Quickening The Spiritual Life Of Men,Immortal by their deed and word; Like light around them shed,John 8: 12,John 1: 4,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Affirm That The Spirit Of Christianity Is The Spirit Of Service,Thou Lord of Hosts whose guiding hand,Ephesians 6: 2,,Octavius Brooks Frothingham
Unitarians Believe That The Christian Life Is Not A Matter Of Name Or Form But A Habit Of Obedience To The Precepts Of Jesus,”The clashing of creeds, and the strife”,Luke 17: 20-21,,Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Unitarians Affirm That Out Of Noble Memories Men May Build Their Finest Hopes,We come unto our fathers’ God ,Psalm 90: 1,,Thomas Hornblower Gill
Unitarians Cherish The Associations And Inspiring Traditions Of The Christian Life,O Light from age to age the same,Psalm 145: 4,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Believe In Perpetuating The Sacred Usages And Institutions Of Religion,We love the venerable house Our fathers built to God,Genesis 28: 17,,Ralph Waldo Emerson
Unitarians Declare That The Rich Inspirations Of The Past Must Be Transmitted From Generation To Generation,Where ancient forests widely spread,Joel 1: 2-3,,Andrews Norton
Unitarians Value And Celebrate The Seasons Of The Christian Year (Christmas),Calm on the listening ear of night,Matthew 21: 9,,Edmund Hamilton Sears
Unitarians Value And Celebrate The Seasons Of The Christian Year (Christmas),It came upon the midnight clear,Matthew 21: 9,,Edmund Hamilton Sears
Unitarians Value And Celebrate The Seasons Of The Christian Year (Good Friday),In the cross of Christ I glory,John 12: 32,,John Bowering
Unitarians Value And Celebrate The Seasons Of The Christian Year (Easter),The Light along the ages Shines higher as it goes,Colossians 3: 1,,William George Tarrant
Unitarians Affirm That The Soul Of Man Is Prophetic Of A More Abundant Life,”Our God, our God thou shinest here”,Matthew 22: 32,Acts 17: 28,Thomas Hornblower Gill
Unitarians Affirm The Spiritual Idealism Which Is The Inspiration Of A Happy And Serviceable Life,O Lord of life thy kingdom is at hand,Galatians 5: 22,,Marion Franklin Ham
Unitarians Affirm That Religion Is The Consciousness Of The Presence Of God,O God whose presence glows in all,Micah 6: 8,,Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham
Unitarians Affirm The Brotherhood Of Man,”When thy heart, with joy o’erflowing”,1 John 4: 20,,Theodore Chickering Williams
Unitarians Desire To Establish On Earth The Divine Commonwealth Of Righteousness And Peace,Father let thy kingdom come,Romans 8: 19,,John Page Hopps
Unitarians Propose To Seek First Not Numbers Or Riches Or The Approval Of Majorities But The Kingdom Of God And His Righteousness,O Thou in lonely vigil led,Acts 24: 14,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Affirm The Freedom Of The Truth And The Constant Renewal And Expansion Of Religious Thought And Life,O Life that maketh all things new,2 Corinthians 3: 17,,Samuel Longfellow
Unitarians Believe In The Promise Of The Coming Of The Kingdom Of God,”Thy kingdom come,—on bended knee”,Matthew 6: 33,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Dedicate Themselves To The Cause Of Truth And Freedom,Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,John 8: 32,Psalm 20: 5,Julia Ward Howe
Unitarians Welcome The Inspirations Of Patriotism,’O Beautiful my Country!’,Isaiah 54: 14,Isaiah 33: 6,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Believe In International Peace And Goodwill,God of the nations near and far,Matthew 5: 9,,John Haynes Holmes
Unitarians Believe In The Ultimate Triumph Of Right Over Wrong And Of Goodwill Over Fear And Hate,”Hear, hear, O ye nations, and hearing obey”,Luke 2: 14,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Desire The Reunion Of Christendom In The Unity Of The Spirit Rather Than In Uniformity Of Belief,The ages one great minster seem,Romans 12: 5,,James Russell Lowell
Unitarians Believe In The Fellowship Of The Church Universal,One holy Church of God appears,1 Corinthians 12: 4-5,,Samuel Longfellow
Unitarians Believe That The Discipline Of Pain And Sorrow Is Part Of God’s Plan For The Upbuilding Of Character,My God I thank thee may no thought,Hebrews 12: 6,,Andrews Norton
Unitarians Believe That Through Sorrow And Bereavement The Soul May Be Purified And Faith Quickened,”O Love divine, that stooped to share”,Hebrews 12: 11,,Oliver Wendell Holmes
Unitarians Believe In The Immortal Life And In The Progress Of Mankind Onward And Upward Forever,I cannot think of them as dead,Psalm 23: 3-4,,Frederick Lucian Hosmer
Unitarians Believe In The Fellowship Of The Life Eternal,It singeth low in every heart,John 14: 2,,John White Chadwick
Unitarians Believe That The Life Of The Spirit Should Be A Progress From Good To Better From Mortality To Immortality,”This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign”,Romans 8: 2,,Oliver Wendell Holmes


Another hymnal found: for Unitarian mission

While looking for the source of an obscure responsive reading, I came across this little service book: Mission hymnal of the Unitarian Laymen’s League. Despite it being undated, and Internet Archive dating it to 1900, it is in fact later. Unless the Unitarian Laymen’s League had the powers of time travel, as it includes a hymn dated August 9, 1929. (It predates Hymns of the Spirit, 1937, for closer dating.)

Its tone is serene yet vital: a religion of rest of dyspeptic captains of industry, I wouldn’t half guess. Its purpose: to help establish Unitarian preaching stations, and more spiritually developed men. Yet, at first glance doesn’t seem to suffer the excesses of “muscular Christianity” from the generation before.

Two interesting points:

  1. It has a hymn by a Universalist. “We praise thee, God, for harvests earned” by John Coleman Adams. (A God-free version exists in Singing the Living Tradition as “Our praise we give for harvests earned,” #294.)
  2. The directions for prayer have a certain Unitarian resonance:

You say, however, “I do not believe in prayer.” Even so, this does not obviate the necessity of daily spiritual exercise. Retire every day into the silence of your own thoughts, there commune with the highest you can possibly conceive.

Fifty Shades of Unitarian

So, what are the “standards” of Unitarian hymnody? Lacking an objective standard, I’ve looked at the question one of two ways: hymns commonly found in Unitarian hymnals, by Unitarian authors; and those chosem by leading lights. This blog post assumes the later.

The Unitarian faith set forth in fifty Unitarian hymns” by American Unitarian Association (1914)

Each entry has a common structure: an entitling theme of what particularly Unitarian sentiment is expressed in the hymn (omitted here; will appear late as sermon meditation fodder), a relevant passage or two of scripture, the hymn, suggested tunes, and biographical stub of the hymn author. In the introduction, we learn that, “With three exceptions the hymns and poems in this collection are taken from the Unitarian Hymn Book [presumably the New Hymn and Tune Book; also 1914].…The selections on pages 9, 29, and 56 are verses which are adapted to reading or reciting rather than for singing.”

This is far from all good Unitarian hymns that existed then, much less encompassing what good non-Unitarian hymns the Unitarians sing. (Naturally, the Universalists had their own favorites, but there tended to be a lot overlap.) And not all of these hold up over the last century.

So, how did this list square with the succeeding Universalist, then the three suceeding Unitarian (and ) Universalist hymnals, to today? For what it’s worth, Singing the Living Tradition has more “survivors” than any other comtemporary hymnal, in the United States anyway.


  • HOTC1917: Hymns of the Church (Universalist, 1917)
  • HOTS1938: Hymns of the Spirit (joint Unitarian and Universalist, 1938)
  • HCL1964: Hymns for the Celebration of Life (Unitarian Universalist, 1964)
  • SLT1993: Singing the Living Tradition (Unitarian Universalist, 1993)

[table  width=”500″]

‘O Beautiful my Country!’,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,47,238,388,240,
Calm on the listening ear of night,Edmund Hamilton Sears,34,315,159,,
Christian rise and act thy creed,Francis Albert Rollo Russell,24,,282,,
“Eternal One, thou living God”,Samuel Longfellow,10,,367,246,345
Father in thy mysterious presence kneeling,Samuel Johnson,18,293,229,,
Father let thy kingdom come,John Page Hopps,42,,336,,
Father thy wonders do not singly stand,Jones Very,17,,41,,
From age to age how grandly rise,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,11,,423,231,105
Go not my soul in search of him Thou wilt find him there,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,20,,58,88,
God of the nations near and far,John Haynes Holmes,48,217,399,,
“Hear, hear, O ye nations, and hearing obey”,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,49,240,398,194,
I cannot think of them as dead,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,54,362,202,73,96
Immortal by their deed and word; Like light around them shed,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,27,,203,,
In the cross of Christ I glory,John Bowering,36,338,190,,
It came upon the midnight clear,Edmund Hamilton Sears,35,317,162,287,244
It singeth low in every heart,John White Chadwick,55,244,451,,
Life of ages richly poured,Samuel Johnson,23,,337,172,111
Light of ages and of nations,Samuel Longfellow,12,,75,248,189
Lord of all being throned afar,Oliver Wendell Holmes,7,,16,38,
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,Julia Ward Howe,46,241,567,,
My God I thank thee may no thought,Andrews Norton,52,,,,
Mysterious Presence source of all,Seth Curtis Beach,14,,63,130,92
Nearer my God to thee,Sarah Flowers Adams,19,171,245,126,87
O God whose presence glows in all,Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham,40,,60,,
O Life that maketh all things new,Samuel Longfellow,44,,416,54,12
O Light from age to age the same,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,31,,464,255,
O Lord of life thy kingdom is at hand,Marion Franklin Ham,39,,332,,
“O Love divine, that stooped to share”,Oliver Wendell Holmes,53,289,188,,
O prophet souls of all the years,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,22,,421,233,272
O Thou great friend to all the sons of men,Theodore Parker,25,93,209,,
O Thou in lonely vigil led,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,43,,171,,
O Thou whose Spirit witness bears; Within our spirits free,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,15,,52,74,
One holy Church of God appears,Samuel Longfellow,51,170,407,261,
Our Father while our hearts unlearn,Oliver Wendell Holmes,26,,235,,
“Our God, our God thou shinest here”,Thomas Hornblower Gill,38,,9,36,
The ages one great minster seem,James Russell Lowell,50,,417,,
“The clashing of creeds, and the strife”,Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,29,,,,
The Light along the ages Shines higher as it goes,William George Tarrant,37,,197,,
The Lord is in his Holy Place,William Channing Gannett,16,,73,,
“This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign”,Oliver Wendell Holmes,56,,,,
Thou Grace Divine encircling all,Eliza Scudder,21,87,224,,
Thou Life within my life than self more near,Eliza Scudder,8,,81,,
Thou Lord of Hosts whose guiding hand,Octavius Brooks Frothingham,28,,310,,
“Thy kingdom come,—on bended knee”,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,45,211,338,,
We come unto our fathers’ God ,Thomas Hornblower Gill,30,,363,15,
We love the venerable house Our fathers built to God,Ralph Waldo Emerson,32,,466,,
We pray no more made lowly wise,Frederick Lucian Hosmer,13,,274,188,
“When thy heart, with joy o’erflowing”,Theodore Chickering Williams,41,204,280,226,
Where ancient forests widely spread,Andrews Norton,33,,27,,
Whither midst falling dew,William Cullen Bryant,9,,,,

The lost would-be Unitarian hymnal

The old joke that Unitarians believe in “one God at most” lives again in the paucity of resources we develop, projects we plan or visions we tolerate. Today, it’s “one idea at most” — and they’re rarely new.

One option at most for anything with Unitarian Universalism, even though our ancestors both on the Unitarian and Universalist sides were able to produce a variety of hymnals and different worship resources for differing churchmanships and congregation size, and with fewer people and at higher cost. We even had hymnals for church schools and social groups. Imagine what they would do with word processors and an on-demand book publisher like The difference is will.

For years but particularly recently, I’ve been trying to figure out what would have been the trajectory of Unitarian (and) Universalist hymnody if it had not gone down a path lain down by Kenneth Patton, the influential editor of the “old blue” Hymns for the Celebration of Life. One practical reason is that such a hymnal might work better for Christian Unitarian Universalists.

And recently, I was in Massachusetts for friend, minister and blogger Victoria Weinstein’s installation, and spent a day researching at Harvard Divinity’s archives: I have and shall report out from those discoveries. But the library closed long before my train left Boston, so I went to the Harvard Co-Op to right a wrong. I had to buy the fourth edition (2007) of the Harvard University Hymn Book. I had opted against it the last time I was there.

When I came home, I started using old directories for background research, and look what I found. From the 1892 Year Book.


The Harvard University hymnal was once considered a suitable hymnal for Unitarian churches. “Of course it was,” I mused. 2014-04-01 23.53.27

And the more I look at it, I see the new edition would work in a liberal Christian church, including a Unitarian (or) Universalist one, the name notwithstanding. But here are a few (and hardly exhaustive) things I like about it, both serious and frivolous:

  1. It’s in very good taste and well typeset.
  2. It’s full of Unitarian standards like “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine” “Lord of All Being, Throned Afar” and “Life of Ages, Richly Poured”
  3. It has a good assortment of “canonical” spirituals and gospel songs, like “Shall We Gather At the River” “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” “What Wondrous Love” keeps the Lamb.
  4. In good Hymns of the Spirit (1938) style, “God of Grace and God of Glory” is matched to Regent Square, not Cwm Rhondda, which we see fitly with “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.”
  5. It has good hymns newer than 1938. “Hope of the World, Thou Christ of Great Compassion” and “For the Fruit of All Creation” — ok: not many.
  6. Older hymns are altered more gently than say, in the UCC’s New Century Hymnal, while newer hymns are more gender-inclusive. (I’ve not made a close read of inclusive language for human beings, which I think is a more pressing claim for revision.)
  7. No need to tip in “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands” (which always makes me cry) “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” and “We Three Kings”


  1. There’s no responsive readings or service elements.
  2. No “Morning So Fair to See” “Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round” or “O Life That Makest All Things New”
  3. I could do without the patriotic songs at the back.
  4. At $30, it isn’t cheap.

"The Worship of a Unitarian Church" (1901)

I’ll be refering to this chapter (“The Worship of a Unitarian Church”) from the 1901 Handbook for Unitarian Congregational Churches for a few, scattered blog posts,to consider what habits and attitudes in worship and organization remain with us, if perhaps under a different cover.

So I present the following for your reference.

The Worship of a Unitarian Church

Continue reading “"The Worship of a Unitarian Church" (1901)”

"A Hundred Unitarian Sunday Circles" (1895)

Moving back another generation from the Lay Centers I wrote about last week.


What is the next aggressive missionary movement for the Unitarians of this country to give their attention to? I believe it is the establishment of religious Sunday circles, or what I may call simple parlor churches, in a hundred–yes, in five hundred–communities where there are now no liberal religious churches or services.
Continue reading “"A Hundred Unitarian Sunday Circles" (1895)”

List of hymns in the League of Lay Centers hymnal

A listing of the hymns in the Service and Hymn Book for the Unitarian League of Lay Centers, by incipit and by section. The hymns themselves are unnumbered; the number is the page. (Nearly all are one page long and no more than one hymn is on one page.)

I’ve also outlined the book’s liturgical offerings.

61. Let the whole creation cry
62. Be thou, O God, exalted high!
63. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
64. Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings
65. Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh
66. Sovereign and transforming grace
67. To thine eternal arms, O God
68. Father, again to Thy dear name we raise
69. We praise Thee, Lord, with earliest morning ray
70. Thou Lord of Hosts, whose guiding hand
71. Come, Thou Almighty King!
72. Thou, whose almighty word
73. O Thou who hast Thy servants taught
74. This is the day of light!
75. O God, whose presence glows in all
76. Gracious Spirit, Love devine
77. Out of the dark the circling fear
78. Father of me and all mankind
79. Shine on our souls, eternal God
80. Return, my soul, unto thy rest
81. Mysterious Presence, Source of all
82. By cool Siloam’s shady rill

Worship and Service
83. Nearer, my God, to Thee
85. Wenn Thy heart, with joy o’erflowing
86. Life of Ages, richly poured
87. Eternal and immortal King!
88. God is love; His mercy brightens
89. Lord of all being! throned afar
90. Father, in Thy mysterious presence kneeling
91. Send down Thy truth, O God!
92. O everlasting Light!
93. As pants the weary heart for cooling springs
94. Awake, our souls; away, our fears
95. O God, I thank Thee for each sight
96. Abide in me; o’ershadow by Thy love
97. O God, beneath Thy guiding hand
98. O Thou, whose perfect goodness crowns
99. Glorious things of Thee are spoken
100. O Thou, in whom we live and move
101. Our Father! while our hearts unlearn
102. Let my life be hid in Thee
103. O Love Divine, Whose constant beam
104. One holy Church of God appears
105. Wherever through the ages rise
106. The Lord is my Shepherd, no want shall I know
107. O Spirit of the living God
108. Father of eternal grace
109. Oh, sometimes gleams upon our sight
110. Spirit of grace and health and power
111. O Blessed life! the heart at rest
112. Awake, my soul; stretch every nerve

113. Calm, on the listening ear of night
114. O Prophet souls of all the years
115. O Thou great Friend to all the sons of men

116. Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
117. Now, on land and sea descending
118. Abide with me! fast falls the eventide
119. Our day of praise is done
120. Softly now the light of day
121. Abide with me from morn till eve
122. Teach me, my God and King
123. Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing

A hymnal from Fellowship Movement prehistory

Reading Bright Galaxy is making me re-visit the scattered history of earlier Unitarian efforts to organize lay-led congregations, including the League of Lay Centers. This was active, I believe, c. 1907-08.

[Correction: These were “Centers” and spelling changed;  but I believe there was another attempt with “Lay Centres”.]

February 1908 issue of Unitarian Word & Work outlines the program.

I got in the mail yesterday a little find: Service and Hymn Book for the Unitarian League of Lay Centers. It’s undated, and judging by the condition, never used. I hope to share as much of it as I can.

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The forward follows:


The formation of a League of Lay Centers has grown out of a demand for a liberal interpretation of religion and for a simple form of worship in harmony with it, such as can be conducted without the expense and responsibility of the ordinary church organization. This Service and Hymn Book has been arranged to provide for services of worship under lay leadership. And while it is brief and free from liturgical complications, it is hoped that the responses, prayers, and hymns contain the strength, beauty, and dignity which will commend them to the uses of thoughtful and reverent worshippers. Familiarity is, however, the best avenue of attachment for such a book, and too much cannot be said in favor of making use of all the services and all the hymns.

The compiler take this opportunity to acknowledge his indebtedness to Reverend Thomas Van Ness for the service and psalm selections taken from his “Responsive Readings,” and for many of the prayers selected from the Collections of the Reverends George Dawson and R. Compton Jones.

L. G. W.