Transitioning this site to Jekyll

So, this site was hacked a couple of weeks ago, and security software installed since shows that outside forces try to log-in to the administration a few times a day.

Since it’s not meant to be particularly interactive, I’ll be re-launching this as a Jekyll site (harder-to-hack, plain ol’ HTML; like my Universalist Christian Initiative site) and perhaps improve the formatting.

What does this mean to you? Little, though the appearance will change. It may load faster for you. I doubt I’ll have a place for comments.

The bit of Jewish liturgy hidden in plain sight in the red hymnal

For reasons too long to go into now, I was tracking down threads in the Classic Reform tradition of Reform Jewish liturgics a couple of weeks ago. Suffice it to say that it was in parallel with some of the liturgical developments in Unitarian churches in the late nineteenth century. There were some friendships crossing the divide, or at least cooperative parterships. It’s hard to tell how far or wide without a deep dive.

So, I was reading the Adoration ending sequence from the Sabbath evening service in the Union Prayer Book, in wide use in Reform temples through the early 1970s. This is the Aleinu, for those familiar with the traditional Hebrew name. I thought, “this looks familiar.”

As well it should. Capitalization aside, the first part of the Aleinu was dropped in almost verbatim as the Exhortation — that is, a beginning sequence — of the First Service of the Services of Religion, the services prepended to the 1937 joint Unitarian-Universalist Hymns of the Spirit.

So, it reads:

Let us adore the ever-living God, and render praise unto him who spread out the heavens and established the earth; whose glory is revealed in the heavens above and whose majesty is manifested throughout the earth. He is our God and there is none else; wherefore in awe and wonder we bow the head and magnify the Eternal, the Holy One, the Ever Blest.

That’s the same hymnal that has the Jewish text translated by a Unitarian minister, “Praise to the Living God” as its first hymn.

And if you’ve read this far and are at the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, you may be interested in Shabbat Worship, presented by Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness on Friday, June 23, 5:00 pm in the Hilton Riverside Windsor Room.

Cross-posted to

Universalist commendation for Hymns of the Spirit

I ran across the resolution of the 1937 Universalist General Convention, in Chicago, commending work and use of the Hymns of the Spirit.

VI. New Hymnal

Whereas, we note with interest and pleasure the appearance of the new joint Unitarian-Universalist Commission hymnal, “Hymns of the Spirit,” therefore, be it

Resolved, that this Convention expresses the gratitude of our people to the members of the joint commission for so faithfully performing the arduous task of compiling and editing this splendid and much-needed book, and be it further

Resolved, that we commend the use of this hymnal to all Universalist churches in need of new hymnals.

Universalist General Convention. Universalist biennial reports and directory. Boston, Mass. : Universalist General Convention. (1938), p. 22.

Sources of prayers: Theistic Prayer Book

A single prayer in the services before Hymns of the Spirit beginning “Almighty God grant that the words” comes from a book identified in the index as the Theistic Prayer Book. What is this and where did it come from?

Mw114797_charles_voyseyIt comes from the Theistic Church in London, that lasts from 1870 or 1871 until shortly after the 1912 death of its founder and minister, Charles Vorsey, who was driven out of the Church of England. (He’s the father of the famous architech of the same name, if your mind goes to the Arts and Crafts.)  At the church, the book was known as The Revised Prayer Book, and ran through three (1871, 1875, 1892) editions.

In both Hymns of the Spirit (p. 146) and The Revised Prayer Book, the prayer appears in a section for additional prayers (in the third edition); it appears, slightly re-arranged as prayer for the “close of worship” in Hymns of the Spirit.

Cross-posted at

Sources of prayers: an English book from 1903

The services before the Hymns of the Spirit include prayers and litanies from various sources, including the 1903 Devotional Services for Public Worship, by John Hunter. He was the minister of King’s Weigh House Church, then a Congregational church, in Mayfair, London.

You can read it at

I’ll see if there’s any commonalities, and if so I’ll note them below.

Crossposted at

Shorter communion service added

After about two years, I have added a new liturgical element: the shorter communion service, meant to be used “immediately after the Order of Morning Worship” and with the unusual option for “no distribution of the elements.”

This last option was once more usual for Unitarians than you might suspect. The service was conceived in spiritual terms, and in a creative alternative to individual glasses in the generation after fears — precipitated by typhoid — of infection.

The practice — a non-distributed or “spiritual” communion — deserves consideration.

  1. “Embodied theology” — so much the darling of liberal theologians of the last generation — is showing its age, or at least its station, and this is the force that would resist a spiritalized view of the sacrament. Most of the people I know are well aware of their corporality, but the spirit is elusive. “Embodiment” and “messy theology”  is a misplaced complaint.
  2.  Add allergies and the rejection of beverage alcohol to infection (and compromised immune systems) by many and you get a communion service where the elements themselves become a problem. This solves that.
  3. I’ve met real, live Unitarian Universalists who blanch at the “cannibalism” of Communion. A spiritual service lowers a barrier.

So, where do I get my own paper copy?

Hymns of the Spirit was, for the longest time, available from the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship for the princely sum of $5. But they’re all gone.

For a price, an online bookseller is probably your best bet (but not this one), unless you live near a church that doesn’t use them (or use many) and can spare one. That’s what this post is for. If you are looking for a copy or have some to spare, please leave a comment below.

Why this site?

So why did I set up the Hymns of the Spirit site?

Without a good reason could easily become a hobby site or an antiquarian folly. I have five reasons, roughly in order of importance:

  • to promote a landmark Unitarian and Universalist worship resource
  • to republish worship material for reuse and adaptation
  • to focus attention on the next generation of hymnals and worship materials
  • to provide a training tool for worship leaders
  • to identify the work and theology of the era

Look forward to a formal launch in July 2013.

There is no new hymnal

Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly 2013 has just ended — I watched parts of it from home — and reflected that my first General Assembly was 20 years ago, in Charlotte. One of the big accomplishments then was releasing the brand new gray hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition.

Twenty years later, we have seen supplements, but no new full hymnal since.

More interesting to me is that the old red hymnal, Hymns of the Spirit, chugs along, Continue reading There is no new hymnal