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February 01, 2005


Hymns of the Spirit is the name of at least two hymnals. Samuel Longfellow edited the first in 1864; Edward P. Daniels and Robert L. Sanders edited the second in 1937 "for use in the Free Churches of America." The later was most recently republished by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (Boston) in 1981. It is currently out of print, though it continued throughout much of the 20th century to be used by member congregations with a broadly Christian or theistic orientation. It continues to be used by at least a handful of congregations to this day.

The 1937 hymnal, herein referred to as Hymns of the Spirit Two, served as the principal hymnal of most Unitarian and Universalist churches in the United States and Canada for the better part of three decades (though as a potential audience, its editors envisioned any "community church ... which desire[s] a hymn book at once modern in tone and inclusive in spirit.") The language of Hymns of the Spirit Two is largely theist and Christian, although there are concessions to the budding humanist and pluralist expressions of religion that later gained wider currency in the Unitarian Universalist movement. It remains a uniquely rich deposit of Deist hymns, many initially penned or edited by Samuel Longfellow in the what is herein referred to as Hymns of the Spirit One. Many of these hymns are sung to this day in "liberal" churches, be they Unitarian Universalist or more traditionally Christian, but many equally worthy works do not seem to have lept beyond the pages of Hymns of the Spirit Two. This applies to much of the work contained in the hymnal. In fact, of the close to 600 hymns in the hymnal, not many more than 90 of these pieces, in some form or another, are contained in the current Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, published in 1993.

In a denomination such as the Unitarian Universalist Association, where the powers that be in Boston seek to impose nothing at all in terms of liturgy or theology, on member congregations, it perhaps is nothing short of a grand irony that the so-called "official" 1993 hymnal has such penetration. The purpose of this website is to invite others, within all "liberal" churches, Unitarian, Universalist and the wider Christian world, to explore the varied strands of our hymnody, beyond the confines of any one hymnbook.

On-line publishing technology and the Internet make this possible. As each entry for each hymn in Hymns of the Spirit Two is made below, users of this website will find moderately recast words (as the words in their original form are now in the public domain, usually available on Cyberhymnal), with modern language sensitivies in mind. These words are paired with a tune, likewise from the public domain. Typically if the original tune from Hymns of the Spirit Two is a singable one (in the wholly subjective view of the webdesigner), that tune is used; otherwise, one or more appropriate tunes are substituted. The hope is that the tune continues to be "traditional," yet singable from a contemporary perspective. All tunes used below are likewise believed to be in the public domain. It should be noted that in a few cases, the form a hymn tune in the public domain differs in a small way from the version in Hymns of the Spirit Two (regarding key, for example). The order and numbering of the hymns here follow that of the 1937 hymnal. Hymns numbered 600 and above are not contained in Hymns of the Spirit Two.

The final product is not in the public domain, as it represents the effort of the undersigned to revise hymn lyrics, and pair them with new hymn tunes when necessary. Nonetheless, congregations and small groups are free to use these hymns for non-profit worship purposes as noted below. They can be printed out as PDF files, as Noteworthy Composer files (allowing changes in format and the like to be made), and as Word files (which allows better print quality, but which requires Noteworthy Composer as well). A free "read-only" version of Noteworthy Composer is available on the web (check Google); otherwise, the program is relatively inexpensive. Symphony users should find that Noteworthy Composer files will open in their programs. The first hyperlink in blue in each entry, containing the name of the hymn tune and meter, when selected should play the Midi file in Windows media player.

It is hoped that with these changes, the words of the Hymns of the Spirit Two, here presented as Hymns of the Spirit Three, will come alive for a new generation. Indeed in some cases, it is hoped that the words of Hymns of the Spirit Two will come alive in another language, as lyrics are persented in Spanish and other languages. Minor changes are made to Spanish-language lyrics in keeping with the thelogical emphases and language preferences of the churches born of the radical wing of the Reformation.

Do write with criticisms and suggestions, and kudos of course, as the spirit moves you. I thank in particular all of my fellow congregants at Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., for their support and kind words. Anyone who might feel inclined to support this project is invited to make a donation instead to Universalist National; contact information might be found by clicking on link in the previous sentence. Musical contributions or suggestions are likewise welcome, even if these fall beyond the parameters of the Hymns of the Spirit Two strictly speaking. Submissions may be made by contacting the editor at richardehurst at gmail dot com.

The best link for interpreting the perhaps unfamiliar lectionary information at the right ("Proper 13A," etc.) is by visiting The Text This Week. On the left side of that site, under "Calendar," each of the three so-called lectionary years (A, B and C) is set out in actual dates, with full biblical readings. An untold number of other resources are also provided for each day on the church calendar, from just about every imaginable point of view. Happy exploring!

In faith,

Richard E. Hurst
richardehurst [@]

Posted by rehurst at February 1, 2005 04:34 PM

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