Inside the Lay Centers service book

After poking around the League of Lay Centers service book I wrote about yesterday, I discovered something about how is organized.

For one thing, it was not meant to be used by itself. The recommended order of service called for scriptural readings to come from a book called The Soul of the Bible. This was a lectionary in the true sense; that is, a book of readings, rather than a chart of readings. That deserves some investigation in its own right. Because the hymnal section has no printed music, an instrumentalist would need to use another Unitarian hymnal for the music. Recommended hymn tunes point to hymnals noted as “C & H” and “H & T.” Matching the citations, we see that these are

C & H: Hymns for Church and Home: with Tunes. (1895)
H & T: Hymn and Tune Book for the Church and the Home: And, Services for Congregational Worship (1896)

The former would have been more useful. Printed tracts or sermons, rather than original compositions, are likely the sermons intended, but those could be ordered for free from 25 Beacon Street. These resources in hand, let’s turn to the commended order of service.

Order of Service

  1. Music — Instrumental or Vocal.
  2. Responses Service from the Service and Hymn book.
  3. Hymn.
  4. Scripture reading from “The Soul of the Bible.”
  5. Hymn.
  6. Sermon.
  7. Hymn.
  8. Closing Formula Read by the Leader, or by the Leader and People in Unison.

As we now turn to the duties, to the joys and sorrows of this busy life, may the spirit of a brave confidence in God be our constant support and comfort, and the consciousness that we are doing His will guide us into to the way of sincere fellowship with one another, and along the path of perfect peace. Amen.

A hearty little order.

But what do you get in a Responsive Service? The first two options are stucturally similar, with a selection of opening words; an exhortation in the first option or the Lord’s Prayer in the second; and a substantial litany. The second option ends “Praise ye the Lord/The Lord’s name be praised.” Even without parsing the text closely, the first scans Classic Theist and the second Christian. The other Responsive Services are thematic and shorter: a substantial responsive reading and a prayer.

These services themes are

  1. God Our Father
  2. Man Our Brother
  3. Jesus Our Leader
  4. Character Our Salvation
  5. Progress Our Destiny
  6. Spring
  7. Autumn
  8. Worship
  9. A Very Present Help in Trouble
  10. Blessed Are They
  11. Righteousness and Peace
  12. A Service of Thanksgiving
  13. Commemorative Service

A pretty Unitarian assortment, and you’d be forgiven if you looked for Boston Our Neighborhood. No sacraments, wedding or burial services — as one would expect for a lay service book — but no Christmas or Easter either. The selection of hymns is equally hard-wearing, grouped under the themes

  • Invocation
  • Worship and Service
  • Christmas (3 hymns, but none we’d think of as Christmassy)
  • Evening

Details about the services and hymns eventually. But I’ll look to the next Unitarian hymnal-prepended servicebook, Services for Congregational Worship (1914) for shared material.

2 Replies to “Inside the Lay Centers service book”

  1. Scott, this is phenomenally well done! Thank you so much. I have the Services for Congregational Worship, and never known what it was or what AUA entity had produced it. Never has the name of the Lay Centers, or its work, crossed my visage. This leads me to suppose that Sam Eliot’s suppression of “domestic religion,” in favor of the more liturgical and pulpit-centered Puritan model of congregational, extended beyond snubbing the Iowa Sisterhood ministers, reaching into a vital off-rooting that must have been branching off from Henry Whitney Bellows’s National Conference. But until we do more research, that’s just my paranoia about Eliot, and my humbling reevaluation of Bellows.

    Might I humbly — again — propose that we try to crowdsource some money for you to put together a product for this? Or that the UUHHS might look for a funding channel? If the fellowship movement really does have these deeper roots, and greater vitality, the very examination of what it was doing when it was shut down might show us how to start connecting free-rangers to spiritual services they seek, while honoring their desire to find those services in places other than post-Puritan congregations.

  2. Ah, I don’t need the money in this station of life; I can keep chugging along. But the idea of crowdfunding research is close to my heart and I shall examine this mechanism later this month. Laile Barrett’s read of Unitarian attention to pre-Fellowship Movement action is interesting; she identifies attempted micromanaging, but she’s also taken by the sheer newness of the Fellowship Movement that I think it’s reviewing the record afresh. The technology changes from 1908 to 1946 should be examined. I’d want to look at the books: was it underfunded. (The Lay Centers were exected to contribute back.)

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