Lay centers service book: first thoughts

Returning to the Service and Hymn Book for the Unitarian League of Lay Centers, I wanted to share my process of understanding it. I think that starts with getting the texts of this hard-to-find book public. A searchable text also makes it easier to annotate, which then gets us closer to understanding how these early twentieth-century Unitarians viewed the liturgy, and from that their religion.

The “services” are really opening sequences, with a pastoral prayer: in a sense an abbreviated morning prayer before the hymn-framed sermon. It’s a familiar format. There are two forms here: the first two services are more elaborate, and for general use. The last three — Righteousness and Peace, A Service of Thanksgiving and a Commemorative Service — outside the sequence of numbered services are more elaborate, perhaps for use on civil holidays … or civil crisis.

The ten numbered services in the middle are an exended responsive reading matched to what might be called a “pastoral prayer.” That is, that kind of page-long, non-topical general prayer so often found in print in that era, and which continues as the most common genre of prayer in Unitarian Universalism (and elsewhere I bet.) A good period Universalist source of this genre, is Charles Hall Leonard’s 1915 Light and Peace and I bet many of my readers will also think of Rauschenbusch’s Prayers of the Social Awakening. My point is this: even without composing new prayers, it would have been easy for a local lay leader to match up extra prayers and extra responsive reading (they were commonly published in their own volumes, too) and club together new opening sequences, even if that meant obliging the members to buy a second book, or using a job printer. An appealing thought that.

Back to our text:

I thought it would be easier to dictate the text — around 9,500 words — into Google Drive and edit it from there, than to try and straighten all the photos of the pages and OCR them. I’ve included links to the page photos, and the “before” and “after” of the text editing below. (When I publish this page, I will not have started on the editing.)

Photos of the first (liturgical) part of the Lay Centers book

Lay Centers book as dictated

Lay Centers book as it be being edited

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