Calling North Carolina Unitarian Universalists…

A seminary classmate, the Rev. Martha Brown, contacted me to reach out to North Carolina Unitarian Universalists about a television project she’s working on. If you have “first-person accounts from North Carolinians who participated in the legendary March on Washington” please keep reading and contact her to participate in the video production.

I removed the contact info. Leave a comment and I’ll send it to you — to help keep the spam at bay. Perhaps.

And please pass the word.

Calling All Who Marched

(May 31, 2013) On a hot Wednesday afternoon in August 1963, thousands of Americans from all parts of the nation converged on the Washington Mall, determined in mind and spirit, demonstrating collectively for jobs, freedom, and equality. This day would go down in history as the pivotal March on Washington and culminate in the delivery of the now famous “I Have A Dream” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of that momentous event…were you there?

UNC-TV is seeking first-person accounts from North Carolinians who participated in the legendary March on Washington, which took place on Wednesday August 28, 1963. We want to know how you got there, what you experienced, was it life-changing or did it help you to make a difference in your community? From the child who was carried in her mother’s arms to the day’s young civil rights leaders and working class adults, every person present contributed to the overall spirit and energy of the movement, and it is important to acknowledge each one. Among those, however, are some very special stories.

Thanks to a PBS grant, UNC-TV has an opportunity to capture three of these special stories on video to share as local/national content online through the PBS Black Culture Connection hub and on-air.

If you participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, please sign the North Carolina March on Washington Roll Book by submitting your first, middle and last name (including maiden name), city of residence at the time of the March, current age, race or ethnic affiliation, whether you attended as a child, college student, or adult, and your current age (optional).

To be considered for the video feature, please submit all the information outlined above as well as a working telephone number and email address to contact you and, if possible two to three sentences about your journey to the March, your experience there, and any lasting impact.

Ensure that the March on Washington—the people, the purpose, the lasting impact—will be remembered into time…share your story!

Deborah Holt Noel
Producer, UNC-TV
[contact info]

Martha Brown
Production Associate
[contact info]

A fiddle-and-lecture order of service

In one step, from the medieval to Modernism.

bitb_jenk-jones1907The Western Conference Unitarians — think of the middle third of the United States a hundred and more years ago — were known for a kind of bibical rationalism and a minimalist style of worship sometimes known as “fiddle and lecture”. And I’ve been looking for some simplified options.

Without directions, it’s hard to know what exactly this kind of worship looked like. Yesterday I found a piece of ephemera: an order of service from Jenkin Lloyd Jones’s All Souls Church in Chicago, from January 27, 1907. That should be a representative sample from one of that movement’s leading lights, maturely developed.

I. Organ Prelude.
II. Voluntary (with “From all that dwell below the skies…”)
III. Poem.
IV. Choral response.
V. “Prayer, ‘Our Father,’ chanted.”
VI. Scripture.VII. Hymn.
VIII. Sermon.
IX. Solo.
X. Offertory.
XI. Hymn.
XII. Benediction.
XIII. Organ Postlude.
XIV. Social Greeting.

I can confirm that the hymns map back to Unity Hymns and Chorales, so the “Choral reponse” was surely one from that book, too.

All Souls Church, Chicago, order of service
All Souls Church, Chicago, order of service

What strikes me is how little congregational repsonse there is. Little, perhaps nothing spoken in the pews — only hymns and chanting. Perhaps a small step from the Middle Ages, when the silent congregants would look devotionally upon the sacrament: here, the preaching.

Theological qualms aside, such a service can be sensible, even wholesome and devout in a large congregation — not unknown to “the Unity men.” In small congregations, the effect would surely be stilted, and with an unsteady preacher, deathly.

I’ll keep looking.

A Mozarabic prayer in the Hymns of the Spirit

So, why is there a prayer from medieval Spain in the “old red hymnal” (Hymns of the Spirit) ? See page 139, under the heading “Prayers for Righteousness of Life”:

Grant us, O Lord, to pass this day in gladness and peace, without stumbling
and without stain; that, reaching the eventide victorious over all temptation, we may praise thee, the eternal God, who art blessed for evermore, and dost govern all things. Amen.

The index identifies it from the Mozarabic Rite — the dominant form of worship in Muslim Spain, as distinguished by the now-dominant Latin Rite — is a darling interest of students of liturgy, preserved in a single chapel among the Catholics, but revived by the Anglicans in Spain. A trial prayerbook in Mexico strongly commended by the United States Episcopalians also revived the Mozarabic rite. It didn’t take.

But this prayer in particular was widely antologized, found in ecumenical hymnals for youth and the armed forces, plus Episcopalian, Lutheran and Congregationalist formulations, from the Progressive Age to the Second World War — the era Hymns of the Spirit (1937) was composed. An Episcopal prayerbook for solders and saliors puts the prayer under a heading that typifies the time: “For victory over temptation.” Likewise one for scouts: “For purity”. (PDF)

So where does this bit of liturgical saltpeter appear in English translation?  Hard to say. I cannot yet find a reference earlier than 1913, and nothing quite like it appears in the studies the Episcopalians made for the Mexican church, this Collect for Grace being the closest (and perhaps the source) in Charles R. Hale’s Mozarabic Collects Translated and Arranged from the Ancient Liturgy of the Spanish Church (1881):

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst take upon Thee the weakness of our mortal nature; Grant that we may pass this day in safety, and without sin, resisting all the temptations of the enemy, and that at eventide we may joyfully praise Thee, O King Eternal; Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed, and dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen.

A good place to leave it.

Valuing volunteers

On Sunday I re-joined Universalist National Memorial Church, where I was the pastor and a member in the early 2000s, on Sunday. I’m now ready to contribute where I’m needed — if I’m able. Perhaps that’s why I noticed this new financial valuation of volunteer service by Independent Sector. In D.C., the average dutiful soul is worth $34.04 an hour. Nationwide, the figure is $22.14. By this, the lesson geos, we are better able to appeciate the value of volunteers and thu impact they make.

From a churchly point-of-view, this also means that the generation-on-generation loss of homemakers’ time — long undervalued, until it was no longer there — as a steady workforce is particularly stinging. Paid work and other activities have proved deeply rivalous. Treating volunteers as a financial resource (even if you dispute Independent Sector’s numbers) can help frame how a congregation can deploy its resources or decide to put aside struggling church activities, like newsletters, “forum” series, thrift shops, bean suppers, certain kinds of fundraisers or what have you.

A thought about extinct churches

No created thing last forever. That includes religious movements.

A bit of tweeting about the Cowherdites — better known for their early vegetarianism than their adapted Swedenborgian theology — reminded me of primtivist and somewhat antinomian Sandemanians who served cabbage and broth at the Lord’s Supper.

Or the earthy and materialist (in the philosophical sense) Muggletonians — perhaps the most interesting of this bunch — and the Irvingites, who by distinction were known for their spiritual and esoteric theology … and their beautiful buildings. (An example.)

All came first from England or Scotland. All are now as dead as the dodo.

Steeled for Christmas: a wartime propaganda film

Each year I watch this 1940 film — squarely propaganda to soften American opinion for Britain, which was already at war — to grace Christmas with solemnity if not exactly cheer. I once saw this at a historical screening, but since finding it at YouTube I’ve been able to share Christmas Under Fire.

Again, for your consideration…

This day in Unitarian history

Two hundred twenty years ago today the Birmingham, or Priestley Riots began against dissenters, especially proto-Unitarians like scientist and theologian Joseph Priestley. Houses and churches were burned; Priestley left England for America in 1794. (Today, the mid-Atlantic district of the Unitarian Universalist Association is named for him.)