Yesterday, I blogged wondering what might constitute a Unitarian and Universalist Christian hymn corpus. In essence, this would seem to me to be those hymns most commonly found in Unitarian and Universalist hymnals (the Universalists wrote few enduring hymns themselves and tended to rely on the Unitarians as much as anyone) less those hymns commonly found in any number of hymnals.
I steeled myself for a bit of a research project — we all have our hobbies — then discovered a tool that probably give as good a result in a fraction of the time. The Hymnary.org site indexes American hymnals. Ideally, each hymnal should have each consituent hymn notes withits particular version of the text, plus the tune and distinguishing metadata. In many cases, however, all there is is a list of hymns, noted by a standardized name. This includes a large number of Universalist and Unitarian hymnals. (The 1993 Singing the Living Tradition is noted, but alas doesn’t even have a list of hymns.)
A feature at Hymnary.org is the ability to compare two hymnals by common content. So I thought: if someone took a list of the hymns found in both the 1937 Hymns of the Spirit and the 1964 Hymns for the Celebration of Life, less those hymns found in the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody list, you might have a working list of distinctively Unitarian and Universalist hymns.
A few caveats:
- Some hymns thought as distinctly Unitarian might not be on the list because they were adopted ecumenically.
- Some ecumenical hymns were re-written for a particularly Unitarian audience — usually to remove references to the Trinity; Holy, Holy, Holy leaps to mind — and so may be thought of distinctive, but remain with the ecumenical list.
- Several hymns on the “distinctive” list were not written by Unitarians and Universalists; this is only a reference to adoption.
- Some hymns, however distinctive, are so out of fashion that their current adoption is unlikely. So this list should be read both from a practical and historical point of view. Not Alone for Mighty Empire — on the ecumenical list — comes to mind.
So here’s the distinctive list: many items that seem just right, others that needs bear scrutiny.
Continue reading “What hymns are distinctive for Unitarian and Universalist Christians? Lists proffered.”