Sunday, November 14, 2010

Singers and Songs of the Liberal Faith

So normally I am watching the Patriots right about now.  However, they drew the prime time game and I finally have the opportunity to post.  The staybattical is on hold until after the holidays and I am back at work, preparing for the season and just doing the work of the parish ministry.  It was nice to be in the pulpit today.  It was also great to have the chance to participate in our "first coffee hour" discussion about Christmas.  We are looking for ways to keep it holy.  This is a new format for us.  We have coffee and discussion (a sort of Adult Religious Enrichment program for the constantly overbooked) at 9am, then worship at 10, then regular social coffee hour after church.  The plan is to let people make a morning of it.  So far, so good...

As regular readers know, I have been interested in music as of late.  My own gifts as a musician are limited.  I play the uke as part of my ministry when necessary and, of course, I sing the hymns.  Other than that, not so much.  However, I have found that many, many of my colleagues have written the occasional hymn and even let people sing them!  I am impressed.  Turns out that, in spite of what it may look like at times, there has been a long tradition of amateur hymn writers in the liberal tradition.

I found a book this week that is worth examining a bit closer.  It is entitled "Singers and Songs of the Liberal Church: Being Selections of Hymns and Sacred Poems of the Liberal Church in America".  Alfred Putnam was the author/editor and it was published in 1875.  The copy I am reading belongs to the Boston Atheneaum, which they received in the waning days of 1874...

Here is a piece by the Rev. Samuel Willard (1776-1859).  He is described by Putnam as "a recognized pioneer of the Liberal movement in Western Massachusetts, bravely contending by voice and pen for a larger freedom, and willingly suffering not a little odium and persecution for the sake of what he believed to be the truth."


Lo, they come from East and West;
Come to enjoy the heavenly rest:
North and South, in bliss complete,
Round the eternal altar meet.

Saints of different ages come;
Find in heaven one common home;
Who on earth have walked by faith
Breathe the same inspiring breath.

Mighty throng! how great! how blest!
Wondrous peace, and joy and rest!
What shall fit us, Lord, for this?
Fit our souls for heavenly bliss?

Peace on earth, and peace alone;
Peace, that makes all churches one;
Peace the fruit of Christian love,
Fits the soul for bliss above.

I preached today on the topic of "Inner Peace".  My texts were from Proverbs, Thomas Merton, and Luke Chapter 5.  The choir sang--and sang beautifully--for the first time under their new director.  Maybe I will work some these hymns into future services (perhaps as readings).  This one might just have fit today...

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