I just wrote my 51st entry in this crazy Hymn by Hymn thing, and there are actually people reading it. Whodathunkit?
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the practice itself, having gotten into it and into the habit. This kind of reflection – processing the process – is common in UU Wellspring Spiritual Deepening – we are encouraged to take up a spiritual practice during the class, and we take time now and then to reflect on how that’s going. Is it working? What are we discovering? Do we need to make changes? It’s a worthwhile tool, not only because it helps us form and format our practice, but it also helps draw our attention to it so that it doesn’t become mindless habit.
And so, this spiritual practice. Because this is how it began, after all. I felt like I wasn’t being attentive to myself, and I knew that taking up a time-limited but long-play practice has served me well in the past. In my high pagan days, I was taught to spend a year and a day studying a path, a divination tool, a deity, or some such; and I had wonderful years studying the runes, Artemis, Sophia, and the chakras. As I shifted from pagan to agnostic to theist, my year and a day practices changed; I did a year of CS Lewis (and have dents in the spines of his books to prove it), and in my 50th year on earth, did my Year of Jubilee, focusing on the renewal of myself, letting go of emotional debts, etc.
But now it’s been a couple of years and some trauma later, and it felt like time to fill the void. I didn’t know what to do, so I put out a call on Facebook, and my colleague Heather Petit suggested singing a hymn a day. I added the blogging about it part, because I knew that, like my Year of Jubilee, public posts would keep me accountable. And so, on my birthday (when I have started all of these practices), I began with May Nothing Evil Cross This Door.
It’s been intriguing so far, and I’ve already discovered some things:
- there are so many more hymns that I don’t know than I realized
- the hymnal compilers made some odd language choices here and there and I am more of a quibbler than I expected
- every time I think a hymn is unsingable, I hear Jason Shelton saying every hymn is singable with the right music leadership
- there are some hymns that are incredibly controversial and there’s no middle ground, at least according to the long thread of Facebook comments from my colleagues
- doing these in order means there have been and will be some jarring juxtapositions between hymn and real life – see the swath of cheery morning songs the days after the election
- singing hymns that don’t fit the day makes my imagination work more, and that’s a good thing
- I want to lead more vespers services
- every time I think no one is reading, someone comments and makes my day – and at least once, the commenter ministered to me
- I have yet to drag myself to the practice – in fact, I look forward to it, even in the darkest of days
And so, it continues. I’ll be heading into spring and summer songs soon, immersed fully into nature by Christmas. That, to me, is a real gift – as someone who doesn’t like the overload of Christmas music on tv, radios, shops, played by well-meaning friends, family, and congregants, it’ll be an oasis. (I will hit the winter holiday tunes in late spring.)
Thanks, all, for reading. Thanks for being a lovely part of my spiritual practice, a part that reminds me that what we do for ourselves can also help others.
This will take you over your year. As someone with OCD, I am curious to know if you are planning on sticking to your year and a day or finishing the hymnal! 🙂
I’m planning to do both hymnals – because I’m on a mission now – I’ll be done sometime in February 2018. 🙂
It’s late December 2016 and I only just recently discovered your blog. I started reading from the beginning and will catch up soon — looking forward to being caught up and reading your blogs as soon as you post ’em. Thank you so much for doing this.
Thank you so much for doing this and making it public! As a newbie to doing Vespers and as a non-singer, your daily practice has been very useful in helping me pick songs. As a spiritual person thinking about UU traditions and God amidst the current political situation, your words have been very moving to read.
“every hymn is singable with the right music leadership”
Ah, if only we had that. But how many congregations have all that they wish for in music leadership? My music-adoring congregation has an excellent music director who is present for one of our two services, and two ministers (one of whom is there for three of four Sundays) who can read music and who sing well and lead music well-enough. Even with that much music leadership, we can’t do songs that need an expert song leader.