It feels a little like cheating that this was our closing hymn yesterday, and I’ve had it as an earworm for 24 hours – and it’s been on my mind since I first chose it for this service weeks ago.
And in this case, I don’t even care that only verse one is original, and that Eugene Navias, a Minister of Religious Education and 1977 winner of the Angus McLean Award for excellence in religious education, wrote the second and third verses for us. I don’t mind at all, because (a) the original invokes ‘Ebenezer’ (Hebrew for ‘stone of God’), which is referenced in Samuel 7:12 and is used to say it’s only because of God that we are able to do anything, which is very NOT Unitarian or Universalist in theology; and (b) Navias captures some of my own theistic humanism – namely, saying that which we look to (which some call God) reminds us to look to each other and work together and love together.
I used this as the closing hymn for a sermon talking about how religious community can be and should be a place of sanctuary for our souls and spirits. As I say in the sermon,
At its best, religious community is a shelter from the storm. It is a space set apart where we can release our weltschmerz (world weariness) and breathe into the present moment. And yet it isn’t a place that simply holds the holy for us; rather, it helps us integrate our faith into the rhythm of our daily lives. It makes space for restoring loving and intimate connections with each other. It is the small rituals and gestures we undertake with each other in this sacred space that give everyday life its value and meaning, that comfort us, make us feel at home, rooted and generous. It is the safe space for learning and discussion that prepares us lovingly for the hard work of justice and compassion ahead. It is the ever-present invitation to stop, be still, and give thanks.
We sing this hymn in gratitude for the communities we intentionally create to support us, for the reminder that we are more than the sum of our parts, for the vision that we must remember to keep before us.
Come, thou fount of ev’ry blessing, tune our ears to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of life’s perfection fills our hearts with joy and love,
teach us ever to be faithful, may we still thy goodness prove.
Come, thou fount of ev’ry vision, lift our eyes to what may come.
See the lion and the young lamb dwell together in thy home.
Hear the cries of war fall silent, feel our love glow like the sun.
When we all serve one another, then our heaven is begun.
Come, thou fount of inspiration, turn our lives to higher ways.
Lift our gloom and desperation, show the promise of this day.
Help us bind ourselves in union, help our hands tell of our love.
With thine aid, O fount of justice, earth be fair as heav’n above.
I love this hymn. I love our words, plus I love the tune (Nettleton). It recharges me and sends me forth. It is, for me, a moment to be present with and among others, to stop, be still, and give thanks.
The photo is of Paint Branch UU (photo from the UUA site page for Welcoming Congregations), chosen because of the love and sanctuary this religious community is showing in this beautiful rainbow picture.
I LOVE this hymn! We used it a lot. My only problem is that most people pronounced the third word as though it rhymed with “mount,” whereas it’s actually pronounced “font.” As the minister standing in front of the congregation, I could really hear them — I tried not to let it bother me, because it’s such a great song. “When we all serve one another, then our heaven has begun.” Indeed.
I decided to revisit this based on a recent conversation, and because I happened to miss this particular post the first time around. I have to say that the version of this hymn in our hymnal makes me weep, and not in a good way. It’s a perfectly fine hymn. But it’s not “Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing.” Even the first verse is altered a bit.
I miss the ebenezer. It’s central to me. By altering it, we’ve erased the author’s theology – we’ve made it worthless. We’ve written over it. When we sing this, it feels entirely watered-down to me. It just breaks my heart. I would prefer that we just used the tune and wrote an entirely new hymn. And I hope and pray that in the next version of the hymnal, we restore the original hymn. I wish to raise my ebenezer.
Well, you’re going to be disappointed on Saturday, because this is one of my favorites, and we’re singing it at my ordination.