If you open your hymnal, you will see that the song has a different title printed.
Now if you’ve been paying attention, you have also marked up this song’s title and lyrics, as per the composer’s instructions, changing “standing on the side” to the much less ableist and much more active “answering the call.” I won’t rehash Jason Shelton’s commentary on the lyric change – You can see what he’s said about it here. What I will say is that I whole heartedly support the change; it is evidence of a living tradition that is forever responding to new ways to draw the circle of love ever wider.
And it’s been a while since I listened to it, but I think Jason covers the origin story in the linked post/sermon as well.
So what’s left to say?
First – I like this song. I like the lyrics (especially now), I like the melody, I like the general feel of the piece. It moves, too – so many of our hymns are musically static; they establish a melodic phrase and pattern and then just sit there. But as I learned in conversation with Jason this past week, like the great composers, he thinks deeply about the picture the music paints and how the image we begin with changes by the end of it.
And we are the better for it. As I’ve talked about before in this practice, our music is where our theology is writ large – and I’m beginning to conclude that we will be stronger as a faith when most of what we sing from our hymnals is written by Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist composers. Singing the Journey – and songs like this – go a long way toward that goal.
Back to the song: if it’s unfamiliar to the congregation, introduce it with a soloist or a choir, and consider an additional use with a soloist on the verses and the congregation joining in the chorus. Before they know it, they’ll be humming it along with the rest of us.
With the new, authorized lyrics.
(Pardon the weird formatting – typing on my phone today as I left my laptop right near the front door so I wouldn’t forget to bring it with me to Peterborough. You have permission to laugh at me.)
The promise of the Spirit:
faith, hope and love abide.
And so ev’ry soul
is blessed and made whole;
the truth in our hearts is our guide.
We are answering the call of love:
hands joined together as hearts beat as one.
Emboldened by faith, we dare to proclaim
we are answering the call of love.
Sometimes we build a barrier
to keep love tightly bound.
Corrupted by fear,
unwilling to hear,
denying the beauty we’ve found.
A bright new day is dawning
when love will not divide.
Reflections of grace
in ev’ry embrace,
fulfilling the vision divine.
Image comes from Prairie UU – a few of our fellow UUs answering the call of love.
I like the part of the change you describe. The part I don’t like is losing “on the side of love”.
I’ve read criticism of having that in there, folks who say things like “love doesn’t take sides”. Often that’s true. Perhaps some theologies take that to be always true. Other folks’ theologies, including mine, don’t. Ours thinks when love really is on one side, that needs to be said–and I personally think it’s useful to make the distinction so we don’t treat everything like love is on just one side.
As much as I wish we could do this congregationally, it’s just so difficult to get 200 people to sing this together. The irregular melody and weirdly shifting key center take this off the table for group singing.
We do have a strong choir that’s been singing it for a while. When the congregation sings it, it sounds okay to my ear. Has your choir been doing it? That might help.