I brought my spirit to the sea;
I stood upon the shore.
I gazed upon infinity,
I heard the waters roar.

And then there came a sense of peace,
some whisper calmed my soul.
Some ancient ministry of stars
had made my spirit whole.

I brought my spirit to the trees
that loomed against the sky.
I touched each wand’ring careless breeze
to know if god was nigh.

And then I felt an inner flame that
fiercely burned my tears.
Upright, I rose from bended knee
to meet the asking years.

I am sad to say I have never sung this before – sad because it is beautiful, and touches both lyrically and melodically on that mystery contained in all of existence. It is reverent and mystical and makes me want to take a walk along the Sound.

That it is the fourth hymn tells me of nature’s import to our hymn curators but also to our theology (at least the theology of the early 90s); it places our Transcendentalist forebears in a position of import. And I don’t know who ever sings it – I hope other congregations do, because I’ve never encountered it anywhere, other than in flips through the hymnal on the way to other hymns.

And that’s a shame. I for one want to really learn it and use it, because it speaks deeply, even to my very theist self.

The melody alone has a graceful flow, gentle scales supporting surprising intervals that emphasize the lyric mysticism. And the lyrics, calling us to give in and give over and draw strength from that which is so much bigger than us alone, tangible yet infinite. These lyrics evoke a primordial Yes… “I felt an inner flame that fiercely burned my tears” … “An ancient ministry of stars had made my spirit whole”…. I am surrendered. I am ready. Yes… deep within my soul, every cell and molecule cries ‘yes’ to the ancient mystery.

Words by Max Capp
Music by Alex Wyton

The world stands out on either side no wider than the heart is wide;
above the world is stretched the sky no higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land so far away on either hand;
the soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.


This is a hymn I have never sung, nor never heard.  The lyrics are amazing – let’s not kid ourselves: Edna St. Vincent Millay can write. The lyrics talk about the expansiveness of our souls, of God, and what I perceive as a challenge against the limits we try to put on our ideas of the divine. It’s a lush pair of couplets. That last line… so delicious: the SOUL can split the sky in two. It comes from us. We’re the only thing trying to hold it all in, but as Leonard Cohen taught us, ‘there’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.’ I wonder if Cohen had read Millay before writing that song. And I am led to wonder about the ways I try to hold it in, hold it all together, try to seal the cracks that my soul is yearning to open up.

Yes. The lyric is inspiring, beautiful, hopeful, lush.

The music is not so lush – at least not the melody, which is the only thing I can manage to play on the piano app on my iPad. I long for a Ralph Vaughn Williams kind of tune here – something with a bit of sentimentality, but maybe with a bit of simplicity.

I agree with Jason Shelton that no song is unsingable – and I did indeed sing it. But I didn’t feel it – there seemed to me no marriage of word and melody, and thus it was a chore, not a delight.


Words by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Music by W. Fredrick Wooden

Down the ages we have trod
many paths in search of God,
seeking ever to define
the Eternal and Divine.

Some have seen eternal good
pictured best in Parenthood,
and a Being throned above
ruling over us in love.

There are others who proclaim
God and Nature are the same,
and the present Godhead own
where Creation’s laws are known.

There are eyes which best can see
God within humanity,
and God’s countenance there trace
written in the human face.

Where compassion is most found
is for some the hallowed ground,
and these paths they upward plod
teaching us that love is God.

Though the truth we can’t perceive
this at least we must believe,
what we take most earnestly
is our living Deity.

Our true God we there shall find
in what claims our heart and mind,
and our hidden thoughts enshrine
that which for us is Divine.

For me, this is less an inspirational hymn and more a utilitarian hymn – it is a lesson in theology: what do we believe about God? I have used this hymn in services – most notably in my series “Singing About God” – using a handful of verses each week helps introduce the perspective I explore.

But it’s not very inspirational, not like May Nothing Evil Cross This Door. It doesn’t have soaring lyrics or a soaring melody – in fact, the melody (written by a much admired friend) is rather light for such a heady subject. This is not a song I would turn to for meditation or spiritual deepening – it’s a song I turn to when I want to talk about Unitarian Universalist theology.

Not that that’s bad – not everything can have the heart-tugging power of Finlandia (which I’ll explore when we get to #159, This Is My Song). One of the reasons we have hymns, curated and collected, is to hold our theology as it is experienced in our congregations. It’s why the hymnals get revised every so often, or supplements get released – because the theology as we experience it in our congregations changes to meet our souls’ and our world’s needs. Even Singing the Journey, released only 11 years ago, feels a little outdated now, because so much has shifted. And yet, this is what we have for now – this, plus the new songs and lyrics written and shared, that soon become the ‘extra-canonical’ works of our sung theology. (Jason Shelton’s “Life Calls Us On” is one among many examples of this – I fully expect it will be included in a future hymnal.)

So… this is a fine hymn – it does what it is meant to, and it’s easy to sing. I’m glad it’s here.

Words by John Andrew Storey
Music by Thomas Benjamin

May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill fortune never pry about
these windows; may the roar
and rain go by.

By faith made strong, the rafters will
withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching our lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms
into a shrine.

With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.

And so it begins – with a lilting 3/4 tune, which I have heard too many times played like a dirge. It’s full of strong sentiment, but it is a blessing, not a demand. It is a prayer, not a protest….although they are often the same thing.

My point, however, is that this opening hymn is a dance – a waltz, a welcoming, loving blessing to all of the spirits who enter: the book, the congregation, the faith, life itself.

Imagine if we greeted people at the door with a hand jive, then twirling them into our foyers, one-two-three, one-two-three to the ushers who lead them gently to seats and then dance off to meet the next willing, dance-filled congregants?

Imagine if the pianist choir cha-cha’d to the bench, hips gently propelling them to feel the rhythm of the beating hearts filling the room?

Imagine the choir doing the electric slide into the loft, rocking their souls soulfully into place?

Imagine the worship leaders entering with an energetic Charleston, weaving an energetic magic that catches fire?

Imagine the whole congregation moving and breathing in sync, ready to be together because their spirits already are engaged in the dance of welcome and blessing?


Words by Louis Untermeyer, music by Robert N. Quaile
Tune: Oldbridge