Lord, the days are hard. No sooner do we wrap our brains around one major news story than another one, or ten comes barreling down on us. What we need is something warm and loving and sweet.

Sometimes it’s a sweet song that is just what the doctor ordered.

And to be honest, there isn’t much more to say about this sweet benediction by Mortimer Barron that he doesn’t say himself (below the lyrics).

I love this little piece. It comforts me in its warmth and showers me with its blessing. And on these hard days that never end, comfort and blessing is something remarkable.

Go lifted up,
Love bless your way,
moonlight, starlight
guide your journey
into peace
and the brightness of day.

Here is what Barron has to say, courtesy of the UUA Song Information page:

Written by Mortimer Barron, and he writes, “When I was music director at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church, Attleboro, MA, Natalie Sleeth’s Go Now in Peace was often sung at the end of the Sunday services. Whereas I liked its words but not its music, I composed new music for this sung benediction. The congregation loved this new version and continues to sing it to this day. This new “Go Now in Peace” also became the traditional sung benediction at my present church, First Unitarian and Universalist Society of Middleboro, MA. Go Lifted Up is very easily learned by a congregation and may be accompanied by piano, organ, or guitar, or may be sung a cappella.”

The song is simple. The lyrics even more so. Yet it is hardly simple at all, is it?

Shabbat shalom is the traditional greeting on the Sabbath, meaning essentially ‘may the peace of God be with you on this Sabbath day.’ The joyful three part song is a reminder that there is joy to be found in this day of rest. And with it come the complexities of human habit, to keep doing… the complexities of what the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy is really all about… the complexities of ensuring we honor, not misappropriate, this song and practice…the complexities of wanting simply to sing a joyful greeting on a Sabbath day.

And at it’s heart, it is just a joyful song…and for me, it evokes thoughts of a member of my clinical pastoral education (CPE) cohort, a cantor who is becoming a rabbi in a new tradition. Our mutual love of music meant we shared a lot of songs with one another last fall during our CPE unit, and she was often surprised when I knew songs they sang in her congregation. She is now one of those people I send a quick “Shabbat shalom” text to on Friday evenings, because it means a lot to her to be seen by me.

Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom.
Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat,
Shabbat Shalom. (2x)

Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom. (2x)

Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom.
Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat,
Shabbat Shalom. (2x)

Otherwise remember to enter the Hymn By Hymn at GA drawing, and be joyful and gentle with one another. May the peace of God be with you always.


I’m afraid I couldn’t find the artist for this painting – best source I could come up with was this post at Soul Mazal.

This is a beautiful benediction. A sustaining send-off. An alliterative affirmation.

What I love about the lyrics is the acknowledgement that this work is hard, and it’s always been good. Something I’m not entirely certain I noticed until now, as many times as I have sung this. (Another favorite of my former minister’s, plus another great tune by Tom Benjamin).

There’s that old joke – why are Unitarians so bad at hymn singing? because they are always reading ahead to see if they agree with the lyrics. Yet I think that even when we know the tune well, we tend to miss the nuance. And this is nuanced – this isn’t all ‘rah rah rah’ – it’s ‘this is hard. There will be pain, doubts, bitterness, fear – but take courage.

That this hymn is in the Exemplars and Pioneers section, of course, isn’t surprising. The hymn calls us to look to the past and see that it’s possible. And even though I am a middle-aged white woman, the first names that came to mind were Harriet Tubman and the newly resuscitated Frederick Douglass – heroes whom many in our nation seem to think only deserve notice one month a year, but whose contributions to love and justice are insurmountable and inspirational.

When I sing this hymn, I am reminded that our heroes aren’t heroes because it was easy, but because it was hard, and because they were right. This is indeed a hymn for our age – we need gentle, loving songs that hold us in our fears and still call us to putting our faith into action.

Be that guide whom love sustains.
Rise above the daily strife:
lift on high the good you find.
Help to heal the hurts of life.

Be that helper nothing daunts —
doubt of friend or taunt of foe.
Ever strive for liberty.
Show the path that life should go.

Be that builder trusting good,
bitter though the test may be:
through all ages they are right,
though they build in agony.

Be that teacher faith directs.
Move beyond the old frontier:
though the frightened fear that faith,
be tomorrow’s pioneer!