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.

Sometimes in this practice I am caught up in the flow of the experience, the memories, the theological and spiritual musings. Sometimes I am fascinated to learn more about the composer, the song’s origins, and its care.

Today was intended to be the latter – who is Rose Sanders and where does this song originate? It has echoes of a piece I’ll share after the lyrics, but I’m curious… because it has all the hallmarks of a 19th century spiritual but has apparently been written in the last 50 years.

And. This is a mystery I can’t seem to solve today, partly because the UUA Song Information page omits any information about this song, and because my Google searches come up empty. This frustrates me. I hate not knowing. And so, gentle readers, any information you have will be more than welcome.

Meanwhile, here are our lyrics; more after this break.

There’s a river flowin’ in my soul.
There’s a river flowin’ in my soul.
And it’s tellin’ me that I’m somebody.
There’s a river flowin’ in my soul.

There’s a river flowin’ in my heart…
There’s a river flowin’ in my mind…

When I was little, Sesame Street was the most progressive place on television (except maybe for the Smothers Brothers); the characters lived in a multicultural community with at least two languages spoken, and along with letters and numbers, we learned basic skills and ethics.

Often, there were guests – some we knew, some we didn’t, but all welcome. In 1971 (I was 7), a young lawyer and activist came on to do a spoken word poem with a group of kids:

I remember this so clearly; Jesse Jackson’s words were rhythmic and exciting and energizing. In my own life, saying “I am somebody” was a counter-affirmation to the bullying I was already experiencing. I had no idea then but grew to understand the affirmation was vitally important to anyone of an oppressed group. To stand up and say “I am somebody” shouldn’t be radical but is.

And this is why I love this song today. It’s not just a sweet song to sing together – it’s a radical statement of inherent worth and dignity.

I don’t know who Rose Sanders is, but I’m glad she wrote this song of self-affirmation.

I don’t even know where to begin, so I guess I’ll begin with this morning’s experience of singing.

As frequent readers know, I’m an Anglophile – a lover of British television, British film, the British Isles, and at least once, a British person. Knowing this was today’s hymn before I cracked open the hymnal, I started humming the tune (by English composer Walford Davies) in the shower, and it felt – feels – quintessentially British. I was transported to the Proms, and a scene from a Merchant-Ivory film, and it reminded me of Holst and Elgar and that early 20th century English classical music that seems an antidote to the romanticism of the French.

And as I shampooed, I remembered that the lyrics are troubling at best. Here’s what we have from the original by John Huntley Skrine, abridged and new words added by our man Carl Seaburg:

Rank by rank again we stand,
from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls demand
whence we come and how, and whither.
From their stillness breaking clear,
echoes wake to warn or cheer;
higher truth from saint and seer
call to us assembled here.

Ours the years’ memorial store,
honored days and names we reckon,
days of comrades gone before,
lives that speak and deeds that beckon.
From the dreaming of the night
to the labors of the day,
shines their everlasting light,
guiding us upon our way.

Though the path be hard and long,
still we strive in expectation;
join we now their ageless song
one with them in aspiration.
One in name, in honor one,
guard we well the crown they won;
what they dreamed be ours to do,
hope their hopes, and seal them true.

Trust me, you don’t want to know Skrine’s original lyrics – which were written at the height of British Imperialism at the end of the 19th century. Seaburg did an okay job of softening the Empire language, and lines like “what they dreamed be ours to do” is inspiring. Sometime in the last 20 years, an additional verse was added by Kendyl Gibbons:

Never from that summons swerve;
Hark the prophets’ living chorus!
Truth and freedom still to serve
Show the present path before us.
As we dream, so shall we dare;
Hands to service, hearts to prayer.
Clouds of witness call us on,
That a nobler day may dawn.

It’s not bad, and “as we dream so shall we dare” is also a kick-ass line.

But oh, the problems. Empire. Abelism. And a song written, likely, for convocation (this appears in a handbook of songs for the University of Wales, compiled by Davies – with this tune, Reunion, written for this purpose). And of course at the time, we have men going to university in part to continue ruling the British Empire, which is already beginning to show signs of cracking in the wake of World War I. It’s not wonder this somewhat militarized tune and language would be used; even though in that context ‘rank by rank’ alluded to the various academic levels, rank also alludes to the military.

Surprisingly, information on this – especially the tune – was hard to find. A quick search for the tune turned up empty, and it took a while to even find reference to this song outside of our annual Service of the Living Tradition. I finally found a PDF of the hymnal it comes from (for those who want to follow along, click here – it’s on page 303 of the book and 345 of the PDF itself). The lyrics show up on Hymnary, but not the tune, which was a later addition. I finally found a recording of the tune here, in an obscure section of a folksinger’s website (Mary Ellen Wessels). I should also note that this was in Hymns of the Spirit and Hymns for the Celebration of Life, so it has a long history in our liberal religious tradition.

But the search, and my experience with this hymn, is frustrating and complex. And this is a hymn most of us sing once or twice a year. Has anyone sung this when they’re not processing at an ordination, installation, or Service of the Living Tradition? And most of us dislike the song but love the pomp and circumstance. A few still love it, and so it stays as part of our tradition. Can we redeem it? It seems that every year after General Assembly, we talk on Facebook about different lyrics – suggestions include

Rank by rank again we meet,
from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls entreat
whence we come and how, and whither.


Rank by rank come we once more,
from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls implore
whence we come and how, and whither.


We can get rid of it altogether for these handful of times a year, because while it is an historic part of our living tradition, we are easily able to preserve it (see the piles of old hymnals we have) and – because our living tradition CHANGES – we can choose something new. When I hear about how different the Service of the Living Tradition was not that long ago, it seems strange that we have such a fuss over changing the music we use. And if it makes us better as a result, why not?

And… I will still hum this tune now and then because it’s pretty good for a school processional.

Photo (via UU World) is of Rev. Cheryl Walker preaching at the 2017 Service of the Living Tradition.

First, I need to say a prayer for Key West, and really all of south Florida this morning. I have friends who are still on the island (mostly they are first responders, public works folk, or other government officials), and they are getting hit so very hard as I type. I’ve seen a few videos of storm surge waters in Bahama Village and trees down on Smathers Beach, and I am holding a fair amount of anxiety right now. And then I go  preach on the benefits of spiritual practice. (And actually, this is helping, this spiritual practice right here… because I had to stop, be still, and be present with myself and God for a few minutes.)


I keep coming back to a line written by Susan Frederick-Gray, and highlighted for me by an amazing service by Erika Hewitt: “No one is outside the circle of love.”

To be honest, it’s really changed my thinking about our principles and even our understanding of Unitarian Universalism’s history – that at every moment we have had the choice to expand the circle of love, or not, both theologically and ethically. I’m still pondering, but this aspiration that no one be outside the circle of love has captured my ministerial imagination.

And I think I just found one of my new anthems – this short, old hymn. The lyrics are by our old friend Sam Longfellow, set to the familiar Winchester New (the same tune is sung for As Tranquil Streams).

I mean, check out this lyric:

With joy we claim the growing light,
advancing thought, and widening view,
the larger freedom, clearer sight,
which from the old unfold the new.

With wider view, come loftier goal;
with fuller light, more good to see;
with freedom, truer self-control;
with knowledge, deeper reverence be.

Our man Sam is calling for us draw the circles ever wider, the circles of vision, and freedom, and knowledge, and goodness.

Not bad, Sam. I didn’t know this one existed, really, so it gets a Hidden Gem tag from me.

And when I am finally ready to preach on this, I have one of our hymns.

I am in Peterborough, New Hampshire, preparing to lead a retreat with dear friend and colleague Diana McLean. And as I was preparing to write today, I waxed a little poetic about the Blake poem this hymn tune (Jerusalem, by Charles H.H. Parry) was written for.

And I burst into tears. Like, not just a weepy lump in my throat, but full on, reaching for the Kleenex, now I have to reapply my makeup tears. Which got worse when I read the lyrics we have in our hymnal.

I’m tellin’ ya. Ugly cry.

I’m not sure why the Blake lyrics gets to me – it’s very pro-England, very pro-Second Coming, very cliché. So cliché it’s inspired books, films, and tv shows.  And I’m a bit embarrassed by my reaction. Yes, I’m an Anglophile – I love British tv and film, I love English history, I love the English countryside, and once I loved an Englishman (who broke my heart). But why does this hymn – and not so many others that scream out my personal theology – make me burst into tears?

Anyway… makeup adjusted, tissues discarded… here’s our hymn. The tune is soaring and lush, and very fitting for these words by Don Marquis. And as much as our last encounter with Marquis frustrated me, this encounter draws me directly into the mystery of life and death and Mystery itself.

Have I not known the sky and sea put on a look as hushed and stilled
as if some ancient prophecy drew close upon to be fulfilled?
Like mist the houses shrink and swell,
like blood the highways throb and beat,
the sapless stones beneath my feet turn foliate with miracle.

And life and death but one thing are — and I have seen this wingless world
cursed with impermanence and whirled like dust across the summer swirled,
and I have dealt with Presences
behind the veils of Time and Place,
and I have seen this world a star — bright, shining, wonderful in space.

Gorgeous. Simply divine, really. And as I contemplate the lyrics, and my reaction, I realize this should probably be sung at my memorial service.

No wonder I had such a strong reaction.

I end with this beautiful choral arrangement of Jerusalem – not with our lyrics, but the Blake – sung by the West Point Cadet Glee Club (the song starts at 0:26):

And now I’m crying again. Where’s the Kleenex?

When I say “Beethoven” I bet most of you think “da da da DUM” and the strikingly innovative opening to the Fifth Symphony. But for me, it’s this – Ode to Joy.

I first waxed poetic about it on November 1st, noting the joy of the music and the lyrics by Henry Van Dyke. And while Van Dyke’s lyrics are more well know. it is these lyrics, by German dramatist, poet, and historian Friedrich Schiller, that Beethoven included in the Ninth Symphony.

Joy, thou goddess, fair immortal, offspring of Elysium,
mad with rapture, to the portal of thy holy fane we come!
Fashion’s laws, indeed, may sever, but thy magic joins again;
humankind is one forever ‘neath thy mild and gentle reign.

Joy, in nature’s wide dominion, mightiest cause of all is found;
and ‘tis joy that moves the pinion, when the wheel of time goes round;
from the bud she lures the flower, suns from out their orbs of light;
distant spheres obey her power, far beyond all mortal sight.

Freude, schóner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium,
wir betreten feuertrunken, himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder, was die Mode streng geteilt,
alle Menschen werden Brúder, wo dein sanfter Flúgel weilt.

Freude heiefst die starke Feder in der ewigen Natur.
Freude, Freude treibt die Ráder in der grossen Weltenuhr.
Blumen lockt sie ausden Keimen, Sonnen aus dem Firmament,
Spháren rollt sie in den Raumen, die des Sehers Rohr nicht kennt.

I love that we have to verses of the German, along with two English verses. The first line, “Freude, schóner Götterfunken” translates directly as “Joy, beautiful spark of God, daughter of Elysium” – the English translation we use appears to be uncredited (at least according to my Google search).

I could talk more about the theology of this versus Joyful, Joyful – and I’m sure it’s worthy of analysis. But today, in the midst of the Goldmine Youth Leadership School (with incredible youth and their incredible minds and enthusiasm), I don’t have the energy for deep thought. I do also wonder about attributing gender to an abstract – but I am not sure how I feel about it. Maybe someday.

Meanwhile, JOY! In a big, famous, broad, triumphant German way.

I can’t write – I’m still giggling about the fact that every time I start singing this, even with lyrics in front of me, I start singing the English lyrics of A Mighty Fortress Is our God. And then getting mad when ‘in us its rivers flowing’ doesn’t rhyme with “on earth is not an equal” until I realize I sang the wrong words.

Seriously, though, I can’t get the Lutheran hymn out of my head enough to focus on Kenneth Patton’s lyrics.

Which, as is typical of his writing, quite good, quite inspiring, and oh so Unitarian Universalist.

We are the earth upright and proud; in us the earth is knowing.
Its winds are music in our mouths, in us its rivers flowing.
The sun is our hearthfire; warm with the earth’s desire,
and with its purpose strong, we sing earth’s pilgrim song;
in us the earth is growing.

We lift our voices, fill the skies with our exultant singing.
We dedicate our minds and hearts, to order, beauty bringing.
Our labor is our strength; our love will win at length;
our minds will find the ways to live in peace and praise.
Our day is just beginning.

I like its groundedness – not we are on the earth, but we are the earth. It’s eco-theologian Sallie MacFeague’s “we are earthlings”… it’s the interdependent web of all existence reminding us we’re part of it too. It’s an amazing set of lyrics.

I just can’t get past wanting to sing the words of the old Lutheran hymn. And it’s such a unique meter ( that no other hymn tune has – so to sing it differently means one of our composers has to get busy. And I kinda hope they do – because I don’t use this hymn precisely because it’s set to Ein’ Feste Burg, and I would dissolve into uncontrollable giggles if I did, and that probably wouldn’t have the effect I would be going for.



So…. bear with me on this: today’s hymn is the Jan to yesterday’s Marcia.

Everyone loves Wake Now My Senses. it’s a popular ordination hymn. It makes some of us cry. It is easy to sing and suits so many sermons.

And there, on the bottom of the right hand page, tucked away so as you hardly notice, is Make Channels for the Streams of Love. It’s not the favorite, it’s not well known, it’s overshadowed and often ignored. I can just hear this hymn whining to the Hymnal Commission about being stuck on that page and not having its own so it can shine. Just as second-born Jan Brady was always in her older sister Marcia’s shadow on The Brady Bunch, so too does this hymn sometimes sit in the shadows of a more popular hymn.

But folks, it deserves to shine. Set to the Land of Rest tune (which we have sung twice already in Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard and When We Wend Homeward), this text by Irish author Richard Trench contains a loving, lovely, and important message.

Make channels for the streams of love where they may broadly run;
and love has overflowing streams to fill them every one.

But if at any time we cease such channels to provide,
the very founts of love for us will soon be parched and dried.

For we must share, if we would keep this gift all else above;
we cease to give, we cease to have — such is the law of love.

Or, as Jimmy Durante (and many others) sang,

You’ve got to give a little, take a little,
And let your poor heart break a little.
That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.

I hope you sing this more. I hope I sing this more. Because it’s so easy to stay angry and get angrier, to stay isolated and get more isolated, and then become parched and dried. We have to always love more, love more, love more.

One of the joys of belonging to a congregation that’s just 20 years old is that the history is recent, and there are a lot of firsts to be part of.

On May 27th of this year, there were a lot of firsts: I was co-ordained by the First Universalist Church of Southold, where I was serving and who has ordained dozens in their 187 year history…. and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, making this their first ordination. This was, of course, my first (and only) time being ordained. And I am the first person in my ancestry in many, many generations – perhaps since the early 1600s – to be ordained. For many friends, it was the first time they’d participated in an ordination. In attendance (and also participating) were not only their current minister (the resultant call of Saratoga’s first ministerial search) but also their first, founding minister. And while he was not in attendance, Saratoga’s first interim minister, Thomas Mikelson, was present through his words, written for this, the first hymn we sang that day.

A day of firsts.

And I’m glad this hymn is a part of that memory and my history; it’s one of my favorites, far surpassing Rank by Rank Again We Stand (which we’ll get to in September) as the perfect hymn to use in rituals like ordinations and installations. Mikelson draws us all in to the wide net of ministry, recognizing that we are all called.

Wake, now, my senses, and hear the earth call;
feel the deep power of being in all;
keep, with the web of creation your vow,
giving, receiving as love shows us how.

Wake, now, my reason, reach out to the new;
join with each pilgrim who quests for the true;
honor the beauty and wisdom of time;
suffer thy limit, and praise the sublime.

Wake, now, compassion, give heed to the cry;
voices of suffering fill the wide sky;
take as your neighbor both stranger and friend,
praying and striving their hardship to end.

Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide;
join with all people whose rights are denied;
take not for granted a privileged place;
God’s love embraces the whole human race.

Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
brighten my pathway with radiance here;
mingle my calling with all who will share;
work toward a planet transformed by our care.

Set to the Irish dance that is Slane, it reminds us that all that we are called to is a dance with the Mystery – that as much gravitas as our call requires, it also requires us to enter that call with a light and loving heart.

I honestly have not one bad thing to say about this hymn – as long as it’s not played as a dirge, of course.

And it will always live on in my memory as the first hymn of my ordination. May it also always live on as a reminder of my call.

From my ordination – the amazing Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson leading the processional, singing this hymn.

I entered this morning’s hymn with trepidation; I’m familiar with it and I’ve sung it a few times, but I was a bit anxious about what is really a charming little melody, wondering whether it would be a problem the way the Austria tune can be.

Between the Lines was no help really; James says simply that this is an Alsatian tune, with a translation of verse 1 by Arthur Kevess and new lyrics from Elizabeth Bennett.

That’s it.

Before we go too far, here are the lyrics as we have them in the hymnal:

Die Gedanken sind frei, my thoughts freely flower.
Die Gedanken sind frei, my thoughts give me power.
No scholar can map them, no hunter can trap them,
no one can deny: Die Gedanken sind frei!

My thoughts are as free as wind o’er the ocean,
and no one can see their form or their motion.
No hunter can find them, no trap ever bind them:
my lips may be still, but I think what I will.

A glimmering fire the darkness will brighten;
my soaring desire all troubles can lighten.
Though prison enfold me, its walls cannot hold me:
no captive I’ll be, for my spirit is free.

Good strong lyrics representing free thought. But what of the original? Was it as freely thinking?

As it turns out, yes.

This song first became popular during the 1840s, after the Carlsbad Decrees and then during the 1848 German Revolution, Die Gedanken Sind Frei was a popular and important protest song. A direct translation from the German goes like this:

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They fly by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,
still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all these are futile works,
because my thoughts tear all gates
and walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torture myself with whimsies.
In one’s heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only her I like best of all.
I’m not alone with my glass of wine,
my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

Not surprisingly, this also became popular again in the 1930s and 40s in German; in at least one example of Nazi resistance, a member of the White Rose Resistance (Sophie Scholl) would play the song on her flute outside the prison where her father had been detained for calling Hitler “a scourge of God.”

So we’re getting closer to why this might be in our hymnal, but just as there are dozens of protests songs around the world that we’ve never heard of much less included in our living tradition, how did this one get our attention?

And then I read this, in Wikipedia:

The Weavers recorded the song at a live concert in the 1950s. Pete Seeger also recorded the song, solo, back in the 1950s. The Limeliters recorded the song in 1962 on their Folk Matinee album. Pete Seeger recorded the song once more in his Dangerous Songs!? album in 1966.

It all makes sense now.

And yes, I used this in my service on January 21st. We need to remember that what we are experiencing is not normal, and that we must keep our minds freely flowering.

Image is of cornflower, the national flower of Germany. I was going to show edelweiss, but it’s honestly not as lovely. Plus, it’s Austrian. Plus, it plants an earworm, and goodness knows I wouldn’t do THAT to you. Not me. Perish the thought.