The sun that shines across the sea, the wind that whispers in the tree,
the lark that carols in the sky, the fleecy clouds a-sailing by,
O, I’m as rich as rich can be, for all these things belong to me!

The raindrops which refresh the earth, the springtime mantle of rebirth,
the summer days when all things grow, the autumn mist and winter snow,
O, I’m as rich as rich can be, for all these things belong to me!

The task well done, the fun of play, the wise who guide me on my way,
the balm of sleep when each day ends, the joy of family and friends,
O, I’m as rich as rich can be, for all these things belong to me!

Part one, wherein I reflect on familiarity

And now we’re back to the unfamiliar hymns.

I am thinking about how we learn hymns, what makes one more familiar than another, why we gravitate toward some even when we are the hymn choosers ourselves. Sure, some of it is that we lean into our favorites – whether because of the lyric or the tune or the combination. Some become favorites because of a particular memory that we associate with it. But let’s not discount the fact that some of the hymns we know well are previous ministers’ favorites. And those a previous minister doesn’t like doesn’t get chosen for services, week after week.

And in the case of this hymn, that’s too bad. It’s a sweet little song, one I would happily introduce into a service on gratitude or transcendentalism or even a celebration of the seventh principle. It is sweet, and draws the circle of blessings wide. I’m not 100% sold on the melody yet, but it’s pretty; this is another case of wanting to hear the whole accompaniment to make a real judgment about the tune.

It may not have been on the list of my minister’s favorites, but it may wind up on mine.


Part two, where I reflect on this section of the hymnal

This section is called “The Celebration of Life” – it’s been full of opening songs, celebrating who we are, extoling our various and varied theologies, exploring our sense of humanity’s self in concert with the rest of the planet, being thankful for life itself and all it has to offer.

Outside of these morning singing reflections, life has been much less celebratory. Politicians are fighting about who we are, battling over various and varied ideologies, exploiting our humanity (and forgetting to talk about the rest of the planet), insulting and harming each other. It’s a cantankerous, rancorous, angry time – and the atmosphere both within and outside of politics is at times vile.

Is it any wonder these hymns sometimes seem too sweet, too saccharine, too fluffy?

And yet – certainly as I discovered yesterday with What Wondrous Love – even these kinds of songs reach deep, almost imperceptibly, into our hearts and minds and keeps us going. It’s terrible out there, but we are still alive, and maybe that alone is worth celebrating. Maybe, during each of these horrible and hard and traumatizing days, the few minutes spent with these hymns is not just helpful but necessary medicine to ease our collective existential pain.

In other words, perhaps it is not entirely by chance that I began singing, at the beginning, on my early October birthday. Perhaps this is exactly the long-term treatment I need. That we need.

August 7, 2017 Edit:  I added the Content Warning tag on this because it strikes me as maybe a bit privileged to sing about riches of family and friends in the third verse; that could be a problematic sentiment to some. Use with care.


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