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.

There’s a terrible film from 1999 called The 13th Warrior featuring Antonio Banderas playing a 10th century Arab ambassador to northern Europe; he somehow finds himself included in a group of Vikings setting out to deal with a threat in a distant Viking land.  At the start of this quest, Banderas understands no Norse and can only watch events unfold. But as time goes on, he occasionally picks up a word here or there. The filmmaker’s one good idea in an otherwise awful movie was having the occasional English word pop up in the dialogue of the Vikings…then a few more, then finally the entire group is speaking English, showing that Banderas’ character understands the language now.

It’s a remarkable idea, the assimilation of language, and it was beautifully revealed despite the otherwise violent and plot-hole-filled nature of the movie. And I resonate with it, because while I studied Latin in college, anything I know of other languages I assimilated through Sesame Street, food, and music. I mention this, because while I don’t speak Spanish, I can read just enough of it – and the Latin, of course – to have a general sense of the song’s meaning. But more, I find it falls on the ear more beautifully and feels rich and authentic without even the most elegant of English translations.

Now I say all this because I am a bit embarrassed that I don’t know a second language and I should. But I also say this because I think we need to be more open to singing songs like this in English speaking congregations, with the Spanish lyrics, because given repetition, practice, and a helping hand, the lyrics will begin to make sense and the language will being to seep in, bit by bit. And maybe we can get outside ourselves a bit, too.

It helps to have a great song like this – great to me, anyway. Singer-songwriter (and poet, painter, and ecologist) Salvador Cardenal Barquero (who died at age 50 about seven years ago) wrote beautiful and rich melodies, making him an extremely popular figure in Nicaragua and Central America.

Revisa tu corazón
Para hallar el amor en un rincón.
Pero busca el amor.
Ni placer ni passion.
El amor lo que hace al otro bien

Busca el amor en ti.
Se multiplica si lo repartís.
Busca el amor en ti.
Sólo él que ama puede ser feliz.
Busca el amor en ti.
Se multiplica si lo repartís.
Busca el amor en ti.
Sólo él que ama puede ser feliz.
Busca el amor en ti, en ti.

Registra tu camaleón.
Cuando cambia el color del corazón
Y te estalla la flor.
Un pétalo del sol.
El amor lo que hace al otro bien


English translation:

Examine that heart of yours,
As you look for the love on your high shelf,
Past the pleasure and passion
for your own self,
for the love that’s reaching someone else.

Seek out the love in you,
And find the joy that comes to those who care.
Seek out the love in you.
It only grows whenever it is shared.
Seek out the love in you,
And find the joy that comes to those who care.
Seek out the love in you.
It only grows whenever it is shared.
Seek out the love in you, in you.

Your heart’s a chameleon,
Ever open to change like any flower.
Spreading out for the sun,
petals bursting with power.
To be love that’s reaching someone else.


I love the sentiment, too. As our UUA Song Information page says,

This song sums up the composer’s simple personal theology. Salvador Cardenal Barquero is a fifth generation Nicaraguan. He studied to be a Catholic priest as a teenager. He, as many of his generation, answered the call for regime change by forming Duo Guardabarranco with his sister Katia. His original songs explore the need for love. He is a devotee of evolving spiritual thought. He has set music to words of St Francis of Assisi, Rabindranath Tagore, and the Sanscrit Vedas (Srimad Bhaghavatam). His plaintive song Cualquier Hombre (Anyone) has poor people calling to God in all different names and “not asking for leftovers.”

Yes. Yes.

We need love, because it’s the only thing that works.

If you are a fan of a film or tv show with highly quotable lines, you may find yourself giving the next line almost out of habit:

“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

“To make a long story short…”
   “TOO LATE!”

“My father hung me from a hook once..”

“Surely you don’t mean it.”
“I do. And stop calling me Shirley.”

“Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra.”
“Darmok and Jilad on the ocean.”

And so on.

We like things that repeat. It helps firm them up in our brains. The call and response connects us. It’s also a bit of a shibboleth, a password of sorts that lets us know we’re on the same page.

We see it all the time in Protestant liturgy:

May the Lord be with you.
     And also with you.

The Word of God.
     Thanks be to God.

Now as Unitarian Universalists, we don’t have much of this in most of our congregations. Our liturgies are much more freeform (despite many of them still modeling what Glen Thomas Rideout calls “Puritan Standard”). Yet for many of us, there are words or phrases that lead us almost instinctively to respond, perhaps most frequently (in my experience),

Please say with me the words for extinguishing our chalice.
     We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth…

For me and many of us, there’s another trigger of ritual response:

And now the children may go to their classes.

If you’re in one of the hundreds of congregations that uses today’s hymn as a children’s recessional, what comes next are those first four notes – G, C, D, G – repeated as an intro to our lyrics:

Go now in peace. Go now in peace.
May the love of God surround you
everywhere, everywhere you may go.

You probably already started singing before I got to it, didn’t you?

Now I know many congregations use other songs as their recessional; Bloomington, IN, uses a verse of a different hymn each month. Others have pieces written for them. But for those congregations, the song is still part of a habitual call and response. We say we don’t like ritual, but we crave it. And this song, by Methodist composer Natalie Sleeth, is a major piece of our ritual.

I should say a thing you likely already know: the lyrics are “may the love of God” because that’s how Sleeth wrote it and required it be printed in order to give us permission. I’m sure members of the Hymnal Commission can tell more about the story, but the bottom line is that we’ve not been given permission by a living artist to change her lyrics to anything, including the popular “spirit of love.”

Go now in peace.


I don’t know what was going on at Westside UU in Seattle that day, but I love the pic of the kids under a bridge made by adults.

I was about to write something quick about this quick little song, and then go on with my day.

I was going to write something like “how sweet and familiar this is” and something else about how some congregations accept the offering by singing this.

And then I was going to add a quick note about the composers, Joseph and Nathan Segal, and be done with it.

Until I started learning more. And found not only a heartbreaking story but also something interesting about the version we sing.

First, the heartbreak: the Segal brothers are rabbis – singing rabbis, in fact – who trace their lineage as singing rabbis back 12 generations. They performed a spiritual and often humorous show for decades, until a car accident in Jamaica in 1988 left Joseph critically injured; eight years after the accident, it was news that he would join his brother Nathan at the congregation Nathan served. Since then, it appears Nathan has continued his work as a spiritual leader, healer, and musician – sadly, nothing on his website says anything about Joseph other than providing MP3s of the songs they recorded together. In fact, along with those recordings, there is just one video of them together from a concert they did in Woodstock in the late 1960s.

But it was from watching a clip from that where I learned we aren’t singing the song correctly. Listening to the MP3 reveals the same. Now I suspect the hymnal commission didn’t have benefit of these recordings at the time and learned the song by rote, but it’s interesting that not only do we have a different version, but apparently Nathan himself sang it differently over time, based on a later solo recording.

From you I receive,
to you I give,
together we share,
and from this we live.

So this brings up the question around folk music: is it necessary to sing it in an original fashion, or is it okay to change it as we learn it? I think about the Facebook discussion around The Earth, Water, Fire, Air – a song that many of us learned very differently yet seems to be connected to the same origins as the one in our hymnal. Is it the same song? Different now because of the changes? Is it like languages that have the same root but a thousand years goes by and suddenly the guy from Paris can’t understand the gal from Barcelona?

I don’t know. But I’d like to relearn the song in 4/4 time with a different final phrase and see what happens.

Art by Nathan Segal.

Friends, I am running out of things to say about these little rounds.

This one – another song of unknown origin – is sweet and very pretty when fully sung. Which is a sentence I have typed before and I fear will type again.

You see, the thing is – the rounds themselves are good and different and by and large fun to sing with a group. But when there is no source information, no complex lyric, no deep memories, well…. I don’t have much to write about.

Sing and rejoice.
Sing and rejoice.
Let all things living now
sing and rejoice.

I will say this one reminds me a bit of graces we sang at Girl Scout camp, and maybe it is, because I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover Unitarian Universalists at camp.

It’s a good one – don’t get me wrong.

There’s just not much to say.


EDIT: I originally posted a DST ending pic but was reminded that it’s NEXT weekend. Whoops.

I need to begin with a prayer for those harmed by the mass shooting in Las Vegas – I don’t have words yet for my sadness and rage. I only have this Kyrie. Please take a moment to listen with me:


Okay. Now on to today’s hymn, which is a shocking juxtaposition: it is a cheerful alleluia.

So here’s a strange thing: why is it that on this page, the two parts are identified by gender, but on the next one, Now Let Us Sing (tomorrow’s hymn), the two parts are not identified at all?

I say you go to your hymnals and just gently cross out “men” and “women” and let people sing the part that fits their voices. In fact, I’ll show you how it’s done:

Lower Voices:   Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia!
Upper Voices:   Sing and rejoice.
Lower Voices:   Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia!
Upper Voices:   Sing and rejoice. sing and rejoice.
Lower Voices:   Alleluia!
Upper Voices:   Sing and rejoice
Lower Voices:   Alleluia!
Upper Voices:   Sing and rejoice
Lower Voices:   Alleluia!
All Voices:      Sing and rejoice.

See how easy that is?

Anyway – I first learned this as “praise ye the Lord” as a Girl Scout grace, but in my research it appears that the not-alleluia lines have had any number of words applied to it. And as there’s no clear source of where this came from (good ol’ Anonymous, writin’ our ditties), I’d say no one will care what we sing here.

It’s a fun, kid-friendly song to sing, and for some, memories of summer camps gone by will flood in. I’m glad this showed up here today, to ground me a little after too much horrific news this morning.

It is said that into every hymnal a little cheesy, catchy, happy song must fall.

This one’s ours, folks.

And as far as cheesy, catchy, happy songs go, well, this one covers all the bases and then some. Because in the middle of some rather average invitations – “open your ears to the song” and “open your hearts, everyone” comes the zinger: “don’t be afraid of some change.”

Very sneaky, Louise Ruspini (our composer). I like it a lot. Sure, I suspect Ruspini is thinking about inner change, and that’s important, of course. But I know I’m not the only minister who’s used this one on a day when some change in the system is introduced. Because change is going to come whether you welcome it or not, so you might as well welcome it, right?

Enter, rejoice, and come in.
Enter, rejoice, and come in.
Today will be a joyful day;
enter, rejoice, and come in.

Open your ears to the song…

Open your hearts ev’ryone…

Don’t be afraid of some change…

Enter, rejoice, and come in…

Anyway, if you don’t know the tune, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube. Or ask a random Unitarian Universalist, who will groan, sing it to you, and then share their parody lyrics. Mine – co-written with Randy Becker – are below:

Exit, go out, go away
Exit, go out, go away
Go enjoy the rest of your day
Exit, go out, go away.

I was going to share a cheerful pic of ceramic frogs, but I thought it wouldn’t be a bad time to share our message of welcome – thanks to Ellen Rocket and the UUA for these signs of resistance.

I’m finding things a little hard this morning (9/11, Irma, the memories this song stirs), so I’ll let Michael Tino introduce today’s post:

“We confront the complex reality that something can be both insipid and profound simultaneously.”

You see, this song by Carolyn McDade can be awfully sticky-sweet, with its rolling 3/4 time often played too fast or too much like a beer barrel polka. And it seems both universally used and universally loathed. Friends Alex Haider-Winnett and Claire Curole were very clear the other day that they find the tune too boring and too cheery, and the whole “rose in the wintertime” thing either not at all special (because in California, where Alex lives, roses are just all over) or just wrong (because in Maine, where Claire lives, any rose you find in wintertime is the product of a dodgy floral industry).

A lot to dislike. For sure.

But I refuse to dismiss this one out of hand. Sorry, folks. More after the lyrics, which I encourage you to read, not sing:

Come, sing a song with me,
come, sing a song with me,
come, sing a song with me,
that I might know your mind.

And I’ll bring you hope
when hope is hard to find,
and I’ll bring a song of love
and a rose in the wintertime.

Come, dream a dream with me,
come, dream a dream with me,
come, dream a dream with me,
that I might know your mind.


Come, walk in rain with me,
come, walk in rain with me,
come, walk in rain with me,
that I might know your mind.


Come, share a rose with me,
come, share a rose with me,
come, share a rose with me,
that I might know your mind.


Here’s why this song has meaning:

On December 17, 1984, my father died. I was barely 20, and made any  number of bad choices in how I dealt with his loss – including not really processing it as well as I maybe could have. But I always remembered how beautiful and meaningful it was that whoever designed the graveside service had us put roses on the casket – Mom, a red rose, and my siblings and I, white roses.

Fast forward to 2006. December 17 fell on a Sunday, so I signed up to bring flowers. I ordered an arrangement that included three white roses and a red rose, in honor of my father. The sermon was, not surprisingly, about hope, and this was the closing hymn.

The impact of which did not for a second occur to me until we started singing – not in a lively style, but in a more contemplative tempo and mode. The way we sang it gave us a little time to think about what we were singing. “I’ll bring a song of love, and a rose in the wintertime.”

Cue waterworks.

Because I started thinking about my father, not in terms of all the things I never got to do with him or know about him   which was my usual form or mourning for him, but about all the things I did get to experience and learn about him. I actually grieved for the man I knew, not that man that I wish I could have known. Singing this song, on that day, with that bouquet 10 feet away from me, allowed me to grieve again in a healthy way – and, although I didn’t know it at the time, helped make mourning my mother’s death a year later a little easier.

I can’t sing this song without thinking about my father, and about that experience.

Insipid as the song might be.




The last thing I want to do is write a blog post about a song entitled “tradition held fast” on the morning after a spontaneous alt-right march encircled a church where friends and colleagues were praying in preparation for today’s hate-filled rally in Charlottesville. The march – complete with torches (but no hoods – hate is on full display) – is, to those who support it, all about holding on to tradition – their tradition of racism and hatred and oppression, the last gasp of the harmful and destructive Lost Cause.

So no, I don’t want to talk about tradition.

And yet, this amazing song by Jim Scott is indeed about the ways that OUR traditions – prayer, connection, non-violent protest, interfaith collaboration, trust and belief in our principles – how our traditions will win.

It is an affirmation, to be sure. But this morning, let it also be a prayer for strength, for good, for affirmation. May this be our prayer for those who are holding strong as counter protestors to the hate on full display in Charlottesville.

Tradition held fast through varied time and place,
the raising of voices, the touching of hands.
Circle of spirit, council of grace,
all faith finds expression ‘cross countless lands.

Freed from the worldly burdens that we bear,
released in this time of forgiving, healing, sharing.
Lifted by the power of our communion,
held in the warmth of a common caring.

Now though we turn to separate lives, renewed,
our circle of peace will not break as we part.
Though form is gone as we conclude,
through us will it open to every fate of life
and every open heart.


(I’m sorry that I can’t find a recording of this song. If someone has a link, please share.)

Hey, look! We’ve entered the “Harvest and Thanksgiving” section of the hymnal. And we start right off with the usual Thanksgiving song.

C.J.: There’s a usual song?
DONNA: “We Gather Together.”
C.J.: The song.
DONNA: That’s the usual song.
C.J.: So you know it?
DONNA: Everybody knows it.
C.J.: I don’t know it.
DONNA: [sighs] Didn’t you go to elementary school?
C.J.: Yes, right before being a National Merit Scholar.

(Sorry, West Wing fans, I couldn’t find a clip. But it’s season 2, episode 8, “Shibboleth”, written (of course) by Aaron Sorkin).

So yes, there’s a song. And somewhere later in the hymnal, we sing the usual words to the usual song. But here, in the “Harvest and Thanksgiving” section, we sing this paean to humanity.

We sing now together our song of thanksgiving,
rejoicing in goods which the ages have wrought,
for life that enfolds us, and helps and heals and holds us,
and leads beyond the goals which our forebears once sought.

We sing of the freedoms which martyrs and heroes
have won by their labor, their sorrow, their pain;
the oppressed befriending, our ampler hopes defending,
their death becomes a triumph, they died not in vain.

We sing of the prophets, the teachers, the dreamers,
designers, creators, and workers, and seers;
our own lives expanding, our gratitude commanding,
their deeds have made immortal their days and their years.

We sing of community now in the making
in every far continent, region, and land;
with those of all races, all times and names and places,
we pledge ourselves in covenant firmly to stand.

It’s not bad. Overall, it’s a decent “yay, humans” piece, sweet in an approaching-but-not-quite-completely-mired-in-treacle sort of way.

However – and here comes the serious quibble:  What is hard is the ending of the second verse – I am not a fan of the idea that tragic deaths and assassinations are in any way a triumph. “They died not in vain” is a humanist’s way of saying “It is God’s will” and it constantly feels empty and angering. They died and they shouldn’t have is the only right answer. Maybe we get woke and stay woke because they died, but they still should not have died. Death is never a triumph and anyone who says that has a pretty twisted way of understanding life.

But I digress.

The question is this: on balance, would I use this hymn? Probably in the right setting, gritting my teeth through the end of verse two, made easier with a memory of the sweetest flentl in the entire series: