STJ#1007, There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul

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.


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