STJ#1058 Be Ours a Religion

I want to start with a word of gratitude for the STJ hymnal commission, who thought to include some short responses in this slim volume. It would have been easy to only include bigger songs and hymns, but they knew (probably because most of them were music directors themselves) that we needed fresh music to fill those spaces in our worship – spaces where we receive the offering, or send the children to religious education classes, or respond to a prayer, or welcome us in, or send us out.

This short piece – another beauty composed by Tom Benjamin – is a pretty setting of the Theodore Parker words (a fuller version can be found in STLT, reading #683).

Be ours a religion
which like sunshine goes everywhere,
its temple all space,
its shrine the good heart,
its creed all truth,
its ritual works of love.

I could see this as an introit – welcome to this faith community, and here’s what we’re like – or as a benediction – go bring this out to the world. Either way, it’s a lovely little piece. I think it’s a bit tricky, but once you learn it, it’s in your bones.

I wish I had more to say today. Parker’s words are in some ways a call to arms, and in some ways an admonition – this is who we say we are, but are we? It’s easy to puff ourselves up and say “we are this” but I think it’s more important that we say “we strive to be this.” Parker’s words are a vision of Unitarianism (and, by modern extrapolation and extension, Unitarian Universalism). And on this day when we remember Dr. King’s dream, we can remember our own dreams for who we strive to be.

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