Last week when I started into this doxology section, I ran to the internet to find out a bit more about doxologies – where they come from, why they are used, etc. Of course, I stopped by Wikipedia to see what they had to say, and I discovered a section on Unitarianism. In the text as I found it, the earnest author listed this text, from Isaac Watts, as THE Unitarian Universalist doxology and Old Hundredth as THE tune.
That says two things to me – first, that the section needed to be edited, which I did. But second, that this is very common as a doxology (or as my home congregation calls it, an Affirmation of Faith). In my experience, if a congregation sings a doxology, it is this one – although much like spoken covenants, words do change a little; I never got used to the alterations made by the Southold congregation – their second line is ‘let words of hope…’ and their third line is ‘let joyful songs of praise be sung’.
But like I said, this is very common as a doxology, at least in the congregations I have been in.
From all that dwell below the skies
let songs of hope and faith arise;
let peace, good will on earth be sung
through every land, by every tongue.
The lyrics are an abridgment of a two-verse hymn by the very prolific Isaac Watts, a late 17th/early 18th century English hymn composer. We know him from from Joy to the World.
Here is Watts’ text:
From all that dwell below the skies,
Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung
Through ev’ry land by ev’ry tongue.
Eternal are Thy mercies Lord;
Eternal truth attends Thy Word;
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore
Till suns shall rise and set no more.
Obviously, that won’t do for most of us – even if we are UU Christian, the idea of Redeemer is complicated by our Universalism.
But somewhere along the way – and the names are now lost to history – someone thought the sentiment of Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” – would be a nice replacement, and so we get peace and good will on earth. The rest then is just poetry.
Now I will say there is nothing in our version that I object to, and it’s quite familiar to me. But I am not sure this is my favorite of the bunch – and I’m not sure why. I am not entirely sure I HAVE a favorite. I wonder if what I need are new doxologies, new songs of praise to stir my well-worn heart.