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.

Listen to a recording

6 responses to “STJ#1007, There’s a River Flowin’ in My Soul”

    1. Thanks Jim for the resources. I am using this hymn today and it it great to have this info for a good introduction. What an amazing woman!!

  1. Very glad someone loves this song as much as I do. Thanks for this page. I couldn’t help but delve a little more into Rose Sanders’ (now know as Faya Ora Rose Touré) life. I discovered, in addition to being a Harvard educated civil rights lawyer, mother of three, foster mom of 4 more, voting rights activist, and founder of magnet schools for fostering reading in children of color, Ms Touré IN HER SPARE TIME writes music and lyrics. — hence the beautiful tune “There’s a River Flowing in My Soul”. It’s one of the favorites of our UU congregation in Medford Massachusetts. Glad to learn that Ms Touré is still active and well at 73.

  2. Elizabeth Bromley Avatar
    Elizabeth Bromley

    Here’s an interview with her regarding the song

  3. this podcast was quite helpful to hear Faya Ora Rose Touré’s thoughts

    I’m looking forward to diving into the book that the podcast is associated with.

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