Dear STLT Hymnal Commission:
I love you, you know I do. I have been impressed with all you did to come up with this collection, and I have been honored to hear some of the stories from your chair, Mark Belletini. I know it was hard. I know it required a lot of sometimes unpopular choices in order to serve the greater good. I know you found some amazing songs to include and commissioned some amazing music that is now among our favorites.
But this one… well, I’m sure it makes someone happy, but lordy, it isn’t me.
First of all – this tune. Again with this tune. I was kinda hoping the commission from Thomas Oboe Lee was a one and done, getting it out of the way early in Songs of Spirit. But no. It shows up again. (I won’t go on about the tune here – I did a pretty fair job of expressing my opinion when it showed up the first time.)
And you know I generally like John Andrew Storey’s lyrics, but yowza, this pair of verses sets my teeth on edge:
Children of the human race, offspring of our Mother Earth,
not alone in endless space has our planet given birth.
Far across the cosmic skies countless suns in glory blaze,
and from untold planets rise endless canticles of praise.
Should some sign of others reach this, our lonely planet Earth,
differences of form and speech must not hide our common worth.
When at length our minds are free, and the clouds of fear disperse,
then at last we’ll learn to be Children of the Universe.
Now understand, Hymnal Commission, I am both a theist and a humanist, and I’m a Star Trek fan, and I don’t think we’re alone in the universe. But I hate this philosophy of first contact that says we have to get our shit together before anyone will notice us. This hymn is scolding us (and making us cross for having to sing this terrible tune, too).
I love you, Hymnal Commission, but I’d personally recommend this one for the chopping block.
Kimberley “thank all that is holy that there are great hymns coming up in the next few days” Debus
Image is a still from Star Trek: First Contact – the moment that humans on earth were first visited by a humanoid race from another planet.
I totally agree about the melody — it’s horrible and unsingable — but I love that this hymn is here. I’ve frequently pointed to it when speaking about the hymnal to children: “did you know we have a hymn that talks about aliens from other planets?” I don’t quite see the lyric the same way you do. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve always taken the “differences of form and speech must not hide our common worth” line to refer to the differences between humans and the aliens. In other words, I’ve always seen this as the ultimate call for inclusion and forward-thinking diversity: when we make contact with the aliens, let us extend the hand of peace and welcoming, as we are all children of the universe.
I never ever use this hymn, but I remember giggling about “the aliens hymn” in my Coming of Age class, and I still love that it exists.