Unitarian Sunday Reflections

(Hull and Lincoln Unitarians)

18 June 2023


Lincoln Service

11 am

Musician: Jennifer Young

Worship Leader: John Carter



Hull Service

4 pm

Worship Leader: John Carter



“Spiritual Explorations:

Come sing a hymn with me”





Welcome to each and to all:

seekers, journeyers, questing, and content.

May our time of reflection and worship,

fill our desire for wholeness and belonging.

In this time together we are made worthy…..




“Singing hymns brings healing to the heart.”

~ Lailah Gifty Akita



by John Carter


We light our chalice

         As we open ourselves to this spiritual journey we call life

We light our chalice

         to confess our willingness to be a light to our world,

We light our chalice

         to confirm our desire to become

                                    co-creators of passionate life

                                    and of a world of justice, love and peace.


We light our chalice



Once again we gather, and we take time to reflect on our lives and living….

  • For what are you this most grateful for this week?
  • For what are you the least grateful for this past week?
  • When do you feel connected, a sense of deep belonging, to another, to myself, to nature, to the transcendent, life, God?


May our reflections continue in this time together, as we join to reflect on the deep things of the divine, and so we pray…

“May the spirit of life, guide us today” AMEN



SYF 24 (1/4) “Come, sing a song with me” words by Carolyn McDade




Today’s service is to simply enjoy some hymns and maybe explore how they may speak to us. Which metaphors are the strongest? How do these hymns help us explore our spirituality, our religious ground of being, our witness to our community and the world around us.


HYMN HFL 226 (3/19) “Song of peace”



Shinto Prayer for Peace


Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us,

I believe, are all our brothers and sisters,

why are there constant troubles in this world?

Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us?

I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away

all the clouds which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.




The version of this hymn we sing was intentionally set to the piece Finlandia, by Lloyd Stone, and that is about all that I could find on it. There is a longer version with additional versus. One other bit, which works for me is that is was written as a national anthem, a hymn of love of country.


In its way it moves our nationalism to less us and more we.


Do you agree with the way it presents a sense of patriotism and nationalism?


Does it help inform your sense of spirituality and religion?


HYMN HFL 133 (4/9) “My life flows on in endless song”


“How Can I Keep From Singing?”

Exerts from Wikipedia


How Can I Keep From Singing?” (also known by its first line “My Life Flows On in Endless Song”) is an American folksong originating as a Christian hymn. The author of the lyrics was known only as ‘Pauline T’, and the original tune was composed by American Baptist minister Robert Lowry. The song is frequently, though erroneously, cited as a traditional Quaker or Shaker hymn. The original composition has now entered into the public domain, and appears in several hymnals and song collections, both in its original form and with a revised text that omits most of the explicitly Christian content and adds a verse about solidarity in the face of oppression. Though it was not originally a Quaker hymn, Quakers adopted it as their own in the twentieth century and use it widely today.


During the 20th century, this hymn was not widely used in congregational worship. Diehl’s index to a large number of hymnals from 1900 to 1966 indicates that only one hymnal included it: the 1941 edition of The Church Hymnal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, titled “My Life Flows On.” It was also published in the earlier 1908 Seventh-day Adventist hymnal, Christ in Song, under the title “How Can I Keep From Singing?”  The United Methodist Church published it in its 2000 hymnal supplement, The Faith We Sing, giving credit for the lyrics as well as the tune to Robert Lowry. The Faith We Sing version changes some of the lyrics and punctuation from the 1868 version. The Unitarian Universalist hymnal, printed in 1993 and following, credits the words as an “Early Quaker song” and the music as an “American gospel tune”.


Pete Seeger learned a version of this song from Doris Plenn, a family friend, who had it from her North Carolina family. His version made this song fairly well known in the folk revival of the 1960s. Seeger’s version omits or modifies much of the Christian wording of the original, and adds Plenn’s version. The reference in the added verse intended by Seeger and by Plenn—both active in left-wing causes—is to ‘witch hunts’ of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Most folk singers have followed Seeger’s version.


In his radio singing debut, actor Martin Sheen performed this song (using the Plenn–Seeger lyrics) on A Prairie Home Companion in September 2007.


The song has often been attributed to “early” Quakers, but Quakers did not permit congregational singing in worship until after the American Civil War (and many still do not have music regularly). But learning it in social activist circles of the fifties and hearing Seeger’s (erroneous) attribution endeared the song to many contemporary Quakers, who have adopted it as a sort of anthem. It was published in the Quaker songbook Songs of the Spirit, and the original words, with Plenn’s verse, were included in the much more ambitious Quaker hymnal project, Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal in 1996.



I first encountered this hymn in seminary when I was asked to sing it at a friends wedding. She was marrying a Quaker seminarian, at his home meeting house in Maryland. It has been one of my favourites ever since.


Even if it isn’t originally Quaker, the words still carry that Quakerly sense of order and style. One resource that I read said that scholarship agrees that both words and music predate the Robert Lowry citation, either way it does belong in our musical or hymnody catalog as it is clearly dissenting and non-conformist in it’s style and usage. It is part of our wider tradition, spirituality, and faith.


So does it speak to your sense of faith and spirit?



HYMN HFL 101 (21 Hymns/9) “Dear Lord and Father”



“Dear Lord and Father”

Exerts from Hymnal Companion, Brethren Press, 1996; and Wikipedia


Whittier’s seventeen-stanza poem is essentially a prayer for the true worship of God and is a protest against pagan worship both outside of and within Christendom. His poem “The Brewing of Soma” begins by describing a rite of the priest of Indra (the chief god of early Hinduism) during which “soma” an intoxicating beverage brewed from honey and milk, was drunk. Worshipers believed a joyous new life would come from this “high” of frenzied ecstasy.


The Vedic priests brewing and drinking Soma is an attempt to experience divinity. The poem describes the whole population getting drunk on Soma. It compares this to some Christians’ use of “music, incense, vigils drear, and trance, to bring the skies more near, or lift men up to heaven!” But all in vain – it is mere intoxication.


It is also has a parallel description of the early Hindu rite with the hysterical worship of Christian revivalist camp meetings….


And yet the past comes round again,

and new doth old fulfil;

in sensual transports wild as vain

we brew in many a Christian fane

the heathen Soma still!


Whittier ends by describing the true method for contact with the divine, as practised by Quakers: sober lives dedicated to doing God’s will, seeking silence and selflessness in order to hear the “still, small voice”, described in I Kings 19:11-13 as the authentic voice of God, rather than earthquake, wind or fire.


The final stanza, a prayer, isn’t always published as a part of the hymn:


Breathe through the hearts of our desire

  Thy coolness and Thy balm;

Let sense be numb, let flesh retire;

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

  O still, small voice of calm!


This portion of the poem, which Whittier never intended as a hymn, first appeared in a hymnal collection in 1884.




It is amazing what one will learn when you research a hymn, such as I didn’t know that this hymn was a portion of a wider and larger poem. One that explores spirituality and religion and the ways we humans practice it. The poem is essentially a critique of formalised and ritualised religion as well of ecstatic emotional practice within Christianity.


I would point out that Whittier missed the fact his tradition was call quaker for their practice of quaking in their worship. An ecstatic form of practice. In fact when examining early practices of many dissenting non conformist traditions, they all had some emotive ecstatic religious behaviours…..


I love this hymn as it carries for me a strong message of following, discipleship style of Jesus, and that it pushes me to ask these questions of myself about my sense of faith and following.


But it also bugs me in the usage of it archaic language.


What I call lazy God Talk, that is the use of Lord and of Father. Metaphors that are over used by conservative style christianity, (even when they are progressive and liberal) words and title without the theological examination of them. Yet I am not sure if there is a good alternative….


When I did some work in doctoral level course on Liturgy, one of my classes I took was in Exegesis and Hermeneutic, that is Study and translation of a text, Exegesis, and then the interpretation of the text based on your study, which is Hermeneutics.


In my course I choose to study John 13, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples.


Now our professor was a Benedictine Nun, one of the premier biblical scholars within  the monastic movements and Roman Catholicism. She invited us to use the tool of dynamic equivalency in our translations. That is study the word or phrase, and translate it into something that has power and meaning in our contemporary setting. Also to practice language that is inclusive.


The example she used was in translating the Christian texts of the bible for the Inuit people in north Alaska. One phrase that is often used is “Lamb of God” and how do you explain that to a people who never seen or dealt with sheep?


The translators use the dynamic equivalent of “baby seal of God”


What I discovered in my work on John, was that there is something going on in the author’s usage of Father in the text, no variation, and very different in feel and texture of the other gospels. Where Father is more familial, not an title, but a relationship, the use of Abba is the signifier of this, Abba basically means papa, daddy, dad.  Familial and very much implies a deep emotional connected relationship.


In John it does not have that feel….. And I said so and translated as Father.


And my professor commended me….


But I still struggle with Lord and Father…… God, divinity is much more than traditional titles…..


Okay this was a longer thought on my side, and so I now ask you how does this hymn speak to you?





We end our time together with a sung prayer, these words resonate with the Sufi way of exploring the divine. A relational touch of heart, soul, body and mind.


SYF 219 (4/25) “You are the song of my heart” words by Kendal Gibbons



May all our days be a hymn of joy,

          singing out our hopes, our fears,

                     bringing music into our lives and living…

Bursting us into a fresh creation of love and justice.


May all our days be a hymn of joy.

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