UU Trivia Question of the Day #44

Unitarian-Universalists sometimes like to make fun of themselves as “the frozen chosen,” but truthfully many congregations include a lot of music in their services. Hymns are a venerable staple of UU services, and hymns are recognized by many these days as a source of theology. Within contemporary UUism, there are two hymns that are sung far more often by a much larger percentage of UU churches than any other hymns. Since, depending on how you frame the question, there are two potential winners of “most popular UU hymn,” this will be a two-part question. Feel free to guess either or both answers.

What is the most commonly sung hymn in UU congregations? A hint: it is most often performed as a children’s recessional.

What is the most commonly sung other hymn? Since it is typically sung as an actual hymn, rather than a recessional, it could be seen as the most common hymn.



Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

9 responses to “UU Trivia Question of the Day #44

  1. I’m guessing “Go Now in Peace” and “Spirit of Life.” (Learn the back story on “Spirit of Life” from this profile of Carolyn McDade, the songwriter, in UU World.)

  2. I’m with Philo on this one. It’s recently been a matter of concern that UUs tend to change Natalie Sleeth’s original words to “Go Now”, taking out the G-word and inserting the L-word (love). This is legal as long as the changed words are not published without permission, but there’s a question about how Sleeth’s heirs feel about it (not so good, I’ve heard) and whether it’s ethical to sing them as changed. It’s an interesting dilemma and many congregations have shifted to singing the kids out with a different song.

  3. Widdy

    I’ll agree with the above and say “Go Now in Peace” and “Spirit of Life”.

    We have moved away from “Go Now in Peace” for the reasons that mskitty mentions above. The UU Musicians Network spent some time talking about this on our e-mail listserv and several members have composed their own children’s benedictions as replacements.

  4. I go with Philocrites as well.

    As for Ms Kitty’s 2nd comments that whether it’s “ethical” to sing them as changed, I have to say it’s an invalid question.

    Music is music, and music has been changed to fit the people who are using the music, as long as we’ve known of music existing. It is the culture of musicians to beg, borrow and steal ideas from one another and appropriate them into new art. If this were not true, we wouldn’t have Jazz, nor most Classical music, as so much is based on themes and melodies of the common people.

    Take one of our grey hymnals, the Unitarian Red hymnal, then wander around and get a hymnal from some Presbyterian, Catholic, and Lutheran churches. Same hymns, slightly different arrangements and lyrics, depending on the theological ideal a given religious group wishes to convey.

    Any congregation that decides to change what they sing because the heirs of a lyricist don’t like a new arrangement of a hymn are well on their way to giving their right to sing over to a 3rd party.

    All that said, I find the way many UUs twist their tongues to avoid saying God as much as possible in music rather sad.

  5. Donald O, I learned something interesting when I bounced this question off of Keith Arnold, president of the UU Musicians network. It is part of their covenant that they will respect the works of others by supporting the use of the original work and not encouraging folks to make changes when they know that the composer/heirs are uncomfortable with the change.

  6. Donald — many of the hymns that have been re-written to sound more “UU” are in the public domain. Regardless of what one thinks of this, it’s legal.

    Singing different words to “Go Now in Peace” is legal as long as it’s not written down in an order of service, songbook, etc.

    However, once you change the lyrics and publish them in the order of service for “Go Now in Peace,” you have created an unauthorized derivative work and are in violation of US copyright law and the wishes of the original composer.

    If your congregation employs any musicians who are members of the UU Musicians Network and they assist in this copyright violation, they have just broken their organization’s code of ethics.

  7. ck

    Somewhat off topic:

    It’s odd to me to hear “frozen chosen” attributed to UU’s. Growing up a Reformed Presbyterian, we used it about ourselves, since “chosen” referred to the doctrine of predestination and “frozen”, well, our somber style of worship.

    Anyone know where the term actually originated?

  8. Jeff

    Just about every classical Protestant denomination uses it self-referentially. I first heard it from Episcopalians but have subsequently heard it from UUs, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. It’s probably impossible to tease out the originator at this point.

  9. ck

    Hmm. Interesting. I am just surprised that UUs would use the term “chosen”, although perhaps they mean that they chose the religion? Or they’re predestinarians after Hosea Ballou? (Someone Dan Harper mentioned on my blog.)

    Strange how these monikers get distributed around…

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