Sunday, October 16, 2016

Frederick Lucian Hosmer

The dean of Unitarian hymnwriters, Frederick Lucian Hosmer, was born on this day in 1840. Many details of his life and career have been shared here in previous years (see links below).

This year I discovered a nice article in the November, 1920 issue of The Pacific Unitarian, a church magazine published in San Francisco, marking Hosmer's eightieth birthday. A celebration of the occasion on the exact date was planned by the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley (CA), where Hosmer had been named pastor emeritus in 1915, upon his (second) retirement. However, it was not certain that he would be present, as he had left California three years earlier "to visit his friends in the East." He had been staying in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester for much of that time, but when he learned of the planned celebration he cut his extended trip short and returned to Berkeley, to the evident delight of his former parishioners.  According to the article: "He was as glad to meet his old friends as they were to have him back, and his informal hand-grasping reception had nothing perfunctory about it." Various speeches of acclamation were also delivered that night.

The article also recounts a celebration held in Boston three days earlier at a board meeting of the American Unitarian Association. Unfortunately, Hosmer was not in attendance as he would have already been on his way to California, but it's not unlikely that the Board thought that he would be there as he had been staying nearby for many months.  A portrait of Hosmer was given to the Association by a committee of his friends, and Association President Samuel Atkins Eliot II spoke warmly of Hosmer and his accomplishments, and recalled his many hymn texts.

They bear witness to the unceasing revelation of truth and to the reality and perpetual influence of the life of God [...] They are prophetic utterances of the cheerful and confident faith that we associate with the animating and radiant personality of our friend.

The article also included the following hymn by Hosmer, which he had written to mark the 75th anniversary of the American Unitarian Association twenty years earlier.

From old to new, with broadening sweep,
The stream of life moves on;
And still its changing currents keep
A changeless undertone.

In prophet word and martyr faith,
Visions of saint and seer, 
The poet's song, the Spirit's breath --
That undertone we bear.

A sense we have of things unseen, 
Transcending things of time;
We catch, earth's broken chords between,
The everlasting chime!

And light breaks through the rifted haze
In shining vistas broad;
We stand amid th'eternal ways,
Held by the hand of God.

Frederick Lucian Hosmer, 1900; alt.
John Bacchus Dykes, 1868

It seems to me that there must be more references to Hosmer in The Pacific Unitarian, since he lived in California for most of the last thirty years of his life. He is one of the hymnwriters that most intrigues me, so I will have to investigate further.

Eight Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Seven Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Six Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Two Years Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

One Year Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

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