Friday, October 16, 2009

Frederick Lucian Hosmer

Unitarian hymnwriter Frederick Lucian Hosmer was born today in 1840. It was during his years at Harvard Divinity School that he met William Channing Gannett, and the two of them remained close friends for the rest of their lives. They worked together on two influential collections, Unity Hymns and Chorals (1880) and The Thought of God In Hymns and Poems (1885) and worked over the years on several updated editions of these books. This collaboration was often compared to that of Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson, lifelong friends who met in seminary and also produced two important hymnbooks for Unitarians and Universalists a generation earlier.

Hosmer's hymns spread to other denominational hymnals, particularly in the early years of the twentieth century after he was praised by
John Julian in his monumental Dictionary of Hymnology (1907) and by Percy Dearmer, who used a number of Hosmer's texts in the British Songs of Praise (1925).

One thought I have, my ample creed,
So deep it is and broad,
And equal to my every need—
It is the thought of God.

Each morn unfolds some fresh surprise,
I feast at life’s full board;
And rising in my inner skies
Shines forth the thought of God.

I ask not far before to see,
But take in trust my road;
Life, death, and immortality
Are in my thought of God.

To this their secret strength they owed
The martyr’s path who trod;
The fountains of their patience flowed
From out their thought of God.

Be still the light upon my way,
My pilgrim staff and rod,
My rest by night, my strength by day
O bless├Ęd thought of God.

Frederick L. Hosmer, 1880; alt.
Aaron Williams, 1764

Hosmer successfully pastored Unitarian congregations across the country, and moved to California in 1900, intending to live in retirement. However, he then agreed to serve as the interim minister of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, and ended up staying until 1904. During that time he established a strong musical tradition there which is still upheld today. A pipe organ was installed, the organist's salary was competitive, and the choir gained paid section leaders. Following his second retirement he was appointed minister emeritus by the congregation, which paid him a monthly stipend until his death in 1929.

One Year Ago: Frederick Lucian Hosmer

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