General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Voices on the Journey: Introducing a Spanish Hymn Supplement

General Assembly 2009 Event 5013

Presenters: Kenneth Herman, Deborah Weiner, and Dr. Leon Burke.

“Every song is a sermon,” Kenneth Herman reminded those gathered for the Sunday morning session to introduce Las Voces del Camino (Voices on the Journey), a new Spanish hymn supplement.

In July, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network (UUMN) will jointly publish this accompaniment to the Unitarian Universalist hymnal Singing the Living Tradition. The new book presents seventy-five songs in Spanish, hymns from Singing the Living Tradition as well as fresh selections from Spanish-speaking cultures around the world.

In reviewing this new work, Jason Shelton, of First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church in Nashville, TN, says, “Las Voces makes clear that the good news of Unitarian Universalism is not bound by culture, language, or musical style. This book opens our churches and our hearts to being changed in ways we cannot yet imagine—Viva la revolucion!”

Dr. Leon Burke said that the new hymnal gives congregations an opportunity to be dialogue with native Spanish speakers in their midst or in their larger community.

Attendees of this session clearly came to sing and seemed delighted that the time was devoted almost entirely to trying out songs from the new hymnal. Presenters pointed out features of the book, such as chord symbols for guitar in every song, four-part arrangements for choirs in some songs, and English translations for the song title and some verses.

Las Voces del Camino was long in the making. In 1999, First UU Church in San Jose, CA, was holding Spanish services. They began collecting Spanish hymns and making translations of music in Singing the Living Tradition. In 2000, the UUMN conference focused on Spanish-language music. In 2003, one of the musicians from the San Jose church asked the UUA to publish their collection of hymns, but it did not happen because of lack of funding.

Several months later, UUA President Bill Sinkford asked the UUMN to form a task force to produce “a supplemental songbook of contemporary worship materials with emphasis on newer styles of music and a strong respect for the musical, theological, and cultural roots of the contents.” (The three presenters of this workshop were on that task force.) Thus, Singing the Journey—commonly known as “the teal hymnal”—was born. It included seven songs in Spanishand was presented at the 2005 General Assembly.

The San Jose contingent again sent 150 Spanish hymns to the UUA for publication, but the project remained stalled due to lack of funding—until 2007, when money was finally allocated for a Spanish hymn supplement.

Responding to a question about how to include Spanish-language hymns in a lay-led fellowship or smaller congregation, presenters had three suggestions:

  • Engage a native Spanish speaker to help you out. The ability to play the guitar or marimba is common in Latino culture.
  • Teach the congregation to sing the hymns in small bites—one stanza at a time.
  • Teach a simple song to the children and have them sing it for the congregation.

Burke urged the group to go back to their congregations and integrate some Spanish hymns into their services. “This is a long-range project,” he said. He reminded attendees of the untapped resource of the Spanish-language hymns in Singing the Journey. “If you have it, use it,” he said, “and be blessed!”

Reported by Dee Ray; edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley.