Tag Archives: Jacob Trapp

The “Y.P.R.U. Song”

Scott Wells recently sent me a copy of Songs and readings: A book of hymns, responsive reading, meditations and other service elements for use in families and churches; Including Naming of an Infant Child, Marriage, Thanksgiving and Burial of the Dead, as compiled in 1937 at the First Unitarian Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, under the editorship of Jacob Trapp, then the minister there. This is an explicitly humanist hymnal, although it would not appeal to today’s fundamentalist humanists for Trapp is willing to use the word “God” in a metaphorical or symbolic sense.

As I paged through this little book, something caught my eye: the “Y.P.R.U. Song”; that is, a song for the Young People’s Religious Union, as the Unitarian youth movement was called in those days:

Y.P.R.U. Song

Forward shoulder to shoulder,
   Fling the banner of youth,
On through worship and service
   To the glorious truth;
Light of our torch wide shining
   Colors always unfurled;
Strength, vision, and courage
   We pledge to the life of the world.

Far horizons are calling,
   Here, humanity cries
Deep in unfathomed darkness,
   High in the radiant skies.
Forward, questing and daring,
   Mighty our chorus is hurled —
Strength, vision, and courage
   We pledge to the life of the world;
   We pledge to the life of the world.

These lyrics caught my eye because they sounded so very different from my own Unitarian Universalist youth experience. When I was in Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the successor organization to the YPRU, I never heard these kind of sentiments expressed. My youth experience emphasized self-knowledge and individual expression in service of personal spiritual growth, rather than “strength, vision, and courage” in service of the “life of the world.” Yes, we in LRY were committed social justice, and yes we embraced the questing exploratory experience typical of liberal religion. But I can’t imagine us ever singing such a song. I remember us singing along to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes: “It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun any more/ I am sorry/ Sometimes it hurts to badly I must cry out loud/ I am lonely…” — but never anything like the “Y.P.R.U. Song.”

I liked my LRY experience. But a little introspection goes a long way with me. I think I would have liked LRY better if there had been less introspection and a little more of flinging banners of youth and hurling of mighty choruses.

Today’s current youth group model still favors introspection, which serves some teenagers very well indeed. But I’ve seen more teenagers drift away once they realize that introspection is the main course.