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Ordinary miracles: hymns for agnostics

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The other day on Facebook, Kat said something about hymns for atheists, which reminded me of a playlist I put together a while back. Some of these songs I would call secular hymns; others are religious but not in a way that bugs agnostic me; many of them have amazing harmonies; most of them celebrate things like the world, love, friends, and music; most of them make me grin and/or cry as I sing along; all of them give me as close to a religious feeling as I think I've had.

Sadly, some of the specific recordings that I really love aren't available online. I'm linking to YouTube videos or Bandcamp where possible, so you can hear the whole song; I'm also linking to iTunes or Bandcamp where possible, so you can buy any you like. But in some cases (as indicated), the versions I'm linking to aren't quite the versions I love. I'm also linking to lyrics when available.

I've been calling this playlist “Holy Now,” but “Ordinary Miracles” would be a good alternative title.

“Baba Yetu,” by Christopher Tin, as performed by Talisman A Cappella
The lyrics are a variation of the Swahili version of the Lord's Prayer. (“Baba yetu, yetu uliye / Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina!”) But it's one of the most joyous songs I know. I tend to sing along with the chorus at the top of my lungs.
(different but similar performance on YouTube)
(that same other performance on iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Acts of Creation,” by Cat Faber, as performed by Echo's Children
“Every act of creation is an act of faith!”
(listen and buy on Bandcamp)
(lyrics)
“This Island Earth,” as performed by The Nylons
“If you're lookin' for a miracle, open your eyes
There was one this morning just about sunrise...”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Morning Has Broken,” lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon, as performed by Cat Stevens
“Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird...”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Farthest Field,” by David Dodson, as performed by Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone
“Oh my dear friends, I truly love
To hear your voices lifted up in radiant song
Though through the years, we all have made
Our separate choices, we've ended here where we belong.”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics (PDF))
“Swimming to the Other Side,” by Pat Humphries, as performed by Lui Collins
“We can worship this ground we walk on, cherishing the beings that we live beside;
Loving spirits will live forever, we're all swimming to the other side.”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Crossing the Water,” as performed by Bill Staines
“We are crossing the water our whole life through
We are making a passage that is straight and true
Every heart is a vessel, every dream is a light
Shining through the darkness of the blackest night.”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Ordinary Miracle,” as performed by Sarah McLachlan
“The sky knows when it's time to snow
Don't need to teach a seed to grow
It's just another
Ordinary miracle today”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Holy Now,” by Peter Mayer, as performed by Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein and Michael Cicone
“...See another new morning come
And say it's not a sacrament
I tell you that it can't be done”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Down to the River to Pray,” as performed by Alison Krauss
“Oh, sisters, let's go down
Let's go down, come on down
Oh, sisters, let's go down
Down in the river to pray”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Blessed,” as performed by Lui Collins
“You have given me the melody as it poured forth from my heart
You have blessed me with the meter as it beat through my veins
As I walk with you and listen, your words come to me:
Oh, blessed are we this day.”
Singing along with the chorus of this at a live concert with a couple hundred others in Philadelphia many years ago was one of the high points of my life. Transporting.
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“The Atheist Christmas Carol,” as performed by Vienna Teng
“It's the season of bowing our heads in the wind
And knowing we are not alone in fear,
Not alone in the dark.”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“Finlandia” (Live Version), by Jean Sibelius and Lloyd Stone, as performed by Indigo Girls
“This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.”
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)
“And From Now On,” by David Olney (as “You Are Here”), as performed by Mariposa
“The earth will turn from night to morning
The moon and stars will fade away, fade away
All things must change it will not grieve me
As long as I know you are here, in my heart, you are here.”
Unfortunately, Mariposa's album is not available in electronic form. I heard them open for John McCutcheon years ago in Santa Cruz and immediately bought their CD, but I don't think there's any way to get it now.
(rather different version on YouTube performed by the original author of the song; doesn't have the same lovely harmonies, and the chorus tune is slightly different, but gives a sense of it)
(lyrics)
“Fiddler's Hymn / Yankee Reverse,” by Pete Sutherland and John Yankee, as performed by Cross Country
“I draw the bow and I feel my heart fly.”
Unfortunately, Cross Country's albums are not available in electronic form.
(reasonably similar performance on YouTube, though I like Cross Country's voices better)
“When I Go,” as performed by Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer
“I'll send this message down the wire and hope that someone wise is listening when I go.”
This one is darker and sadder and fiercer than the rest of the songs on this playlist, but it still feels to me like it fits.
(YouTube)
(iTunes)
(lyrics)

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