In our society and in our churches, we continue to build walls marking “out” and “in”. We continue to mark boundaries of “us” and “them”, of “normal” and “other”. Songs for the Holy Other aims to provide congregations working to dismantle these walls with a toolbox of hymns by and for those who identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, nonbinary, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, two-spirit, and other sexual/gender minority (LGBTQIA2S+) community and their allies. For many members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, assimilation is not an option; we continue to be othered for our identities, relationship-styles, dis/abilities, race, economic status, and more. The title, Songs for the Holy Other, is a self-conscious claiming of otherness as holy and beloved of God. We who have been labeled as “wholly other” are claiming our holiness, and reclaiming our otherness as a prophetic witness to the church.
Hymn writer and theologian Rev. Dr. Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS writes: “Human otherness (of whatever kind) provides a sacramental reminder of the ultimate otherness of God, and openness to human otherness has the potential to enlarge our perception of and receptivity to divine otherness. It is also an essential element of human maturity to recognize otherness, i.e. to know where the self ends and otherness begins, whether that otherness be other people or non-human objects. From a theological perspective, “otherness” is a necessary dimension of the movement from the disappointments of self-sufficiency to the assurances of trust in God.”
The gifts God has given us are not in spite of our otherness, our queerness, our LGBTQIA2S+ identities, but rather our identities are inextricably tied up in our God-given gifts, and are, in and of themselves, a gift to the church, as we reflect the rainbow diversity of God’s creation.
This collection emerged from a desire to make queer hymns — hymns by, for, or about the LGBTQIA2S+ community — accessible to a wider range of congregations. While the idea emerged from the membership of the The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, and the committee was made up of LGBTQIA2S+ and allied members of The Hymn Society, it would not have been possible without the support of the staff and executive committee of the The Hymn Society. We also realize that there are many more authors and composers than we could include in this collection. We celebrate the contributions of those who have paved the way for this collection, and hope to create a dynamic resource of additional resources that are available to congregations in the near future.