Singing Towards Justice Songbook

Notes to Accompany

Singing Toward Justice: A Songbook for First Parish

First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington (MA)

Composed May 17, 2018

The Context of Singing Toward Justice

In 2017 First Parish’s Music Committee and Racial Justice Coordinating Committee each independently came up with the thought of creating a new songbook for First Parish that would expand the range of our congregational singing.  The two groups together received the blessing of the Parish Committee, along with $1,000 to pay for song permissions and printing.

Under the able leadership of Cheri Minton, the result was Singing Toward Justice: A Songbook for First Parish, which was printed in May 2018.

We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to this songbook – especially the composers who allowed us to include their songs for free or nominal sums and First Parish’s Music Director Emeritus, Ken Seitz, who assisted with several of the musical arrangements.

Please note that permissions for this songbook were given with the stipulation that it is for congregational singing at First Parish only.  We can print only 250 copies.  They are to stay at First Parish and be used only in our building and grounds.

The Purpose of these Notes

Sometimes a song can speak for itself.  In many cases, though, singers and listeners find that their experience of a song is richer and more resonant if they know something about its context and history – when it was composed, for example, or other important times it has been sung.

Indeed, singing without such context can be a form of misappropriation, especially when we sing songs that are not from the white Christian canon.  While it is appropriate to enjoy music from all of the world’s traditions, we also need to respect those traditions by learning something about them and recognizing the lived history of the music we are singing.

These notes therefore provide context for the songs included in Singing Toward Justice.

We know more about some songs and less about others.  Sometimes telling an extended story about a song fits well with the larger goals of a worship service, vigil, or other event, and sometimes only a sentence or two fits well into the flow.  But we hope that, when you invite people to sing one of these songs, you will also give them at least a brief introduction that frames the song in its larger context.

If you know something more about one of these songs that you think might be of interest to First Parish folks, please share it with us by emailing  We will be happy to add more information to this website.

Thank you!