Last night on the way back from rehearsal I gave my little description of what — apart from teaching — I do, and someone said, “Well, consider yourself hired.” She is opening a private practice this summer and knows she will need a website.

My list of highly likely clients has grown to three. Added to my list of two actual clients, this makes five, which is probably half the number I need to be properly in business.

I also have three cooking shows out there that I need to get closed up.

I didn’t get around to wallowing in misery yesterday. The Empress and That Man came by for tea. I did three job applications, took a walk, spent some time on The Dark Art, practiced HTML (I’m trying to get more fluent, if not more accurate), met with my collaborators regarding this week’s worship plan, tutored French, and went to rehearsal with the choirlet. There was only enough time to contemplate the worst case scenario (that would be the one in which I am never able to get a job and we all starve, or, since that isn’t very plausible, the one in which I have to take a job that I hate and become bitter) briefly, and even then it was hard for me to keep my mind on it. I was walking along one of the city greenways at the time, and the woods were filled with honeysuckle, which I found distracting.

There was also a call about missionary hymns.

I think that I told you that I was invited to join a project on the subject of Victorian missionary hymns. This is the kind of topic which I find fascinating even though I realize that many people would use it as an example of stultifying dullness. And, since I am unemployed, I was able to take some time to track down the answer to the question.

As I was searching through old hymnals in the physical and virtual worlds, I thought of my own great-eugeniegrandparents, who were missionaries in China. Here’s my great-grandmother.

I like to think of them as enlightened people. I’ve read their journals, and they don’t call people “heathens” as though it were a nationality. They did some strikingly enlightened-seeming things; my great-grandfather died trying to rescue Chinese passengers from a sinking ship when they had been left behind, and he was known for his studies of Chinese traditional farming methods.

But the hymns from that period are all stuffed with things like, “Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high, shall we to men benighted the lamp of life deny?” “The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.” “O’er the pagan’s night of care pour the living light of heav’n.” “Thousands still are lying bound in the darksome prison house of sin.””In the dark domain where they have no knowledge of the Savior’s name.”

The basic message was that we, the American and English people singing these hymns, have a duty to share our greatly superior knowledge and virtue with the miserable benighted heathen living in darkness in their miserable countries, which included all the other countries in the world.

My great-grandmother, a Frenchwoman, actually began her missionary work among English dockhands, so I don’t know how this applies to her. Perhaps there are French missionary hymns about the poor benighted Brits.

Is it possible that my great-grandfather, the child of slave owners, doubtless exposed to the missionary hymns, did not think of the people he worked with as benighted heathens? I like to think that the respectful tone of his writings shows that God, who has never been a racist, allowed him to rise above the undoubted racism of his day.

Last night we were practicing a modern missionary hymn for Sunday, which says, “may we be signs of mission, giving glory to God’s name. Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care, we join hands across the nations,” which certainly has a different flavor. Our church supports missionaries in Tanzania who do things like working together with local people building water filters and establishing schools. I hope that they are respectful. We never hear them saying, “We built the heathens some water filters last week.”

Both my daughters are struggling with having to listen to ethnic slurs from people with whom they work. Both have been brought up to bring these things to people’s attention, on the assumption that they will apologize and cut it out. Instead, the people they are admonishing say things like, “You’re just saying that because you’re a minority” or “I have black friends and they use that word,” or “Don’t be so uptight.”

Actually, thinking of  people of other ethnic heritage as heathens in need of rescue may be less offensive than saying “If we eat Chinese food again, our eyes will get slanty,” as one of #2 daughter’s colleagues did.

It is hard to believe that there is still this kind of casual bigotry around in the 21st century. Maybe we need to go sing modern missionary hymns to these people, and show them the error of their ways, the heathens. Or, since these are workplace cases, sue the pants off them.