Saturday, July 2, 2011

God of Our Fathers

God of our Fathers (National Hymn)
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

Daniel C. Roberts, lyrics, 1876
George W. Warren, melody, 1892

Daniel C. Roberts, the 35 year-old rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, a small rural church in Brandon, Vermont, wanted a new hymn for his congregation to celebrate the American Centennial in 1876. He wrote "God of Our Fathers" and his congregation sang it to the tune Russian Hymn.

In 1892, he anonymously sent the hymn to the General Convention for consideration by the commission formed to revise the Episcopal hymnal. If approved, he promised to send his name. The commission approved it, printing it anonymously in its report. Rev. Dr. Tucker, who was the editor of the Hymnal, and George W. Warren, an organist in New York city, were commissioned to choose a hymn for the celebration of the centennial of the United States Constitution. They chose this text and Warren wrote a new tune for it, National Hymn, including the trumpet fanfare at the beginning of the hymn.

It was first published in Tucker’s Hymnal, 1892, with this tune, then in 1894 in the Tucker and Rosseau’s Hymnal Revised and Enlarged. These lyrics were also set to the hymn tune Pro Patria in Charles Hutchins’ The Church Hymnal. But National Hymn prevailed and it is the tune to which "God of Our Fathers" is always sung today.

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