When we sign “We Gather Together” this Thursday…

Interesting background on the Thanksgiving standard:

So how did “We Gather Together” get from a 17th-century Dutch songbook to 20th-century American churches and schoolrooms?

One answer is Dutch settlers, who brought it with them to the New World, perhaps as early as the 1620s. The hymn stayed alive in the Dutch-American community throughout the centuries, says Emily Brink of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 1937, when the Christian Reformed Church in North America–a denomination that began with Dutch immigrants who sang only Psalms–made the then-controversial decision to permit hymns to be sung at church, “We Gather Together” was chosen as the opening hymn in the first hymnal.

So the Methodists don’t have a corner on the market of great hymns, after all! 😉 The article goes on to say that the hymn “has has all the elements that make a hymn great,”

  • accessible melody
  • catchy “incipit” or opening phrase
  • a message that unfolds through the stanzas and carries the congregation with it to an uplifting conclusion

I suppose it overlooks what I would consider a fourth necessary tenet: scriptural association and authority, though that’s maybe included in the third one. I wonder what our own hymnwriter-in-residence Greg R. would say.

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