Lord, even in seasons when we may not be able to gather together physically, we cling to the truth that you are with us always as we know that you never forsake us. Thank you for being faithful and unchanging and for providing all that we need.. Amen.
Deuteronomy 7:9 [ESV]
"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations..."
The tune KREMSER traces its origins to the Dutch folk song "Ey, wilder den wilt" but was arranged by Eduard Kremser in 1877 to accompany the lyric to the hymn "We Gather Together." The text for "We Praise Thee, O God" was written at the request of J. Archer Gibson, organist at Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. Gibson asked Julia Buckley Cady Cory (b. New York, NY, 1882; d. Englewood, NJ, 1963) to write a text to the tune KREMSER to replace the older text associated with that tune, "We Gather Together." The new hymn was first sung at Thanksgiving Day services in 1902 at the Brick Presbyterian Church and Church of the Covenant, both in New York City. It was first published in Hymns of the Living Church (1910) and has been the first hymn in every edition of the Psalter Hymnal.*
"Great is Thy Faithfulness" was written by Thomas Chisholm who was a school teacher, newspaper editor and author of over 1,200 poems including this lyric. A simple man who was never financially well off due to health issues, Chisholm wanted to celebrate the gratefulness that he felt toward God for simply being faithful in a personal, day-to-day manner. The tune FAITHFULNESS(Runyan) was composed specifically for this text by William Runyan an organist, minister, teacher at Moody Bible Institute and composer of many hymns.
I knew that I wanted to bring you something special for Thanksgiving and was thrilled to have the opportunity to tape a song with my dear friends David and Michelle a few weeks ago when we filmed the CD Release. "We Gather Together" was the first Thanksgiving hymn that came to mind and I was excited to play it as it is such a beautiful tune. We recorded the song and then I sat down to write the blog and honestly was a little disappointed when I began my research. The hymns origins, as well as its lyrics upon closer examination, weren't quite what I hoped.
While it holds a place in most hymnals as a "Thanksgiving Hymn," "We Gather Together" was originally a Dutch song written in the 1600's celebrating the Netherlands' victory in their war for independence from Spain. The lyric talks a good bit about escaping oppression and the like, and while that's certainly something to be thankful for it just wasn't really what I was going for when I was thinking "Thanksgiving." David Madeira had had the brilliant idea to weave in "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and as I re-read that lyric, I realized I wanted this entire episode to be a little more along those lines of God's provision, wonder at His creation, and celebration of the goodness of God...and a little less of a military victory declaration. Plus, not many of us are physically gathered together during this COVID season anyway, so it just didn't seem to fit.
And then I started researching the hymn-tune, KREMSER and found the most beautiful lyric to "We Praise Thee, O God." It made me chuckle a bit that these lyrics were written as replacements for We Gather Together...perhaps I'm not the only one who found the original slightly wanting. But if ever there was a song written with a posture of thankfulness, We Praise Thee is absolutely it. Particularly in this season of political tumult, the concept of "with voices united our praises we offer, our songs of thanksgiving to you we now raise" seems especially appealing and beautiful. And paired with the recounting of all the ways the Lord is faithful to us, I realized the canvas had been painted with exactly the picture of Thanksgiving I had in my heart that I was longing to share with you all. Our tables and our gatherings might be smaller this year, but the heart of our faithful God is still unfathomably large and for that, I am very thankful.
The special guests on this episode are David Madeira and Michelle Margiotta.
Post Script: As a kid, my mom taught me alternative lyrics to this tune to help me memorize the facts about the landing at plymouth rock which I thought I'd post here, just for fun. I figured we already had 2 sets of lyrics for this tune, why not go for 3?
"The year 1620 the pilgrims came over
The good ship Mayflower brought them o'er the sea.
They landed at Plymouth Rock, then built up their houses.
At harvest time they started our Thanksgiving Day."
*underlined portion via Hymnary.org
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Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!