Harry Emerson Fosdick was the author of this hymn. Fosdick was ordained in 1903 as a Baptist minister. He was obviously a man of great talent, but controversial.
John D. Rockefeller, however, recognized his talent and asked him to serve as pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church. Fosdick refused, in part because of Rockefeller’s wealth and in part because Park Avenue Baptist Church was too swank. Rockefeller didn’t give up, though, and finally persuaded Fosdick to be the pastor of a new church that he would build in a more modest area near Harlem — Riverside Church. After gaining a number of concessions, Fosdick finally agreed. He wrote “God of Grace and God of Glory” to be sung at the opening service of that great church.
This hymn is a prayer — a prayer for God to bestow power upon the church — and wisdom — and courage “for the facing of this hour.” The hour that they were facing at that time was the Great Depression — an economic disaster that drained the nation of life and hope. “For the facing of this hour,” however, is a timeless phrase, because there is never a time when we do not need God’s help “for the facing of this hour.”
“Save us from weak resignation” is an important part of the prayer. “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.” We are always tempted to believe that the evils that we face far outstrip our resources to deal with them — tempted to retreat into a safe place and wait for the storm to blow over — but evil unopposed doesn’t blow over. It takes the sacrifices of dedicated men and women to build a better world.
“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.” That was a good prayer when Fosdick first wrote this hymn in 1930. It is a good prayer today.
— Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan