Hymn Story

God of Our Fathers

Hymn Lists

by book of Bible

Daniel Crane Roberts, the author of this hymn, was born on Long Island in New York, but went to college in Ohio.  When the Civil War started, he joined the Union Army as a member of the 84th Ohio Volunteers, and served as an ordinary soldier during the war.

Roberts was ordained an Episcopal deacon in 1865 as a priest in 1866.  During his lifetime, he served churches in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

When the nation was preparing to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876, Roberts was serving as rector of the Episcopal Church in Brandon, Vermont.  He wrote this hymn for that little town’s celebration.  They sang it to a tune called “Russian Hymn.”

Some years later, the Episcopal Church decided to publish a new hymnal and invited input.  Roberts submitted this hymn for consideration, but was so uncertain of its worth that he did so anonymously.  He was surprised when the committee elected to include it in the hymnal, and at that time made his name known.  The hymnal was published in 1892.

But while that hymnal was still in process, the nation was preparing to celebrate the centennial of the adoption of the United States Constitution.  George William Warren, the organist for St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City, was one of the people involved in those preparations.  He became aware of this hymn because of his work with the hymnal project.  The planners for the national celebration decided to adopt the hymn for official use, but could hardly countenance the use of a hymn sung to a tune called “Russian Hymn” for their national celebration.  They asked Warren to write a new tune, and he wrote the tune that we use with this hymn today—entitled “National Hymn.”

Because of its use in that national celebration, the hymn became widely known, and as new hymnals were published, most of them included this hymn.  It has been widely sung now for more than a century.

Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan