God of Grace and God of Glory, #594

# 594     God of Grace and God of Glory


Author:                Harry Emerson Fosdick

Tune:                    CWM RHONDDA

Composer:          John Hughes

From Hymnary.org

Harry E. Fosdick was a well-known and controversial preacher in the early twentieth century. After Fosdick left his positon at one church, John D. Rockefeller asked him to become pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York City, but Fosdick thought the church was too wealthy, and agreed only on condition that a new church would be built in a less fashionable place. The site selected for Riverside Church was on the banks of the Hudson, not far from Harlem. Fosdick wrote this hymn at his summer home in Maine in 1930 for the opening service of Riverside Church that fall. It was sung as the processional hymn for that service on October 5 and again at the dedication service on February 8, 1931. The first publication was in Praise and Service by H. Augustine Smith in 1932.

This hymn is a prayer for God's help for the church to live in God's power and love with generosity and progress toward social justice. Each stanza concludes with a two-line petition for wisdom and courage that was originally meant to be sung to one musical phrase. However, when it is sung to CWM RHONDDA, the final line of each stanza must be repeated to extend the text to fit the tune. This results in a needless repetition of the second part of the petition.

CWM RHONDDA is a well-known Welsh tune. It was written in 1907 by John Hughes, a Welshman who spent most of his life as a railway worker. The tune name literally means “Rhondda valley,” after the Rhondda River that flows through a coal-mining district of Wales. This tune has great vigor, and was at first circulated only in leaflet form because hymnal editors considered it too vigorous to be a proper hymn tune. They eventually succumbed to popular pressure, and since the 1930s the tune has been included in many hymnals, often with multiple texts, [most notably Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah].

Fosdick did not like the use of this tune for his text, having written it specifically to fit the three phrases of the tune REGENT SQUARE. When asked about the tune change, he wrote, “My secretary has already written you the answer to your question about my hymn's divorce from 'Regent Square' [familiar to us as the tune for the Christmas carol Angels from the Realms of Glory] and remarriage to 'Cwm Rhondda.' The Methodists did it! And both here and abroad they are being followed” (quoted in Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Paul Westermeyer, p. 562).

Here is a rousing rendition for you from a performance at Manchester United Church. I’m sorry I can’t tell you what city/town.   Enjoy. YOUTUBE