We Gather Together
"We Gather Together" is a Christian hymn of Dutch origin written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius as "Wilt heden nu treden" to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout. It was originally set to a Dutch folk tune. In the United States, it is popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and is often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day.
- We gather together to ask our Lord's blessing...
At the time the hymn was written, the Dutch were engaged in a war of national liberation against the Catholic King Philip II of Spain. "Wilt heden nu treden," "We gather together" resonated because under the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship. The hymn first appeared in print in a 1626 collection of Dutch patriotic songs, "Nederlandtsch Gedencklanck."
The hymn is customarily performed to a tune known as "Kremser", from Eduard Kremser's 1877 score arrangement and lyric translation of Wilt Heden Nu Treden into Latin and German. The modern English text was written by Theodore Baker in 1894.
According to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, "We Gather Together's" first appearance in an American hymnal was in 1903. It had retained popularity among the Dutch, and when the Dutch Reformed Church in North America decided in 1937 to abandon the policy that they had brought with them to the New World in the 17th century of singing only psalms and add hymns to the church service, "We Gather Together" was chosen as the first hymn in the first hymnal.
The hymn steadily gained popularity, especially in services of Thanksgiving on such occasions as town and college centennial celebrations. According to Carl Daw, executive director of the Hymn Society, the "big break" came in 1935 when it was included in the national hymnal of the Methodist-Episcopal Church.
According to Michael Hawn, professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, "by World War I, we started to see ourselves in this hymn," and the popularity increased during World War II, when "the wicked oppressing" were understood to include Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
This hymn is often sung at American churches the day before Thanksgiving.
This hymn was sung at the Opening of the Funeral Mass for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. This hymn was referenced in the second season, episode 8 "Shibboleth" of The West Wing.
Note that the English lyrics do not translate the Dutch. The Dutch third stanza is in the republishing 1871 only in the footnote on page 41, not in the sheet, because it was not good enough. Therefore it is not in all lyrics.
Wilt heden nu treden voor God den Heere,
Hem boven al loven van herten seer,
End' maken groot zijns lieven namens eere,
Die daar nu onsen vijan slaat terneer.
Ter eeren ons Heeren wilt al u dagen
Dit wonder bijzonder gedencken toch;
Maekt u, o mensch, voor God steets wel te dragen,
Doet ieder recht en wacht u voor bedrog.
D'arglosen, den boosen om yet te vinden,
Loopt driesschen, en briesschen gelyck een leeu,
Soeckende wie hy wreedelyck verslinden,
Of geven mocht een doodelycke preeu.
Bidt, waket end' maket dat g'in bekoring,
End' 't quade met schade toch niet en valt.
U vroomheyt brengt den vijant tot verstoring,
Al waer sijn rijck nog eens so sterck bewalt.
Theodore Baker, 1894
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Julia Bulkley Cady (1882–1963), 1902
We praise thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator,
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before thee, we kneel and adore thee,
We bless thy holy name, glad praises we sing.
We worship thee, God of our fathers, we bless thee;
[... complete 3 stanza]
Herman Brueckner (1866–1942), 1918?
Translation of Joseph Weyl, 1877
We gather to worship Jehovah, the righteous,
Who verily sitteth in Judgment severe;
The good by the evil shall not overpowered,
The Lord will prevent it, our prayer He will hear.
Amid the great conflict He ever stood by us,
[... complete 3 stanza] (There are also mixed versions with Baker)
- Valerius, Adrianus; Loman, Abraham Dirk; von Hellwald, Ferdinand Heller (1871), Oud-nederlandsche liederen uit den "Nederlandtschen Gedenck-clank" (in Dutch, German), Utrecht: Luis Roothaan, pp. 40–41, 72, sheet music: 12 (complete: 93), retrieved 2011-08-11
- Kirkpatrick, Melanie (November 22, 2005). "A Hymn's Long Journey Home: The surprising origins of "We Gather Together," a Thanksgiving standard". Wall Street Journal (New York, NY: Dow Jones & Company).
- Smith, H. Augustine, ed. (1920), "Nr. 31 We Praise, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator", Hymnal for American youth, New York: Century Co., retrieved 2011-08-11
- Hardwig, Oswald Guido, ed. (1918), "Nr. 298", Wartburg hymnal for church, school and home, Chicago: Wartburg publishing house, retrieved 2011-08-11
- We Gather Together at the Cyber Hymnal
- We Gather Together on oremus
- Wilt Heden Nu Treden at the Cyber Hymnal