What Is the Story Behind the Hymn "We Gather Together"?


Quick Answer

The hymn "We Gather Together" is of Dutch origin, and the lyrics are often attributed to Adriunus Valerus. This song was first sung to celebrate the victory in the Battle of Turnhout. This song first made its appearance in American hymnals in 1903. It was included in the Methodist Episcopal hymnal in 1935.

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Full Answer

Before the Battle of Turnhout, Dutch protestants were forbidden from gathering together to worship. The Dutch fought the Spanish King Phillip II, and after their victory in this war, they sang the song to declare that they could gather together under God's blessings to worship.

The hymn "We Gather Together" appears in various American hymnals as a Thanksgiving hymn. Theodore Baker is responsible for this hymn's connection with Thanksgiving, as he translated the hymn and titled it "Prayer of Thanksgiving." The hymn itself has political undertones, as it talks of "the wicked oppressing," which could be linked to denial of religious freedom under Spanish rule.

The hymn became popular during World War II, as Americans identified its lyrics with the oppression of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. After the Dutch churches abandoned the tradition of only singing Psalms during church services, "We Gather Together" was added to their hymnal. The meaning of the song in present times can be understood as a prayer for spiritual and religious freedom.

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