“Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”

Good Monday morning, friends. Daughter #1 here as my mother is traveling back from Maryland today. Early report indicate a wonderful time was had by all. Prayers for a smooth trip back to St. Louis today!

As it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I’m writing this on Sunday, the day when many churches dig into the hymnal to find something appropriate to sing, I thought I’d share the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It always used to make me cringe listening to Episcopalians sing this hymn once or twice a year. And it never helped that it is not an easy one to sing.

The poem was originally written in 1900 for the 91st anniversary of President Lincoln’s birthday by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother. According to Wikipedia, the hymn is a prayer of thanksgiving for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery evoking the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the “promised land.” It is featured in 39 different Christian hymnals, and is sung in churches across North America.

Lift every voice and sing,
’Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers died.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
’Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.