The idea behind the composition of the hymn “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” was quite simple. It’s intended as a goodbye song for church choir members whenever they part ways each week. That was what its author Jeremiah Rankin initially thought when he started writing the lyrics. Upon learning from the dictionary that “good-bye” was short for “God be with you,” he already had an idea for the first stanza.
Rankin was the minister for the First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. at the time. He said the following about the hymn,
“Written…as a Christian goodbye, it was called forth by no person or occasion, but was deliberately composed as a Christian hymn on basis of the etymology of “goodbye,” which is “God be with you.”
The hymn was completed in 1882. William Tomer, the music director at Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, provided the tune.
The Benediction Hymn
The Christian Endeavor Convention adopted the hymn as their official closing song. To this, Rankin expressed his acclamation. He said that there would be no sweeter recognition given to the hymn than its adoption by the Young People Society of Christian Endeavor.
“God Be With You Till We Meet Again” also played an important role during the war. Its lyrics have been printed on many postcards to provide comfort to the soldiers while in the battle. On one postcard, for instance, bearing a colorful picture of soldiers heading to war contains the following verse,
God be with you till we meet again; keep love’s banner floating o’er you, smite death’s threatening wave before you; God be with you till we meet again.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir also adopted the hymn as the closing acts to many of their shows and recordings. Also, the hymn serves as the final goodbye number as well as a benediction to the church’s General Conferences.
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