My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
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Globe and Mail, 11 September 1939
I have no memory of my grandfather on my mother’s side (he died when I was 2 years old). He had a German-American background, moved to Niagara Falls, married Ethel (my grandmother), worked in Hamilton (Ontario), had three daughters (one being my mother, June), and by all accounts was a kind Christian gentleman. He also travelled around southern Ontario churches singing in a male quartet. Apparently, they were quite popular, or so the story goes.
I am proud to be named after him. But what I did not know until recently was that he not only sang but also composed music. A while ago I was excited to find in some old family pictures a copy of a wartime hymn he wrote sometime during the Second World War.
As noted by others, German Canadians were under pressure from fellow Canadians to prove their loyalty in the war against fascism. Many German Canadian citizens faced violence, the suppression of their language, and public ridicule, conduct that had roots in the mistreatment of Germans in Canada during the First World War. All in all, it was a tough time for Canadians with German roots.
I wonder if he faced that kind of pressure, and, if so, how he reacted. Maybe one way he reacted was to composed this hymn to "prove" his loyalty.
Which leads me to the hymn. It is a hymn that expresses many of the wartime themes of the early twentieth century – providence, national repentance, justice, empire, monarchy, victory, and longing for peace. All in all, it is a private citizen’s public expression of loyalty to the wartime effort of Canada and its allies.
It pleases me to see such loyalty in my forbearers for a clear case of justice, and during this Remembrance Day, it is a reminder of how those in past not only fought for freedom, but also used their musical talents to serve the war effort.
I do not play the piano (yet), but if I did I would record an instrumental and post it. Of course, I would not subject you to listening to me singing it :)
Here are the lyrics in case you have difficulty reading the image of the hard copy. I do not know who Kathleen Fawthrope was, but she should get credit for putting the lyrics to music.
Almighty God, Who in Thy Son
Hath shown to man the way of life
We bow before Thy mercy-seat
To seek Thine aid in days of strife.
Our sins we would before Thee own
We have not always sought the right
O cleanse us now from all our guilt
And by Thy Spirit, grant us light.
Our Empire bless in troubled days
Grant she may e’er a bulwark be
To stay the tide of tyrants’ power
That all earth’s peoples may be free.
To those who lead us, grant O Lord
Wisdom, Thy will to know and do
God save and bless our gracious King
And may his counsellors all be true.
Remember those, in danger’s hour
Who face the onslaught of the foe
Our men in air, on land and sea
May they Thy strength’ning presence know.
Forgiving spirits grant us O Lord
Toward those whose ways have led to strife
O may they find in Christ, Thy Son
The Way, the Truth, that leads to Life.
O blessed Trinity of Love
Cause wars in this Thy world to cease
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
And bless mankind with lasting peace.
Rights Reserved ©
 Norm Threinen, “Canadian Lutherans and the First World War,” In Canadian Churches and the First World War (Eugene: Pickwick, 2014), 197-217.