Behind the Hymn: God Be With You

Dr. Jeremiah Rankin was the Pastor of First Congregational Church in Washington, D. C. He was looking for a farewell hymn to close the worship service.

Nothing really worked and the closest possibility was Bless Be the Tie that Binds. But, Dr. Rankin wanted something less formal and more engaging.

Unable to find the hymn he wanted, he decided to write it.

He searched the dictionary for words such as farewell and goodbye. When he looked under goodbye, it had the words “God be with you”.

His imagination was sparked and Dr. Rankin wrote a verse and chorus for his new hymn. He asked two friends to compose a tune for his new lyrics and chose that of William Tomer.

He was so enthusiastic about the tune that he added seven more verses.

After introducing the song to his church, the hymn soon became a favorite closing hymn of the young people in the Christian Endeavor Society.

Dr. Rankin later wrote of 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.”

Dr. Rankin later became president of Howard University in Washington, D. C.

It is said that when former President Theodore Roosevelt was making his last visit to Memphis, Tennessee, a great audience of about three thousand people sang “God be with you till we meet again” in his honor.

Dwight L. Moody and his musical director, Ira Sankey, often used the hymn as a closing in their evangelistic services.

God Be with You is a simple prayer with words expressing the sentiments of the heart.


God be with you was sung to President Theodore Roosevelt on his last trip to Tennessee #hymnstory Share on X

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