Hymnology: Brethren We Have Met to Worship

Some hymns have many stories attached to them.  I am coming up with very few leads on one of my favorites as of late, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship.”

This is what I do have:

It was penned by George Atkins in 1819 who was a Methodist pastor.

And…that’s it.  So if you do have more, I would love you to share any info you find in a comment below.

We arranged it with a touch of bluegrass.  Since most of the chordal arrangement focuses on a 1-5 progression, I wanted to exchange some chords to open it up a bit.  At the second half of the verse, we go in a different direction with the chords, and I think it breathes some new life into the song as it opens up and builds.

I also wrote a chorus to go along with it.  The song is great in itself, but I thought it needed some type of break in the middle and an additional part to it.  The chorus is simple and carries the message of the song: “We have come together in the name we adore, we have come to worship Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Yesterday, I explained what “manna” meant to the congregation so that no one would be singing what they didn’t understand (“manna” is the food that God provided while the Israelites wandered in the desert – he provides, he is enough).

The only problem I had with the song was the theological implications of the end of verse 4.  Here are the lyrics:

Then He’ll call us home to heaven
At his table we’ll sit down
Christ will gird himself and serve us
With sweet manna all around

I think I get what Rev. Atkins was trying to accomplish with the song.  Christ served the disciples at the Last Supper, he didn’t come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).  I understand that, but I don’t think that when we get to heaven, our grand finale is that Christ serves us.  Maybe that happens.

A lot of me thinks it doesn’t happen that way due to Luke 17:1-10 where Christ mentions how the King doesn’t ask his servants to sit down and be served after they have worked all day.  He reminds us that “we are unworthy slaves, we have only done that which ought to be done” (Lk. 17:10).  I think when I get to heaven, I will ask how I can serve rather than be served.  At the moment when I truly understand how lost I was and how radically Jesus saved me, I don’t think my heart will be, “Jesus, can you gird yourself as a servant and serve me now that I am finally here in heaven?”

So, I rewrote the last half of that verse for our congregation to sing.  I don’t think most people realized there was a change, and many had never heard this hymn.  Regardless, here are the North Side updated version of the last verse which I think is a more fitting, scriptural conclusion.

Then He’ll call us home to heaven
At his feet we will bow down
We will worship Him forever
With sweet manna all around
Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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2 Comments

  1. Can I just say I’m loving the hymn kick you’re on right now and can’t wait to get back and hear some of these songs being lifted up? I love the lyrics in hymns but I love the musical side of modern worship, so I love when the two are blended together. I’m glad to see that you’re being so thorough and detailed with the process, too.

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