God of Our Fathers

In some ways, the re-inauguration of President George W. Bush resembled a church service, not because there was a sermon or any type of liturgy, but because the aura of God seemed to surround the entire proceeding, not least because of the president's well-documented belief that he couldn't govern without God's guidance, and therefore obviously expected God to be in the ceremony, constantly at his side. This was particularly ironic in face of the extreme efforts made in recent years by individuals and agencies such as the ACLU to X God out of everything having to do with the public affairs of the nation.

This is not a brief favoring some sort of government-sanctioned religion; rather, it is a reminder that the founders of the nation were no less convinced than the president of the belief that only under God's blessing would the nation survive. History seems to have proven them correct. God was the key to the Declaration of Independence: …the separate and equal Station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them…And for the support of this declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor. This has nothing to do with how "religious" some or all of the founders were or even with their individual beliefs; it has to do with their philosophy as to who the ultimate ruler of all mankind is - Creator God - and their necessary obeisance to God.

The president invoked the blessings of God only at the end of his speech, but the music unmistakably pointed to God as the source of freedom and every good thing connected with it. Embellishing the various God-directed invocations and benedictions of the different functions adjunctive to the inauguration was the singing shortly before the ceremony of the beautiful Bless This House, a prayer written by the English poet Helen Taylor and set to music by her friend Mary Brahe, also English.

Fittingly, toward the end of the ceremony came an unforgettable rendition in a joint effort by a number of military musicians of the immortal God of Our Fathers. The words were written by Daniel C. Roberts (1841-1907), who served in the 84th Ohio Volunteers in the Civil War and went on to become the vicar of St. Paul's Church in Concord, New Hampshire, for nearly 30 years. The music was written by George W. Warren (1828-1902), a fine organist in New York City. The hymn was selected for the centennial celebration of the adoption of the Constitution. It is included here:

God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.