Home History of Hymns: "Go Forth for God"

History of Hymns: "Go Forth for God"

"Go Forth for God"
John R. Peacey
The UM Hymnal, No. 670

John R. Peacey

Go forth for God, go to the world in peace;
be of good courage, armed with heavenly grace,
in God’s good Spirit daily to increase,
till in the kingdom we see face to face.
Go forth for God, go to the world in peace.*

“Go Forth for God” is one of the great sending-forth hymns of the last half of the 20th century. Each stanza sends the congregation into the world armed with an essential trait of Christian character: peace, love, strength and joy.

John R. Peacey (1896-1971) was born in Brighton, Sussex, England. After his basic education at St. Edmund’s School in Canterbury, Peacey served in France during World War I, receiving the Military Cross.

He then went to seminary at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and served there after his ordination in 1921. In 1927, Peacey was appointed headmaster at Bishop Cotton School in Simla, India; he returned to England after World War II, serving as residentiary canon at Bristol Cathedral until his retirement in 1966.

In his last years, Peacey wrote hymn texts. His texts were first published in 100 Hymns for Today (1969). English Praise (1975), a supplement to the 1933 English Hymnal, was the first hymnal to include “Go Forth for God,” albeit posthumously.

The stanzas are based on the Confirmation blessing found in the Revised Book of Common Prayer (1928), which in turn is derived I Thessalonians 5:14-18: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV).

Hymnologist Ray Glover, editor of The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal Church), comments that the hymn “amplifies the admonitions of the Eucharistic post-communion prayer, ‘Send us now into the world in peace . . . to love and serve you.’” Romans 12:9-21 is also echoed in Peacey’s text.

The choice of GENEVA 124, a tune from the Genevan Psalter (1551), strengthens the text. It requires that the first line of each stanza be repeated at the end. This has the effect of solidifying the central theme of each stanza.

The benediction (blessing) at the end of worship is not simply a dismissal or a casual remark, “See you next week.” Indeed, this hymn bridges the experience of Christian worship with the Christian’s responsibility in the world.

*© 1975 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Used by permission; all rights reserved.

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

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