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History of Hymns: “God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us”

by C. Michael Hawn

Bishop William Boyd Grove


“God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us”
William Boyd Grove
UM Hymnal, No. 100

God, whose love is reigning o’er us,
source of all, the ending true;
hear the universal chorus
raised in joyful praise to you:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
worship ancient, worship new

Word of God from nature bringing
Springtime green and autumn gold;
Mountain streams like children singing,
Ocean waves like thunder bold:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
As creation’s tale is told.*


Hymns are inspired by many occasions. “God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us” was written at the request of Susan Jane Grove and Douglas Alan DeJarnett and used as a processional hymn for their wedding in November 1980.

United Methodist Bishop William Boyd Grove (b. 1929), Susan’s father, penned his first hymn for this occasion. The hymn found its way into the Upper Room Worshipbook (1985) and then into the United Methodist Hymnal (1989).

Bishop Grove was born in Johnstown, Pa., and received his education at Bethany College (1951), Drew University (1954) and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (1978). He served as a pastor in congregations in the Western Pennsylvania Conference, and was consecrated bishop of the West Virginia Conference in 1980. After 12 years of service in this conference, he served for four years in the Albany (N.Y.) Area before retiring from the active episcopacy in 1996.

Throughout his ministry, Bishop Grove has championed the ecumenical connections of the broader church, serving as a member of the executive committee of the Consultation on Church Union (1988-2000), the ecumenical officer of the denomination’s Council of Bishops (1996-2000) and president of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

A former member of the Clergy Network for National Leadership Change, Bishop Grove has also been active in church judicial decisions, serving as judge in several clerical trials. He has received honorary degrees from Bethany College and from Allegheny and West Virginia Wesleyan Colleges.

“God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us” praises the Creator and draws upon creation images echoing Genesis 1:1-21. A sense of covenant imbues stanza three as we sing of “Abra’am’s faith and Sarah’s story” as they “formed a people bound to you.” This covenant continues in stanza four with “Jesus, Star-child born to set us free.”

In the final stanza we are invited to respond to the Creator and covenant as we lift “our human voices in the songs that faith would bring” and live “in human choices lives that, like our music, sing: Alleluia. . . .”

Bishop Grove, a lover of poetry and writer of poems, has written about a dozen hymns, always at special request. Though not always thinking that his poetry has been worthy of the praise of God in hymn form, he considers his texts as “a gift” from the Creator.

In the spirit of Christian unity, he responded in 2001 to a commission to write a hymn for the January 2002 inaugural celebration of Churches Uniting in Christ. “Christ, the Church You Gave Is Broken” may be found at www.cuicinfo.org/cuicinauguration/cuicinauguration.html.

What about the couple who commissioned “God, Whose Love Is Reigning O’er Us”? Doug and Susan Grove-DeJarnett are active members at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tenn., where Doug has served as minister of music and congregational life for 25 years and Susan teaches music in the church’s preschool and kindergarten. The Grove-DeJarnetts have two grown daughters.

The father of the bride wrote a hymn that sent the couple down the aisle and has kept them singing ever since.
 

* © 1980 William Boyd Grove. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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

Categories: History of Hymns