The Navy Hymn

grey submarine in body of water under cloudy sky
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Today I share with you the hymn my mother chose as my father’s favorite hymn for his funeral. He was 46 when he died of sudden heart attack in January 1975, making my mom a widow with 5 children at the age of 44. Dad was in the US Navy for two years between the major wars, went to a Lutheran church growing up, we attended a Presbyterian church without him when he died. Here are the original verses, with more I’ll share in my next post. We’ve never been sure of where Dad stood in relation to his Eternal Father when he died, but this gives me hope.

Eternal Father Strong To Save

Verse 1: Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 2: O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 3: Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 4: O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

men standing near flags
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The “Navy Hymn” is Eternal Father, Strong to Save. The original words were written as a poem in 1860 by William Whiting of Winchester, England, for a student who was about to sail for the United States. The melody, published in 1861, was composed by fellow Englishman, Rev. John Bacchus Dykes, an Episcopalian clergyman.
The hymn, found in most hymnals, is known as the “Navy hymn” because it is sung at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It is also sung on ships of the Royal Navy (U.K.) and has been translated into French.
Eternal Father was the favorite hymn of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was sung at his funeral in Hyde Park, New York, in April 1945. It was also played by the Navy Band in 1963 as President John F. Kennedy’s body was carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol to lie in state. Roosevelt had served as Secretary of the Navy and Kennedy was a PT boat commander in World War II.
(Information from The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion
by LindaJo H. McKim, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 1993)
https://www.navy.mil/navydata/nav_legacy.asp?id=172

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