Shall We Gather at the River?,
Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we'll gather at the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river;
gather with the saints at the river
that flows by the throne of God.
On the margin of the river,
washing up its silver spray,
we will walk and worship ever,
all the happy golden day. (Refrain)
Ere we reach the shining river,
lay we ev'ry burden down;
grace our spirits will deliver,
and provide a robe and crown. (Refrain)
Soon we'll reach the shining river,
soon our pilgrimage will cease;
soon our happy hearts will quiver
with the melody of peace. (Refrain)
A common image of death in the Bible, other literature, and music, including bluegrass gospel music, is crossing the river to the other side.
The hymn reminds us of two things. First, we gather at the shore of the river where others have already gone. We all have loved ones, friends, or colleagues who have departed and crossed over to the other side. There are also times when we become aware that we are not that far from our departed loved ones—they are just across the river. Second, we are reminded that someday we will also cross that river; our pilgrimage will cease. The hymn reminds us that it is a beautiful river, because it flows by the throne of God! Whether we are on this side of the river or on the other side, we are all in the arms and presence of God, celebrating Jesus' triumph over death. It is all we need.
Dear Loving and Merciful God, as we stand on this side of the river, we remember those who have crossed over to the other side. When our time shall come, welcome us as you have welcomed those who have already crossed. We are all in your arms of comfort, hope, and strength. Amen.