Shall We Gather at the River, the Song and the Story

Composer Robert Lowry Writes Shall We Gather at the River

Winter River Sunrise
Robert Lowry (1826-1899) was a professor of literature, a Baptist pastor of several large churches and a music editor at Biglow Publishing Company. He wrote close to 500 hymns, including I Need Thee Every Hour and Low in the Grave He Lay.

One hot afternoon in July 1864, as Pastor Lowry was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. He saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. He was filled with a sense of great joy. He began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As he mused, the words and music to Shall We Gather at the River came to his heart and mind.

Shall We Gather at the River, also known as The River, has become a favorite song of camp meetings, water baptismal services and funerals. It was sung at the funeral of American Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, and in two Academy Award Winning Hollywood movies: Trip to Bountiful (1986), and Three Godfathers (1916).

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?M

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 talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.


Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.


At the smiling of the river,
Mirror of the Savior's face,
Saints, whom death will never sever,
Lift their songs of saving grace.


Soon we'll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.


A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” ( Revelation 22:1-2)

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Written by: Connie Ruth Christiansen



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