We Would Be Building   Leave a comment

Cathedral Ruins

Above:  Cathedral Ruins

Image in the Public Domain

Text (1935) by Purd Eugene Deitz (1897-1987)

Hymn Source = The Hymnal for Youth (1941), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

I consulted The New Century Hymnal Companion:  A Guide to the Hymns (1998), handbook to The New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ, 1995), and The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952), companion volume to The Hymnal (1941).  Dietz, raised at Zion Reformed Church, York, Pennsylvania, graduated from Central Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, entered the ordained ministry of the Reformed Church in the United States in 1921, and went on to serve at Fourth Reformed Church, Dayton, Ohio, and Trinity (Evangelical and) Reformed Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before leaving parish ministry.  As of 1952 he taught at Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and (starting in 1949) served as the Executive Secretary of the Board of National Missions for the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  He also served on the committee for the Book of Worship (1942) of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  Deitz also represented the Evangelical and Reformed Church at the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1948).  He was a minister in three denominations:  the Reformed Church in the United States(1793-1934), which merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1934-1957), which merged into the United Church of Christ.

Deitz composed this hymn in while the pastor of Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was organizing a youth conference themed “Christian Youth Building a New World.”  He could find no suitable hymn for the occasion, so he wrote one and set it to the tune FINLANDIA, one of his favorites.


1.  We would be building; temples still undone

O’er crumbling walls their crosses scarcely lift;

Waiting till love can raise the broken stone,

And hearts creative bridge the human rift;

We would be building,

Master, let Thy plan

Reveal the life that God would give to man.

2.  Teach us to build; upon the solid rock

We set the dream that hardens into deed,

Ribbed with the steel that time and change doth mock,

Th’un failing purpose of our noblest creed;

Teach us to build;

O Master, lend us slight

To see the towers gleaming in the light.

3.  O keep us building, Master; may our hands

Ne’er falter when the dream is in our hearts,

When to our ears there come divine commands

And all the pride of sinful will departs;

We build with Thee,

O grant enduring worth

Until the heavenly Kingdom comes on earth.

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