Hymn #330: Let Us Break Bread Together

This spiritual developed its communion emphasis after the Civil War.  Some believe it attests to the attendance of African Americans at liturgical services of the Roman Catholic or Episcopal Church, in which the Eucharist was celebrated.  Traditionally, Anglican churches were situated so that early morning communion was received facing east, "into the sun."

 

Other traditional stanzas for this spiritual include those that begin "Let us all pray together" and "Let us face the cross together."  The petition for mercy in the final line may echo the words of persons in Scripture who sought and received healing by Jesus.

The melody, by an unknown composer, is named LET US BREAK BREAD for the text.  The melody has a relatively broad range compared to other songs of this genre (an eleventh).  It first appeared in John W. And Frederick J. Work's Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907) and has become part of the standard repertoire of most mainline hymnals.

 

David Hurd (b. 1950) prepared this harmonization for The Hymnal 1982 of the Protestant Episcopal Church.  Hurd, an active organist and composer, was a member of the Standing Commission on Church Music of that denomination from 1976 to 1985.