|Words: Verses 1-5, Sarah F. Adams, in Hymns and Anthems, by William Johnson Fox, 1841; verse 6, Edward H. Bickersteth, Jr.
Music: Bethany (Mason), Lowell Mason, 1856 :
This hymn is sung at the end of the 1936 movie San Francisco, which was nominated for several Academy Awards. It is also played by the ship’s band in Titanic, winner of the Academy Award for best picture of 1997.
There are also many inspiring true life stories associated with this hymn. Some Titanic survivors said it was played by the ship’s orchestra as the ocean liner went down (though other survivors said it was a different song).
Another story concerns the death of American president William McKinley, assassinated in 1901. Dr. Mann, the attending physician, reported that among McKinley’s last words were “‘Nearer, my God, to Thee, e’en though it be a cross,’ has been my constant prayer.” On the afternoon of September 13, 1901, after five minutes of silence across the nation, bands in Union and Madison Squares in New York City played the hymn in honor of the fallen president. It was also played at a memorial service for him in Westminster Abbey, London.
The hymn was also played as the body of assassinated American President James Garfield was interred at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.