Anthem for heavenly saints and novice saints on Earth
The worship of a congregation conjures the church singing together in praise. The church in terra firma includes the ones who facilitate and attend the service. The church in heaven chimes in, with the angels and the saints joining this church in terra firma always when one or two gather in the Lord’s name. English hymn writer Charles Wesley made it the centerpiece of his “Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above”, which he originally named “A Funeral Hymn” (1759). But he penned words that did not arouse fear of death, instead, he made it a victorious heavenly unity ballad. Everyone was meant for sainthood. Thus, it became a joyous anthem of all English-speaking countries. An anthem, rather than a regular hymn for daily performance, was how Charles wrote it and how his brother John published it.
Charles Wesley did not expect “Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above” to become the processional hymn at Westminster Abbey on All Saints Day. The Church of England never allowed man-made hymns during worship at the time. But it happened anyway. In United Methodist churches worldwide, this hymn is performed as the saints are celebrated weekly for five Sundays called “Season of Saints” October-November every year.
The hymn setting for “Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above” was the English folk tune of the ballad “The Ploughboy’s Dream” which Ralph Vaughan Williams dubbed “Forest Green” for the English Hymnal (1906). It is a playful tune, as most folk tunes are, and so it fits the text in the hymn that describes God is our Father and we are His children. The cheerfulness is further enhanced by congregational singing, even including harmonies, though it must not be played in Allegro. If it tends to sound like a Christmas carol, it indeed was a template for “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, although it’s not exactly similar.