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HYMN 229 Lord of all Nations, Grant me Grace

Text: Olive Spannaus (1916-2018). Tune: Šamotulský Kancional 1561

For reasons of copyright I refer you to the link here so you can see it.


Olive Spannaus

Olive was a kick. She was part of a group of women in the Missouri Synod who lobbied for the ordination of women. The group she started became The Lutheran Women's Caucus. They asked women from the other Lutheran churches in America to work with them. I met her then.

She had been born in St. Louis into a Presbyterian family which moved to the LCMS when she was a young girl. She was confirmed in a Missouri Synod church which her parents joined later. Her father was a teacher, her mother, when she was not working in an overall factory, was a church musician and Sunday school teacher. Olive learned from both her parents to have fun, but also remain active in all kinds of church activities and political movements.

She won a full scholarship to Washington University, in St. Louis, because she was valedictorian of her high school class, but because she was a woman it could not be awarded to her. Her mother, outraged, went to the school and got her daughter a half ride scholarship. Because her grandfather had fought in the Civil War, she was able to qualify for a scholarship devoted to descendants of such veterans. She majored in English and Latin, with a minor in German. While in college she met the love of her life, Ruben Spannaus, who was attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. They married in 1939 and moved to California where Ruben had been called to serve a congregation.

She threw herself into the life of a pastor’s wife—singing in the choir, leading the women’s group, writing poems and beginning a family. One of her poems at the time ended with the couplet, “So many things to be done and I’ve wondered/Will I have enough time if I live to a hundred?”

When Ruben accepted a call to Seattle in 1942, she continued her work in the congregation there. Soon they had four children, so she led PTA groups, Girl Scouts, and joined with the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America, a social justice group emerging from the Missouri Synod and focusing on the rising Civil Rights movement.

In 1957 they moved to Chicago where Ruben had been called to serve with the Lutheran Child Welfare Association of Illinois. They bought a house in Elmhurst where she continued working for the church, the choir, the Sunday school, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League of the Missouri Synod. In 1960, she wrote the hymn for this day and it became one of the new hymns that the committee of the new Lutheran Book of Worship would choose to include in its first publications.

In the 1970s as the women’s movement grew, she became the first woman to serve on the English District of the Missouri Synod Board of Directors. In 1973 Jacob Aal Ottesen Preus, President of the Missouri Synod, appointed her to be on the Task Force on Women.

She worked hard so the LCMS would approve the ordination of women, but it never happened. In her frustration, she joined with others in the Lutheran Women’s Caucus to work for the inclusion of women at every level in the church. At the same time she was involved with political movements in the state to advance the rights of women and minorities, active in the League of Women Voters, and many other civic organizations.

The couple moved back to Seattle for their retirement. Olive continued her congregational work, and political interests, now traveling more and more with Ruben, to China, Europe, Australia, Asia and everywhere always having a blast.

She joined a line dancing group to keep her mind active! In 2013 she moved into an assisted living apartment and kept busy there. She made it to one hundred and then some, fully enjoying every day even as her mind slipped a bit. Her son reported that she was still organizing events as long as she could.

She had the hearty sense of humor one finds surprisingly often in saints. Her hymn has gone round the world and its prayer to remember those in need, those suffering social injustice, and that we learn to be humble in our struggles to improve conditions. It is an important piece in the song of the church today.

Frontispiece of Kancional


Olive was a member of the first committees working on gathering new hymns for what would become the LBW. The hymn was published in 1969 in Missouri’s collection of new hymns, Worship Supplement. In 1974 when the LBW was putting the book together, her hymn was included. Since then it has appeared in many English speaking hymnals.

The tune comes from the Unity of Brethren in Moravia, now Czech. The kancional was a collection of spiritual evangelical songs, some that were new others overlooked. The book was approved at the synod of Prostejov in 1555. It editor was Jan Blahoslav (the man with glasses) who is pictured on the frontispiece.


St. John Lutheran's

St. Peter’s in the Loop Choir

Text with solo and organ

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What a great way to begin my morning. It is so interesting to learn about Olive's life and work, and the hymn speaks to us all today. Thank you for the background

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