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The Old Rugged Cross
by George Bennard, 1873-1958
 
Seldom can a song leader suggest a time for favorites from any congregation without receiving at least one request for “The Old Rugged Cross.”  The author and composer of this beloved hymn, George Bennard, was born in Youngstown, Ohio, but his parents soon moved to Iowa.  It was in Lucas, Iowa, that young George made his personal acceptance of Christ as his Saviour.  Following the death of his father before George was sixteen years of age, he entered the ranks of the Salvation Army. 
 
Eventually Bennard was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Church, where his devoted ministry as an evangelist was highly esteemed for many years.  A particularly trying experience caused Bennard to reflect seriously about the significance of the cross and what the Apostle Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10).  George Bennard began to spend long hours in study, prayer and meditation.
 
During these days of spiritual struggle, the theme for “The Old Rugged Cross” began to formulate itself in Bennard’s mind.  The melody came first but the words at that time were imperfect.  Finally, however, once again home (now in Michigan), he began to concentrate anew on his project.  This time the words began to flow easily from his heart.  The hymn was introduced at special meetings in Pokagon, Michigan on June 7th, 1913.  Charles Gabriel, one of the leading Gospel song writers of his day, was exactly right when he commented, “You will certainly hear from this song, Mr. Bennard.” 
 
It went on to become one of the most widely published songs, either sacred or secular, throughout America.  Bennard continued his evangelistic ministry for forty additional years following the writing of this hymn.