We’ll Understand It Better By and By was written by Charles Albert Tindley in 1905 and is in the public domain. Tindley was born in 1851. His father was a slave and his mother was free, so Charles was raised free. He never had a formal education, learning informally and through tutoring from friends (along with the odd correspondence course). He learned so well the Methodist Episcopal Church ordained him on the strength of an exam score. Sort of like an early CLEP test. (Do they still have those, or did I just give away my age?)
Tindley had a reputation as a mesmerizing speaker, with the nickname “The Prince of Preachers”. From 1885 to 1900 he transferred to a new church, at the direction of his bishop, every two or three years. His final church grew greatly during his time there, and after his death the church changed its name to Tindley Temple. In 2011 Tindley Temple was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Tindley was a preacher, a well-recognized songwriter, and an activist. At a protest he attended in 1915 he and others were attacked with “clubs, sticks and bottles”. His injuries were home-treated, but a friend required hospitalization. In spite of this, Tindley welcomed everybody to his church, with a multiracial congregation of over 10,000. His contributions as a songwriter earned him recognition as a founding father of American gospel music.
“We’ll Understand It Better By and By”, often referred to simply as “By and By”, was one of the songs I loved while growing up. A friend from my high school days reminded me of my uncle playing this on the church piano, while her father led the singing. Those memories are the best… my love of gospel music was formed and shaped by those men, and the church we went to.
This song was a real treasure. After posting most of the livelier gospel songs from my youth, I was struggling to find more ‘spirited’ music. Remembering this one was one of those “why didn’t I think of that sooner” moments. My hands don’t move quite as well as they used to, and keeping up with the pace was sometimes beyond me… but for a while, it was like being young again. I love this song, and love the gift it gave me in playing it again. As usual, the lyrics are available here. His life is worth learning more about. If you’re interested, the Wiki is a good place to start.