Monday, November 17, 2008

In Christ there is no East or West

"In Christ there is no East or West" is one of the hymns that was not included in the English Hymnal but has made an entrance into the New English Hymnal, having become popular by way of Songs of Praise, Hymns A & M New Standard, and a few other twentieth century books. Or at least a bit of it has got into the New English Hymnal, mutilated but not quite so badly mutilated as in some other books.
As far as I can see, the full and unadulterated version of this hymn appears only in two books that I can find, and they are Songs of Praise (number 537) and The New Catholic Hymnal (no 104). I don't have the Celebration Hymnal to hand, so that may also be in good order. Oddly (and very unusually) the words given in the online hymnals (Cyberhymnal and Oremus hymnal) are corrupted (adjusted for inclusive language, it seems) in both cases.

Here is the original wording, or at least what I believe to be the original wording.

1 In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

2 In Him shall true hearts everywhere
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord,
Close binding all mankind.

3 Join hands, then, brothers of the faith,
Whate'er your race may be!
Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me.

4 In Christ now meet both East and West,
In Him meet South and North;
All Christly souls are one in Him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

The words are attributed to John Oxenham (1852-1941), but actually that was a pseudonym. The author's real name was William Arthur Dunkerley, who was, besides being John Oxenham, also a deacon of Ealing Congregational Church (at least so my reference book, A Hymn Companion by Frank Colquhoun, tells me, though the Times obituary of Jan 25th 1941 kindly sent to me by James Yardley makes no reference to that, but only to the fact that he was a reluctant business man). He was best known for a number of novels published under the Oxenham name.

Now this hymn has suffered one almost universal intervention in hymn books both older and more recent. That is, in all cases other than Songs of Praise and the New Catholic Hymnal the word "Christly" in the last verse has been replaced with "Christlike". I can't quite think why anyone would feel the need to do this. It isn't as if Oxenham aka Dunkerley couldn't have chosen to write "Christlike" if he'd wanted to. Why did he write "Christly" then? Well, surely because it's a lot better in terms of poetic feel and more singable, I presume. And also, doesn't it mean something slightly more subtle, something slightly stronger than mere likeness to Christ? So what's the problem with it? Surely not that we find it hard to understand...

The NEH, like the rest, is guilty of that intervention, and it is doubtless for that that Oxenham gets a dagger by his name. What the NEH is unique in doing is mutilating the hymn by removing verse 2. If you use the NEH you get only a three-verse hymn; and to my mind the verse that has gone is the most interesting one.

The damage in other hymn books is worse however. There has been a great deal of enthusiasm for political correctness and inclusive language, resulting in a great rash of interventions by bad poets and editors, with respect to verse 3 in particular. Doubtless someone will be able to tell me what it says in Hymns Old and New (a book I do not allow in the house). The versions on Cyberhymnal and Oremus Hymnal are evidently infected by this habit: in Cyberhymnal we have
Join hands, then, members of the faith,
while Oremus Hymnal has
Join hands, disciples of the faith,
and James tells me that Church Hymnary 4 has
Come, brothers, sisters of the faith.
Meanwhile at the end of that verse, Oremus Hymnal keeps "Who serves my father as a son is surely kin to me" (though having lost the 'brothers' at the start of the verse, the point of this is a bit lost) but Cyberhymnal has
Who serves my father as his child is surely kin to me

but again, what is the point of saying that fellow children are kin to me, if you didn't call them brothers at the start of the verse?

Church Hymnary 4 has seen that problem, evidently, and kept the siblings in the first line of that verse, but then, strangely, loses it loses them in the third line by omitting the notion of sons and children at that point! It has
Whoever does my Father's will...
Notice that this also manages to lose the notion of service into the bargain, with the result that it fails to mark the connection with verse 2 (his service is the golden cord).

The other point that gets the more extreme "inclusive language freaks" worked up is the idea of "mankind" in "close binding all mankind". In Church Hymnary 4 and the Cyberhymnal this has become "Close binding humankind".

Now it seems to me that you might think that the whole sentiment of the hymn is inclusive, and anyone ought to be able to see that "all mankind" means all kinds of people, and that what makes us kin is service of the Father, not anything about our gender, race or anything else. So it does seem to me that there's absolutely no whiff of any kind of political incorrectness in the gendered language, and therefore there's no point in trying to doctor it. If it can't be misunderstood, surely it's a positively good role model for how to read poetry in the right spirit and not get hung up on the idea that a word always means the same in every context. Grrr.

Many thanks to James Yardley for his assistance with the research for this post.


Elizabeth said...

HON has humankind in verse 2. Verse 3 goes thus:
Join hands, united in the faith,
whate'er your race may be;
who serve my Father as their own
are surely kin to me.

Rather uncomfortable and pointless plural to avoid using his!

KeyReed said...

BBC Songs of Praise has (in v3)
Join hands then, people of the faith...

JennyG said...

Is this really a site for people who can SEE what is wrong with modern hymn versions, and can anyone join in??
If so I may be able to stop throwing hymn-books!
Warm greetings to the hostess and to everyone who reads it.
I was brought up an Anglican (the old A&M and EH) but now I'm organist of a country parish church in Scotland, where we still use the 70's edition of the Scottish Church Hymnary aka CH3. It's far from perfect but it's not too bad (some emendations that make me smile, eg "Throned upon the awesome [sic] Tree" How were they to know how that would sound 30 years later? But if only they had left well alone...) There is steady pressure towards adopting the Iona-led Ch4, which theologically and in other ways is a bit of a nightmare. As an example of its style, "Once in Royal David's City" (having lost several verses) finishes:
Where his children gather round,
Bright like stars with glory crowned.

If it were possible intelligently to discuss such monstrosities it would be soothing! And don't let me even get started on the musical questions.
One of my acid tests of a hymnal tends to be how it deals with "Little Cornard" It's a wonderful tune and in some dim fashion compilers can just about sense that. Bur they have an intractable problem, because Erik Routley and others have decreed "Hills of the North" unsingable. So they will try to find other words that can be sung to it, it doesn't really matter what. It's best to draw a veil over the Scottish attempts.
But I must stop or I'm indanger of going on to list every outrage perpetrated against the beloved, glorious tradition of choral worship -- and then I might end in tears! and besides it would take ten years (at least)

Josh Osbun said...

Allow me to provide you with the Lutheran copies of this hymn. I am only noting the textual changes. If nothing is noted for a particular stanza then there were no changes.

Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (1993) 539 and
Lutheran Service Book (2007) 653:

Stanza two is a completely new stanza written by Mark A. Jeske, b. 1952:

"With God there is no tribe or race;
In Him we all are one.
He loves us as His children through
Our faith in His dear Son."

Stanza three (your stanza two) has completely different wording than what you have posted.

"So, brothers, sisters, praise His name
Who died to set us free
From sin, division, hate and shame,
From spite and enmity!"

Stanza four (your stanza three) uses the alterations, "Join hands, disciples of the faith," and, "Who serves my Father as His child."

Stanza five (your stanza four) changes "Christly" to "Christian."

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) 650:

Stanza one changes "great fellowship" to "community."

Stanza two changes "in Him" to "in Christ."

Stanza three changes "then, brothers" to "disciples," and also changes "Who serves my Father as a son Is" to "All children of the living God Are".

The following Lutheran hymnals use the text of all four stanzas without change:

Service Book and Hymnal (1958) 341/342
Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) 359
Ambassador Hymnal (1994) 295

Thanks for being a fellow hymn-based blogger! If you ever want a Lutheran perspective on hymnody, feel free to drop by my blog.

J.West said...


Welcome back! It's always great to read your insights when you have time to post them.

You didn't mention the choice of tune. Here's what's on my bookshelf:
• Songs of Praise Enlarged Edition (1933): St. Bernard ("may also be sung to St. James")
• New English Hymnal (1986): Manchester ("Alternative tune St. Stephen")
• the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal (1958): Eldora or St. Peter
• the PECUSA Hymnal 1940: #263 to McKee ("Negro melody adapted by Harry T. Burleigh, 1939") or Bourne ("Everett R. Currier, 1941")
• the PECUSA Hymnal 1982: #529 to McKee ("Afro-American spiritual; adapt. and harm. Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949)")

I guess this wide variation is because Common Metre allows easy substitution of anything else. But what do people normally sing? Did NEH abandon both tunes suggested by SOP? At least PECUSA kept one of the two tunes it had commissioned for Hymnal 1940.

The Oremus text is often from Hymnal 1982 (his main source seems to be PECUSA and his manifesto displays a bias towards modern text). But, as with NEH, Hymnal 1982 drops verse 2, so verse 2 must be from Hymnal 1940 (where “mankind” is used).

The Oremus Verse 3 is a pastiche. Hymnal 1982 says "disciples of the faith … serves my Father as a child" where Hymnal 1940 has "brothers" and "as a son" and Oremus has "disciples" and "son". Both 1940 and 1982 keep Christly.

Alas, Ian Bradley doesn't mention it in his Book of Hymns.

PS: Josh: You were off by one.

Service Book and Hymnal (1958) 342/343

Josh Osbun said...

Nuts. We were both wrong. In Service Book and Hymnal the text appears with two tunes, both of which are numbered 342. Man, that's confusing.

robert said...

Agreed on this one. The tinkering is unnecessary. Most hymnals published in the last half century seem willing to leave it as it is. Here's a quick check on a few.

The old Worship and Service Hymnal (pub. 1957) has the hymn in its original form. So does Great Hymns of the Faith (pub. 1968), and Hymns for the Living Church (pub. 1974). The Celebration Hymnal (pub. 1997) holds to the original, while Living Hymns (pub. 1972) changes the hymn so completely--even adding a 5th stanza--that it is almost unrecognizable.

rhymeswithplague said...

Permit me to introduce myself: Robert Brague (hence the blogname). I have known only the original version of "In Christ There Is No East Or West" since the late 1940s when I was a child in First Methodist Church of Mansfield, Texas. We used (and I still have a copy of) The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, published by Abingdon Press of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1938. This is the version I have always thought everyone knew and sang; I am saddened to learn that words have been altered and added.

Cokesbury was the original Methodist publishing house in the United States, its name having been formed by combining the names of the first two American bishops of the Methodist Church, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.

I have not been Methodist for a very long time, but I still know many of their old hymns.

Thank you for your wonderful blog.

Chuck said...

Both The Hymnal 1940 and The Book of Hymns (1966) have the hymn as originally written. The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) changes the first He in the second verse to Christ and substitutes a different third verse, written by Laurence Hull Stookey. The Hymnal 1982 eliminates the second verse, and in ht became the second verse changed "Join hands, then, brothers of the faith" to "Join hands, disciples of the faith" and then changes "as a son" to "as his child." In three of the hymnals, all except The Book of Hymns, the tune is MCKEE, an African American spiritual, with The Hymnal 1982 and The United Methodist Hymnal having it adapted and harmonized by Harry T Burleigh. The Book of Hymns uses the tune ST PETER by Alexander R Reinagle (1799-1877), and The Hymnal 1940 provides an alternate tune BOURNE by E R Currier, 1908.