2019 Oct 8: In Christ There Is No East or West

October 03, 2019 01:07

"Of Foreign Lands & Places"     R. Schumann (1810-1856) [PIANO]

"In Christ There Is No East or West" 

Improvisation

John Oxenham is one of the pen names for businessman William J. Dunkerly (1852-1941). He trained for his career in business at Victoria University, Manchester, and traveled extensively to Europe, the United States and South America, living in France several years. 

Oxenham made his home in the U.S. for a time before returning to England, where he served as deacon and teacher at the Ealing Congregational Church from the 1880s, and then moved to Worthing in Sussex in 1922 where he became the town's mayor. According to hymnologist Albert Bailey, Oxenham began writing “to relieve the tedium of long journeys . . . and soon discovered that he liked writing better than business.” He died at the age of 89.  

The poem "In Christ There Is No East or West" was originally part of a libretto, “Darkness and Light,” prepared in 1908 for an exhibition for the London Missionary Society on the theme “The Orient in London.” He then included this poem in his collection, Bees in Amber (1913). This popular volume was rejected by publishers; when Oxenham self-published it, the book sold 285,000 copies. From here the hymn found its way into many English-language hymnals, beginning with England’s Songs of Praise (1931). 

English literary scholar and hymnologist J.R. Watson says the hymn takes its opening idea from Rudyard Kipling’s famous lines, “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” from his “Ballad of East and West.” However, Oxenham’s hymn asserts precisely the opposite!

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