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Thursday, April 23, 2020
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.
In Christ shall true hearts everywhere
their high communion find;
his service is the golden cord
“In Christ There Is No East or West” (vv. 1–2) by John Oxenham
Hymn 317, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
As I read the words of this familiar hymn, the melody began to sing in my mind. Then followed an immediate association with a particular Sunday in the church year: World Communion Sunday. Observed on the first Sunday in October every year, it is a high holy day for me.
These words are an ecumenical anthem. What unites us as a Christian church is much more than the details that distinguish all the branches. I am also grateful for the livelier tune we now sing. This adaptation of a traditional spiritual was apparently the first use of African American musical material in a mainstream North American hymnal, dating back to 1940.
In our current separated social setting, unable to gather in person for worship, much less join with others, these words carry a great deal of meaning. They help us recall the deep importance of ties with siblings in Christ down the street and across the globe. This hymn provides a much-needed faithful perspective in the midst of our isolation.
Several memories were stirred up by these words: worshiping with Moravian church leaders in Managua, Nicaragua; singing and worshiping with several congregations and at the seminary in Cuba, especially treasured moments at First Presbyterian in Havana; powerful worship with the J. L. Swane Presbyterian Church in Guguletu, South Africa, particularly the spirited harmonic singing, accompanied only by the rhythmic beating on vinyl-covered foam pads.
What are your memories of working and worshiping with siblings in Christ, around the corner and across the world? “His service is the golden cord close binding humankind.”
Thank you, loving God, for your expansive embrace. Open our ears and eyes to siblings in Christ. Bind us together, wherever we may be, in the love and justice of Christ, our one Lord. Amen.
Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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