Notes from the Faith Journey

The Journey of Faith

Austin, Texas 1962 Bert, my boyfriend (and future husband) and I stood in line in front of the Texas Theater on Guadalupe street, the Drag. When we approached the ticket booth, Bert said, “I want to buy two tickets. But will you allow everyone in this line to purchase a ticket?” “NO, only the whites are allowed in.”

With that rejection, Bert and I turned around and walked to the end of the line. We were with thirty students, pastors, and other activists who gathered that Fall evening trying to integrate the commercial establishments in Austin. As we stood in line, we prayed, and sometimes we sang the famous civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”

But there is another anthem, part of my United Methodist upbringing, that led me to the stand-in at the theater. It is “In Christ There Is No East or West,” a poem that first appeared in 1908 written by British poet, John Oxenham.

J.R. Watson, literary scholar and hymnologist, views this poem/hymn as a rebuke of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” which begins with the line, “Oh, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” In sharp contrast, Oxenham’s poem rejects dominance and discrimination and affirms the worldwide communion of Christian love.

My heart is warmed every time I think of this stanza or sing the hymn:

In Christ there is no east or west
in him no south or north:
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide world.

It means even more in my faith journey when I remember Oxenham’s words and know that the poet captures Paul’s message in Galatians 3:28:

There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male or female,
for all of you are one in Christ.

In these difficult, tragic times, let us hold in our hearts the affirmation that we are wrapped in “one great fellowship of love,” the love of Jesus Christ, “throughout the whole wide world.”

Janice Clayton