ACCORDING to Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn, the declining state of our planet presents Christians with three great prophetic challenges.
The first is a calling back to the ecological basis of our faith: it is not simply that humans reflect the image of God, but, in the words of John of Damascus, “the whole earth is an icon of the face of God.”
The second is the need to recalibrate humanity’s relationship with every other element of creation, recalling how action in one area has multiple consequences elsewhere.
Finally, there is the vital task of employing liturgical resources to encourage us in addressing the problems of this beautiful but suffering world. If, as they believe, “worship is the most powerful means the Holy Spirit uses to transform and equip Christians as they seek to live faithful lives, serving God and caring for God’s creation”, then liturgy can help us to acknowledge and live the deep truth that everything is connected.
God’s Good Earth is a carefully compiled and stylishly presented collection of 52 well-crafted liturgies divided into six sections extensively exploring aspects of our connectedness. These feature, on the one hand, the wonders of creation, its immense riches, complex needs, and biodiversity, and, on the other, prerequisites for a good society set against a backdrop of incalculable challenges to social and created orders alike — exploitation, money, violence, hunger, poverty, climate change, and human migration. The concluding section embraces hopes for the future, transformation, healing, and the replenishing of the earth and nations.
Each liturgy follows a framework of prayers, scripture, contemporary reflections, silent contemplation, and song — often newly composed hymns to traditional metres. Wide-ranging reflections are drawn from thinkers such as Rachel Carson, Pope Francis, Thomas Berry, Thomas Merton, and Jean Vanier, alongside the likes of Thor Heyerdahl, Alexander von Humboldt, Lao-Tzu, and John Muir.
Suggestions are offered for visual stimuli to accompany liturgies, which could be used to good effect throughout a year, perhaps beginning during the Creation Season (1 September to 4 October).
The result is a rich, perceptive resource, which encourages individuals and congregations to engage deeply, prayerfully, and wholeheartedly in the transformation of our relationships with creation, God, and one another.
The Revd Richard Greatrex is Associate Priest of Barrow Gurney, in North Somerset.
God’s Good Earth: Praise and prayer for creation
Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn
Liturgical Press £25.99
Church Times Bookshop £23.40