Sing for the Earth: Song Recommendations for Worship
As the Music Director at my church, I’m always on the lookout for texts that name our destruction of the earth and remind us of God’s call to care for creation. There is a plethora of hymn texts that celebrate the good earth of God’s creation. For many of us, these are among our favorite hymns, but in the list that follows, I have chosen to not list them in order to focus on hymns that are often less familiar and have texts that hold us accountable for our plundering and misuse of Earth’s bounty, while also calling us to live in balance with creation. I’m sure there are many more hymns that deal with this subject, so please contact me if you have a hymn that should be added.
HOPE PUBLISHING COMPANY
Shirley Erena Murray, a prolific writer from New Zealand who died in 2020, is probably my favorite hymnist. She published six hymn collections with Hope Publishing, and her final collection, Life Into Life, includes a section devoted to “Green Hymns.” She collaborated with a number of wonderful composers, whose work brings her words to life. Hope has a very useful online tool that helps you find hymn texts and/or music.
Shirley Erena Murray
Life into Life, ©2019 Hope Publishing Company
“God of the Galaxies,” ©1992
“I Am Your Mother,” ©1996
“Look in Wonder, Hold in Honor,” ©2008
“Now is the Time (Silent Spring Song),” ©2008
“On This Good Earth,” ©2009
“Sing Green,” ©1992
“The Garden of the World,” ©2015
“Touch the Earth Lightly,” ©1992 (New Century Hymnal #569)
“While Soldiers Threw a Dice,” ©1999
“Where Are the Voices for the Earth,” ©1999
“Where the Green Will Rise Again,” ©2017
“God in the Silence,” ©2008
A Place at the Table, ©2013 Hope Publishing Company
“Forgive Us, God, for All the Things We Waste!” ©2010
“God So Loves the World,” ©2009
The oldest “eco-hymns” that I found came out in 1973.
Fred Pratt Green, “God Out of Love for Us Lent Us This Planet,” ©1973 Hope Publishing Co.
Brian Wren, “Thank You, God,” ©1973 Hope Publishing Co., New Century Hymnal, #559
Dan Damon has also been writing about the Earth for some time, and many have likely seen his hymn, “Pray for the Wilderness,” in the New Century Hymnal.
“Pray for the Wilderness,” ©1991 Hope Publishing Co., New Century Hymnal, #557
“Hope of the Earth,” ©2014 Hope Publishing Co.
“The Earth is Like a Burning Bush,” ©2015 Hope Publishing Co.
Adam Tice runs the Unbound platform for GIA Publications where one can search for earth-themed hymns, including his own.
“Can Weeping for Our Planet be Enough,” ©2018 GIA Publications
“For Every Child,” ©2011 GIA Publications
“God Placed Us in Creation,” ©2016 GIA Publications
Mary Louise Bringle
The Garden Needs Our Tending Now, ©2002 GIA Publications
“With Dazzling Light,” ©2006 GIA Publications
“Creative God, You Spread the Earth,” ©1992 GIA Publications
“The Earth and All Who Breathe,” ©1992 GIA Publications
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
“How Miniscule This Planet,” ©2014 Oxford University Press
“Above the Moon Earth Rises,” ©2002 Oxford University Press
“Each Breath is Borrowed Air,” ©2001 Oxford University Press
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette writes hymn texts meant to be sung to familiar tunes. While she has published two hymn collections, her primary vehicle for sending her hymns out into the world is her extensive website.
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof,” ©2001 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
“At the Dawn of Your Creation,” ©2008 CWG
“God, Creation Sings Your Praises,” ©2016 CWG
“God, Send Your Prophets Here,” ©2011 CWG
“O God, Creator of All Things,” ©2012 CWG
“O God of Life, Your Waters Flow,” ©2017 CWG
“O God, the Great Wide Seas are Yours,” ©2010 CWG
“O God, When Your Land,” ©2010 CWG
“We Were Born Out of the Waters,” ©2017 CWG
Jim and Jean Strathdee
Jim and Jean Strathdee have been creating and performing music for the church for decades. They have an extensive website that includes a wonderful library of videos, all free to download. They just ask that we report our use to OneLicense or CCLI.
“Bristlecone Pine Tree”
“Dance with the Spirit”
“Miracle of Dawn”
“Morning Has Broken”
“Mother Earth, Our Mother Birthing”
“O Beauty Ever Ancient”
“Take Off Your Shoes”
Bret Hesla and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Bret Hesla and Richard Burxvoort Cooligan teamed up to create a collection of songs, Singing Prayers for the Earth. You can also find Richard’s work on his website and on the Convergence Music Project.
The Rev. Allyson Sawtell of Denver, Colorado, writes hymns and liturgy resources for churches. She offers four hymns on creation: Creation Will Dance, Hope and Promise, Keep the Circle Whole for All, We Will Not Keep from Singing. They can be found under the section “Worship Life: Songs” on her website.
The Rev. David Weiss of St. Paul, Minnesota, wrote the text “As the turn of the world draws near” and set it to an Irish tune. It can be found on website.
The Rev. Jim Manley has an album entitled “Pilgrim on a Brave New Planet.” He offers lead sheets to four of his songs on his website. Follow instructions for “guilt-free copying.”
Chris Shannon has written lyrics for a song entitled “Our World Is Broken.” It is based on the same Gaelic melody used for “Morning Has Broken.”
I hope you find this list to be useful, and use some of these wonderful hymns in worship. Please be sure to report your use through OneLicense or CCLI so these authors and composers can receive compensation for their work.
Ruth Striegel is Director of Music at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Advocacy Chair for the New Mexico affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light.