Below are the references to the texts used in the April 21st service, and some websites with excellent resources for faith-based environmental advocacy, plus background on each of the authors whose work inspired the liturgy.
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) founded the Order of Friars Minor to bring about reform within Catholic monastic orders. Known for their absolute commitment to poverty and simplicity, his monks were itinerant and helped create a new way of living the Gospel that continues to influence Christian practices worldwide. His hymns and sermons related to animals and nature have shaped people’s understanding of their relationship to the natural world for centuries, including “Canticle of the Sun” which is the basis of the sung responses and call to worship today. To read more: http://franciscan-archive.org.
Henry Beston (1888-1968), a writer and naturalist, was born in Boston and reared in Quincy. He is considered to be as one of the founders of the modern environmental movement, along with Rachel Carson. His work has influenced generations of environmental stewards, and his classic text, The Outermost House, credited with helping build support for creating Cape Cod National Seashore, is still in print after 85 years, and continues to inform us about how to understand our place within the natural world.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was an abbess, artist, musician, herbalist, visionary, preacher, and advisor to the pope. She enjoyed a degree of respect and influence uncommon for her time, or almost any era since, especially for a woman. Her visions, and their subsequent translations into paintings, chants, and writings, are still used today as part of contemplative practices, including today’s opening and pastoral prayers. For more information, one site is www.hildegard-society.org.
William Blake (1757-1827) was an English mystic, poet, and artist, and a major figure of the Romantic Era. His poems are the text for today’s anthem, and the basis of the assurance following the prayer of invocation. For more information see www.blakearchive.org/blake.
Neil Douglas-Klotz is a contemporary scholar and mystic steeped in the sacred texts and practices of the Abrahamic faiths. He is also director of the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning and founder of Abwoon Resource Center, an international nonprofit dedicated to developing “interspiritual” peace leaders. Much of his work is dedicated to translating biblical texts from sources closer to their original, such as Aramaic in the case of Jesus. Many of these translations suggest a much closer relationship between humans and the natural environment than is often revealed by the Greek-into-English renditions. For an overview of his works, and links to Abwoon, visit http://www.harpercollins.com/author/microsite/about.aspx?authorid=2611.
Julian of Norwich (1342c.-1416) was an English mystic, anchoress, and writer whose eloquent, evocative writings continue to be popular. Her visions (or “showings,” as she called them) included both images of Jesus with maternal qualities and the deep interdependence of humans and the natural world. Her book The Revelations of Divine Love was the first book published in English by a woman.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a Jesuit priest and groundbreaking paleontologist whose work helped redefine evolutionary theory. His writings were published posthumously and subsequently influenced the modern environmental movement. He believed, based on his scientific research and mystical experiences (a description of which is excerpted today) that all of creation was evolving, through Christ, toward the “Omega Point,” the climax of evolutionary complexity. For more information, see www.teilhardforbeginners.com.
Resources for April 21 Liturgy
Beston, Henry. The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1928.
de Chardin, Pierre Teilhard. “The Spiritual Power of Matter” from Hymn of the Universe, retrieved April 13 from http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=1621.
Douglas-Klotz, Neil. The Genesis Meditations: A Shared Practice of Peace for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2003.
Painter, Christine Valters. Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2010.
Roberts, Elizabeth and Amidon, Elias, eds. Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Resources for Faith-based Environmental Stewardship
Mission 4/1 Earth – the UCC’s environmental action campaign: www.ucc.org/earth/advocacy.html
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale – comprehensive collection of materials related to religion, spirituality, and the natural world: http://fore.research.yale.edu
GreenFaith – outstanding interfaith environmental education nonprofit: www.greenfaith.org