God’s Good Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation – Compiled by Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn
Who’s it for? This book is for anyone who understands that we are living in a moment of, as the foreword expresses it, “planetary crisis,” and wishes to proclaim, pray, and sing with texts that acknowledge this. The collection provides an array of topics beginning with the goodness and beauty of God’s creation, the realities of human communities living in that creation, the various crises in which the planet currently exists, and reasons to move forward in hope.
Why is this book significant? Though not a textbook about ecological/environmental applications of liturgical theology, the compilation does provide a model for ways in which liturgical expressions can put forth a theological view of the sacredness of life and our stewardship of it.
Why is this book useful? Its fifty-two “liturgies” (readings, prayers, and hymns) do explore a range of topics all connected to the earth, creation, the environment and human activity. Rather than try to assemble or create services that overreach and therefore diffuse, the fifty-two entries are well-focused, and allow for multiple opportunities for communities to pray together.
What will most inspire you? The array of authors and sources truly express a broad diversity, and shows how the ever-increasing religious and cultural pluriformity within which we live can still provide a grounded prayer experience.
Don’t Expect: There are no cut-and-paste intercessions to use at Sunday Mass. While the Hebrew/Christian scriptures are included, language and individual liturgies that are overtly Christocentric or Trinitarian are not provided. The cosmology that is the foundation of this collection is very much in the Judeo-Christian tradition, though some of its presumptions (humanity is the high point of creation) are gently challenged and its boundaries traversed.
Kudos: If you know Jeffery Rowthorn’s 1985 two-volume collection of litanies The Wideness of God’s Mercy,this current volume (compiled with his wife Anne) will not surprise you in its scope and depth. This book does reflect some of the growth and change the church and U.S. society have experienced in those intervening years; this openness to multiple viewpoints is a good example for us all. Dedicated to their grandchildren, they clearly understand the global issues and crises that need to be addressed, and addressed honestly. The final section, “Hope and the Future” begins with a call to conversion and action. For concluding this anthology with such positivity, Anne and Jeffrey Rowthorn should be admired and emulated.
REVIEWER: ALAN HOMMERDING
Alan Hommerding is Senior Liturgy Publications Editor at World Library Publications in Chicago, as well as a pastoral musician, composer, author, and crafter of hymn texts.