This weekend and on St. Francis Day (Oct. 4) some churches are having services for the blessing of animals. The following new hymn can be used for these services as well as any worship service celebrating God's creation and our call to care for it.
O God, Your Creatures Fill the Earth
ELLACOMBE CMD ("I Sing the Mighty Power of God")
O God, your creatures fill the earth with wonder and delight,
And every living thing has worth and beauty in your sight.
So playful dolphins dance and swim; Your sheep bow down and graze.
Your songbirds share a morning hymn To offer you their praise.
You made the pets we welcome in- They're wondrous blessings, too.
With paws and whiskers, wings and fins, They offer praise to you.
O Lord, you call us to embrace These creatures in our care.
May we show kindness, love and grace To all pets everywhere.
You made the creatures on each farm; You know the things they need.
May they grow healthy, safe from harm, And safe from human greed.
Just as a shepherd loves the sheep, You know their joy, their pain.
Lord, bless the animals we keep; May all farms be humane.
Your creatures live in every land; They fill the sky and sea.
O Lord, you give us your command To love them tenderly.
We're called to have dominion here--To care for them always.
By loving creatures you hold dear, We offer you our praise.
Tune: Gesangbuch der Herzogl, Wirtembergischen, Katholischen Hofkapelle, 1784; alt. 1868
Alternative Tune: FOREST GREEN CMD ("How Beautiful the March of Days")
Text: Copyright © 2011 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Hymn Use Permission: Churches that support Sojourners have permission to use these hymns. This hymn is available formatted with the music as a free PDF from the United Methodist Worship Office and the Humane Society in the United States.
Hymn Note for “O God, Your Creatures Fill the Earth”
There are many wonderful references to animals, and to the care of animals, throughout the Bible. Psalm 104 is a prayer that recognizes many creatures that are part of God’s good creation. Psalm 148 calls on God’s creatures (“sea monsters… wild animals… all cattle… creeping things and flying birds…”) to praise the Lord. The Ten Commandments’ instruction about rest on the Sabbath includes livestock (Deuteronomy 5:14). Jesus’ teaching when he heals a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14) assumes that, of course, righteous people will care for their animals and keep them safe from harm. Luke 15 reminds us that God is like a good shepherd who cares for every single sheep and goes after the one that is lost. Luke 12:6 tells us that God knows and cares when even a sparrow falls to the ground. In the creation stories in Genesis 1-2, God tells human beings to “have dominion”—to lovingly care for all that God has made, including the animals.
An excellent, online resource is the Humane Society Faith Outreach Program’s The Bible’s Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature by Lewis Regenstein. Regenstein, president of the Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature, examines scripture and discusses: God’s Love for Nature, Human-Stewardship Responsibilities, Religion and Protection of Animals, and more. Animals are often referenced among the more than 1,000 verses and passages related to the Earth in The Green Bible (HarperOne, 2008). The book also contains essays contributed by Brian McLaren, Matthew Sleeth, N.T. Wright, Desmond Tutu and others, and includes a detailed index and personal study guide. Check out HSUS Faith Outreach office for free, online collection of religious perspectives on animals from noted authors, and also the profiles of the largest denominations in the United States in The HSUS’ Religious Statements on Animals.
Hymn Video Contest: Humane Society Faith Outreach Program is giving away free copies of their “St. Francis in a Box” toolkit of resources” (valued over $100) to all churches that send them a video of their singing this new hymn. Top prize winners will get copies of the Green Bible and other prizes.
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Sojourners’ past postings by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette includes hymns for relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, September 11th anniversary, creation care, economic justice, Matthew 25/disaster relief, immigration, the Gulf oil spill and war in Iraq. A complete list of the 190+ hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, many with peace and justice themes, can be found at www.carolynshymns.com