Touch the Earth Lightly

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

In Genesis 2:15, Adam is given the mandate to stewardly care for the creation.
Psalm 104 reflects the wide view of creation found in this song.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Here is a song with a long-neglected message–that God’s people are called to be faithful stewards of God’s creation. The newer testimonies of the church also carry this message. Our Song of Hope, stanza 2 admits that “God’s world has been trapped by our fall, governments trapped by human pride, and nature polluted by human greed.” Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 16 admits that “All spheres of life…bear the wounds of our rebellion.” And paragraph 51 calls God’s people to “lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage to the world we have been given...” Christian obedience, therefore, is a call to a pattern of life that will serve the renewal of creation.

Touch the Earth Lightly

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Acclamation
Great God, lover of life, you give sweet air and clean water. You give us a healthy garden in which to breathe and drink. You are the God of seedling, of snow, of sun that melts snow. You are the God of birds chasing birds and of puppies chasing their tails. So let us touch the earth lightly for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Touch the Earth Lightly

Tune Information

F Major or modal



Touch the Earth Lightly

Hymn Story/Background

“I came upon this text by Shirley when I was browsing in my personal library through In Every Corner, Sing: The Hymns of Shirley Erena Murray (Hope Publishing, 1992). Admittedly there was already a well-sung tune by Colin Gibson but I thought it might be interesting to set the text to a tune that sought to nuance the fragile nature of God’s creation that requires our tender stewardship. This song together with my tune to Murray’s “Come and Find the Quiet Centre” were my initial effort to set her texts following our meeting at the 1997 World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Seminar on Liturgy and Music held in Tainan Theological College and Seminary, Taiwan. In 2012, I provided a brief write up on this text and tune to Dean B. McIntyre, Director of Music Resources at the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tennessee. This can be accessed at: http://www.gbod.org/lead-your-church/hymn-studies/resource/touch-the-earth-lightly
— Swee Hong Lim

Author Information

Shirley Erena Murray (b. Invercargill, New Zealand, 1931) studied music as an undergraduate but received a master’s degree (with honors) in classis and French from Otago University. Her upbringing was Methodist, but she became a Presbyterian when she married the Reverend John Stewart Murray, who was a moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Shirley began her career as a teacher of languages, but she became more active in Amnesty International, and for eight years she served the Labor Party Research Unit of Parliament. Her involvement in these organizations has enriched her writing of hymns, which address human rights, women’s concerns, justice, peace, the integrity of creation, and the unity of the church. Many of her hymns have been performed in CCA and WCC assemblies. In recognition for her service as a writer of hymns, the New Zealand government honored her as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the Queen’s birthday on 3 June 2001. Through Hope Publishing House, Murray has published three collections of her hymns: In Every Corner Sing (eighty-four hymns, 1992), Everyday in Your Spirit (forty-one hymns, 1996), and Faith Makes the Song (fifty hymns, 2002). The New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, for which she worked for a long time, has also published many of her texts (cf. back cover, Faith Makes the Song). In 2009, Otaga University conferred on her an honorary doctorate in literature for her contribution to the art of hymn writing.
I-to Loh, Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo”: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Context, p. 468, ©2011 GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago
— I-to Loh

Composer Information

Swee Hong Lim (b. 1963) is the Deer Park Assistant Professor of Sacred Music at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, Canada, and directs the Master of Sacred Music program. Prior to this, he taught at Baylor University, Waco,TX and Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He earned degrees from Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music, Manila; Southern Methodist University, Texas; and Drew University, New Jersey. He has contributed essays to Oxford Handbook on Christianity in Asia (Oxford, 2013), Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology (Canterbury, 2013), and New Songs of Celebration Render (GIA, 2013). His hymn tunes are found in many North American hymnals.
— Swee Hong Lim
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