“A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology,” by Benjamin M. Stewart, explores a deep connection between Christian worship and ecology, the interdependence of every living organism on Earth and throughout the universe.
The book draws upon a heightened environmental consciousness among Christians and explores ways this awareness can come alive in worship.
Stewart proposes that together, ecology and Christian worship “ extend outward toward ‘everything,’ to attend to the worth of things, their interconnections with things seen and unseen, and their place in the whole living creation.” Considering these two elements in relationship with each other is a natural partnership, he contends, in that “both are ways of seeing everything as part of the one great whole.”
Stewart prompts readers to consider humans as a relatively recent presence on Earth compared with other elements of God’s creation. As such, he suggests an approach of humility and reverence when undertaking our prayers, hymns and general manner of worshiping and caring for creation.
The book’s organization reflects the physical aspects of worship. Accordingly, sections of the book highlight the place of water in baptism, the relationship of Earth to the moon and sun throughout all seasons, fields and vineyards in Holy Communion and the physical elements of Earth present in the bodies of worshipers.
Stewart’s book includes many affirmations of God’s promise to cleanse us from sin, to renew and restore us — so that we might help renew and restore an ailing planet. He reminds us of the fragile and wondrous nature of our home, steadily beckoning us to respect and protect it, beginning with the very nature of worship and how we consider Earth and creation.
This concise and accessible book is recommended for pastors, worship leaders, adult education classes and anyone interested in enhancing their worship experience with concern for God’s wondrous creation.
The author is a member of the ELCA clergy and is an assistant professor of worship and dean of Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He is also a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy and co-authored “Worship Guidebook for Lent and the Three Days”.